Recently Decided Cases – Criminal

State of Tennessee v. Urshawn Eric Miller (Aggravated Assault and Murder; Jury Selection; Death Penalty; Prior Acts Evidence During Penalty Phase) DECIDED DECEMBER 7, 2021

Style:  State of Tennessee v. Urshawn Eric Miller

TSC Docket Number: W2019-00197-SC-DDT-DD

Date of TSC Decision:   December 7, 2021 (approximately six months after oral argument).

Decision of the Tennessee Supreme Court:  https://www.tncourts.gov/PublicCaseHistory/CaseDetails.aspx?id=81120&Number=True

Summary of decision of the Tennessee Supreme Court:

This case was heard upon the record on appeal from the Court of Criminal Appeals, briefs, and argument of counsel, and upon consideration thereof, this Court is of the opinion that: (1) the defendant’s sentence of death was not imposed in an arbitrary fashion; (2) the evidence supports the jury’s findings that the aggravating circumstances were proven beyond a reasonable doubt and that these aggravating circumstances outweighed the mitigating circumstances beyond a reasonable doubt; and (3) the sentence of death is neither excessive nor disproportionate to the penalty imposed in similar cases, considering both the nature of the crime and the defendant. We also we conclude that: (1) the trial court properly ruled on challenges to certain jurors for cause during individual voir dire; (2) the evidence was sufficient to establish the defendant’s identity as the perpetrator and his guilt of the convicted offenses; (3) the trial court did not abuse its discretion by allowing the State to introduce a video recording of the defendant’s prior aggravated robbery during the penalty phase; (4) the death penalty generally, and lethal injection specifically, do not constitute cruel and unusual punishment; and (5) the death sentence satisfies our mandatory review pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-13-206. However, we reverse the portion of the intermediate court’s judgment vacating the application of the felony murder aggravating circumstance.

In accordance with the opinion filed herein, it is therefore, ordered and adjudged that the defendant’s convictions and sentence of death are affirmed and that the sentence of death shall be carried out as provided by law on the 17th day of October, 2022, unless otherwise ordered by this Court or by other proper authority.

It appearing that the defendant is indigent, costs of this appeal shall be paid by the State of Tennessee, for which execution may issue if necessary.

Concurring/Dissenting Opinion: https://www.tncourts.gov/sites/default/files/miller_urshawn_eric-_separate_opn.pdf

Court of Criminal Appeals Decision: https://www.tncourts.gov/sites/default/files/miller_urshawn_eric_opn.pdf

Court of Criminal Appeals Summary:

Defendant, Urshawn Eric Miller, was convicted by a Madison County jury of premeditated first-degree murder, felony first degree murder, attempted especially aggravated robbery, attempted second degree murder, aggravated assault, employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, evading arrest, and resisting 6 arrest. The trial court merged the felony murder conviction into the premeditated murder conviction and the aggravated assault conviction into the attempted seconddegree murder conviction. The jury sentenced Defendant to death for the first-degree murder conviction. For the remaining convictions, the trial court imposed an effective sentence of thirty years, to be served concurrently with his death sentence. On appeal, Defendant raises the following issues, as renumbered and reorganized by this Court: (1) the evidence was insufficient to sustain his convictions; (2) the trial court erred in ruling on various challenges during jury selection; (3) the trial court erred in admitting a video of his prior aggravated robbery during the penalty phase; (4) the death penalty is unconstitutional; (5) the aggravating factors did not outweigh the mitigating factors beyond a reasonable doubt; and (6) the death penalty is disproportionate in this case. Having carefully reviewed the record before us, we affirm the judgments of the trial court. However, we remand the case to the trial court for the correction of a clerical error.

Pre-argument Briefing:

Appellant:  October 30, 2020

Appellee:  November 30, 2020

Appellant’s Reply:

Oral Argument Date:  June 3, 2021

Link to Oral Argument Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AfI3o2eg72c

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