The jury that convicted Everett Miller of first-degree murder for killing two Kissimmee police officers on Wednesday recommended he be executed.
The jury’s decision was unanimous, a requirement for death penalty sentences. Circuit Judge Greg A. Tynan ultimately will decide whether to follow the jury’s recommendation, or sentence Miller to life in prison without parole.
Miller, 48, murdered Officer Matthew Baxter and Sgt. Richard “Sam” Howard, both from the Kissimmee Police Department, more than two years ago.
Miller, a former Marine who fought in Afghanistan, shot the two men after a brief encounter with them and several bystanders on Palmway and Cypress streets near downtown Kissimmee on Aug. 17, 2017.
Jurors found Miller guilty on Sept. 11, after only two hours of deliberation. They deliberated for a little more than five hours to decide his sentence.
During the trial, Assistant State Attorney M. Ryan Williams argued that Miller killed the officers to “make a statement.” During the sentencing phase, he told the jury that, “a sentence of death is a verdict that speaks justice for the murders in this case.”
“Mr. Miller did not stop at shooting Sgt. Howard and Officer Baxter in the back of the head. He turned them over, posed their bodies and shot each of them in the face,” Williams said.
Miller’s defense argued during the trial that the retired Marine’s actions did not constitute first-degree murder because the crime was not premeditated. During the sentencing phase, Defense Attorney Roseanne Eckert asked the jury to spare his life because he suffered from mental illness.
“He wasn’t a stark-raving lunatic,” she said. “He was under the influence of a mental illness.”
After the hearing, Baxter’s wife, Sadia Baxter, addressed the public in front of the Osceola County Courthouse and thanked Williams personally.
“I’m so grateful for the team that we had with (Williams) and (State Attorney) Brad King. They poured their hearts into this case and I am forever grateful,” said Baxter. “I feel healing in my heart and I’m proud to have sat here to represent my girls I am finally proud to say that I am beginning to close this chapter. Me and my girls will be able to move forward. We won’t forget about our heroes.”