Infant death trial begins in ParkerChris Miller, Scotland, accused of killing his son; proceedings moved out of B.H. County.
By: Chris Mueller, The Daily Republic
PARKER — Jury selection is set to begin this morning for the trial of Chris Miller, a Scotland man accused of killing his infant son.
Miller, 39, has pleaded not guilty to multiple charges, including second-degree murder, in the March 2011 death of his four-month-old son Jacob.
The trial will take place at the Turner County Courthouse in Parker, since it was moved out of Bon Homme County by a judge last October at the request of Miller’s attorneys, Tim Whalen, of Lake Andes, and Ken Cotton, of Wagner. Deputy Attorney General Bob Mayer and Bon Homme County State’s Attorney Lisa Rothschadl are prosecuting the case.
Jury selection could take up to two days, with as many as 171 potential jurors coming in four shifts split between today and Friday, according to Turner County Clerk of Courts Colleen Dunn.
Miller is charged with second-degree murder, first-degree manslaughter, aggravated assault against a child and being a habitual offender.
According to court documents, the series of events that led to Miller’s arrest began shortly after midnight on March 4, 2011, when Jacob was taken to the hospital in Scotland. Miller had called 911 less than 20 minutes before and reported he had found his wife, Stacy Miller, passed out from drinking and lying on top of Jacob, and that Jacob was not breathing.
At the hospital, the couple spoke with state Division of Criminal Investigation Agent Todd Rodig, court documents say. Stacy Miller was “incoherent and smelled of alcohol” and was found to have a blood alcohol content of 0.216, more than twice the legal limit for driving in South Dakota.
Chris Miller, who also allegedly smelled of alcohol, became “very agitated and threatened to slap his wife and to kill (Bon Homme County Sheriff Jason Bechtold), (Rodig) and hospital staff.”
Meanwhile, Jacob was transported to Avera McKennan Hospital in Sioux Falls, where he was diagnosed with broken ribs, severe skull fractures and bleeding in the brain, court documents say.
Jacob’s attending doctor described the injuries to Rodig as “the type of injuries that could occur from being in a high-speed car accident, and could not be obtained from someone lying on top of Jacob on a bed.”
Stacy Miller later told investigators she drank too much to remember the night in question, but that Chris Miller often got frustrated with Jacob’s crying and was rough with him, court documents say.
Jacob died on March 8, 2011, after several days in the hospital. An autopsy found Jacob had signs of past abuse, including prior rib fractures and head injuries.
Miller was arrested shortly after Jacob’s death and pleaded not guilty to all charges against him.
Second-degree murder carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison and a possible $50,000 fine.