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Scotland man appealing murder conviction

SCOTLAND -- A Scotland man sentenced to life in prison for the murder of his infant son is appealing his conviction. Chris Miller, 39, was found guilty in January by a Turner County jury of second-degree murder and aggravated assault in connectio...

Chris Miller

SCOTLAND -- A Scotland man sentenced to life in prison for the murder of his infant son is appealing his conviction.

Chris Miller, 39, was found guilty in January by a Turner County jury of second-degree murder and aggravated assault in connection with the March 2011 death of his 4-month-old son Jacob.

In February, Miller was given the mandatory sentence of life in prison for second-degree murder.

He also was sentenced to 50 years in prison for aggravated assault and another 10 years in prison for violating his probation from a 2009 conviction for manufacturing methamphetamine.

Those prison terms were ordered to run consecutive, or one after the other, to Miller's life sentence. Miller's punishment for aggravated assault was enhanced because he also admitted to being a habitual offender based on two prior felony convictions.

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At his sentencing, Miller still claimed he was innocent of causing his son's death.

In court documents filed late last month, Miller and his attorney Scott J. Podhradsky gave notice of their intent to appeal Miller's conviction to the South Dakota Supreme Court.

The state Supreme Court has received notice of the appeal, but no further action has been taken in the case, according to the state Supreme Court Clerk of Court's Office. Miller's brief -- a court document containing arguments for his appeal -- is tentatively due next month, but that due date could be delayed if Miller requests a transcript of the trial.

According to court documents, the series of events that led to Miller's arrest began when he made a 911 call shortly before midnight on March 3, 2011, and reported that he found his wife Stacy Miller passed out 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 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," court documents say.

Jacob was transported to Avera McKennan Hospital in Sioux Falls and diagnosed with broken ribs, severe skull fractures and bleeding in the brain.

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.

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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.

Related Topics: CRIME
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