The Osceola chapter of the NAACP is asking Ninth Circuit Court Judge Greg Tynan to spare convicted cop killer Everett Miller from the death penalty.
Miller, 47, was convicted in September of two counts of first-degree murder for killing 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 about 9:30 p.m. on Aug. 17, 2017, after a brief encounter with them and several bystanders on Palmway and Cypress streets near downtown Kissimmee.
“We realize the seriousness of this tragedy and the grave circumstances experienced by the families,” reads a letter from local NAACP President Deloris McMillon that was submitted to Tynan. But, “it was apparent that Everett did not have a strong defense (team).”
Miller’s sister, Shavon Sutton, was the only witness for the defense during the two-week trial.
Sutton said in court that her brother was caring, attentive to his family and fun. She said that all changed after he retired from the military in 2010, lost his job, ended a relationship and became homeless.
She testified that he was acting “weird” and was not taking care of himself.
Only a month before the killings, Miller was arrested and was held involuntarily for psychiatric evaluation under Florida’s Baker Act law. He had been walking along a busy Kissimmee street wearing only his boxer shorts and carrying a rifle. The Baker Act is used by doctors, police and certain other professionals to involuntarily commit people who are considered to be a danger to themselves or to others.
Sutton filmed that encounter, which was shown in court without audio.
“Upon his release from Park Place (Behavioral Health Care), Everett’s mother begged the police to keep his gun,” McMillon said in the letter. “Unfortunately, the gun was returned to him.”
However, Tynan had ruled early in the trial that Miller’s attorneys could not use his “abnormal mental condition” as a defense to the killings.
Instead, the defense argued that Miller’s actions did not constitute first-degree murder because the crime was not premeditated.
“Think about the series of facts in this case and how they developed. How everything was very, very quick,” attorney Frank Bankowitz said in his closing arguments. Everything happened within minutes, or even less.”
But jurors didn’t buy it.
It took them about two hours to find Miller guilty.
But considering his poor defense, “we are urgently requesting that he not be sentenced to death,” the letter stated.
But that’s exactly what prosecutors will seek during Miller’s sentencing hearing Nov. 5.
Even if the jury unanimously recommends death, Tynan can override that recommendation and sentence him to life in prison. If the jury recommends life, the court must impose a life sentence. Miller can only receive a death sentence or life in prison without parole, according to the State Attorney’s Office.
Family and friends of Baxter and Howard are expected to make statements during the sentencing hearing.
Howard, a 10-year veteran of the Kissimmee Police Department, was the father of one. Baxter, a three-year veteran of KPD, was the father of three.