NAACP challenges rapper C-Murder’s conviction

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- The head of the Louisiana NAACP is calling on the state Supreme Court's chief justice to intervene in the case of rap artist Corey "C-Murder" Miller, who was sentenced earlier this month to life in prison for killing a youth in a nightclub...

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The head of the Louisiana NAACP is calling on the state Supreme Court’s chief justice to intervene in the case of rap artist Corey “C-Murder” Miller, who was sentenced earlier this month to life in prison for killing a youth in a nightclub.

In a letter delivered late Tuesday to Chief Justice Catherine Kimball, NAACP state president Ernest Johnson questioned whether the jury’s 10-2 vote to convict Miller was legitimate.

On Tuesday, The Times-Picayune of New Orleans reported that juror Mary Jacob twice cast the deciding vote, even though she said she did not believe prosecutors had proven their case. Jacob said she voted as she did just to end the “brutal” pressure that jurors who favored conviction were placing on another jury member — a disabled 20-year-old college student — who favored a not-guilty vote.

Miller was first convicted in 2003 of the shooting death of Steve Thomas during a brawl in a now-closed Harvey, La., nightclub, on Jan. 12, 2002. But the conviction was overturned because prosecutors withheld criminal background information on three key witnesses.

Miller was tried again and convicted Aug. 11.

After jurors in the second trial initially reported a conviction verdict, State District Judge Hans Liljeberg ordered the panel back to the jury room for more deliberation. Jacob said that was because she had written “under duress, to get the hell out of here” on her polling slip, The Times-Picayune reported.

After about three hours, Jacob said she again cast the deciding vote to convict. Liljeberg denied a defense motion for a mistrial.

Louisiana and Oregon are the only two states that allow non-unanimous verdicts in some criminal cases.

In his letter to the chief justice, Johnson called for a full investigation of the case, and for Liljeberg to be replaced by another judge from outside of suburban Jefferson Parish where the case was tried.

In the interim, Miller should be released from prison “because justice delayed is justice denied,” the letter said.

“While understanding the normal legal delays involved in a case of this nature, we believe that your supervisory intervention in this matter is greatly required in order to ensure that justice is afforded all concerned parties during any post-trial hearings,” Johnson wrote.

But Dane Ciolino, a law professor at Loyola University in New Orleans, said that although the Supreme Court has administrative authority over all Louisiana courts, Miller will have to go through the normal appeals process, including review by a state circuit court of appeal and then the Supreme Court.

“Under these circumstances, it would be manifestly inappropriate for the Supreme Court to step in rather than allow the case to go through the normal appellate process,” Ciolino said.

Valerie Willard, a spokeswoman for the Supreme Court, said Kimball could not comment on specific cases. Willard said the chief justice was answering Johnson in a letter to be mailed to him. Johnson would have the right to release that response to the public, Willard said.

Citing judicial ethics regulations, Liljeberg’s office said he could not comment.

A message was left with Ron Rakosky, Miller’s former defense attorney, although he has refused comment since leaving the case after the trial. It was not immediately clear Thursday whether Miller had yet hired an attorney or if one had been appointed for possible appeals.

Normally, a second-degree murder conviction would first be appealed to a state circuit court of appeal. That decision could be reviewed by the Supreme Court.

Miller, who has been transferred to the state prison system, also is serving a 10-year sentence following no contest plea to two counts of attempted murder in a separate altercation at a nightclub in Baton Rouge in 2001. Authorities said Miller attempted to shoot the club owner and a bouncer after he refused to be searched.

Miller and his brothers — Percy “Master P” Miller and Vyshonn “Silkk The Shocker” Miller — used to rap on the now-defunct No Limit Records, a popular label for Southern rap through the 1990s that was founded by Percy Miller.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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