WILLIAMSON — Joshua Bly Miller, the young man accused of driving while intoxicated and causing an accident that resulted in the death of a passenger and the injury of another entered a guilty plea to DUI causing death in Mingo County Circuit Court on Monday before the Honorable Michael Thornsbury, after having a guilty verdict of reckless DUI causing death and DUI causing injury by a jury of his peers set aside on allegations of jury misconduct in 2012.
“In the case of the State of West Virginia vs. Johua Bly Miller, the jury’s verdict has been set aside – the conviction does not stand,” was the statement made by Judge Thornsbury at a previous sentencing hearing for Miller. The verdict was set aside because of an incident with juror Gary Baisden, an employee of the Mingo County Tax Department, stemming from his failure to disclose where he was employed and that the previous sheriff on the county, Lonnie Hannah, was his direct supervisor. The sheriff’s department was the branch of law enforcement that investigated the accident and filed the charges against the defendant.
Adam Ray York, 22, a Conductor with Norfolk Southern Railroad, was killed during the accident and Zachary Smith was seriously injured and spent weeks in the hospital and experienced numerous surgeries. Miller sustained injuries that included a concussion. Paul David Howard, Jr., was also in the vehicle but left the scene of the accident. He was not injured, and throughout the trial, was accused of being the person behind the wheel. Howard denied those charges.
The case was set to be re-tried, but the decision was made to accept a plea from Miller, who previously was employed as a corrections officer at the regional jail. Below is the press release from C. Michael Sparks, Mingo County Prosecuting Attorney, as he describes the plea agreement and the considerations behind it:
“Miller pleaded guilty to DUI causing death, a lesser offense of reckless DUI causing death, as charged in the indictment, A12-F45. Pursuant to the plea agreement, the prosecution will recommend that Miller receive the maximum sentence of 1 year in a regional jail facility and the maximum fine of $1,000.”
“Drinking and driving is a dangerous mix with enduring repercussions. Adam Ray York, only 22 years of age, prematurely lost his life. York’s family continues to mourn the loss of a spirited and loving son and brother. Zach Smith barely survived by the grace of God, but suffered permanent injuries. A remorseful Joshua Miller must bear the consequences of criminal justice and lifelong guilt.”
“Criminal justice requires balance. The balancing factors that must be methodically and objectively considered are: (1) the weight of the evidence for and against the accused; (2) the perspective of the victim and or the victim’s family; (3) the public interest in the fair and efficient administration of justice; (4) punishment must be proportionate to the crime; (5) circumstances that mitigate punishment; (6) deterrence of criminal conduct (research has shown that increases in the possibility of punishment have a greater deterrent effect than the severity of the punishment); and (7) analysis of potential outcomes.”
York’s family members that were inside the courtroom when Judge Thornsbury asked the prosecutor if all parties involved were in agreement of the plea spoke out with a reply of, “No – absolutely not.” The family will be provided the opportunity to have an impact statement recorded and played during Miller’s sentencing hearing scheduled to take place on Thursday, Jan. 31 at 9 a.m., or they may speak in person at that time.
Miller’s bond was revoked at the conclusion of the plea hearing and he will remain incarcerated at the Southwestern Regional Jail at Holden until his sentencing. The defendant should be given credit for time served that will be subtracted from his 1 year sentence. The original felony count the defendant was found guilty of (reckless DUI causing death) was punishable by 2-10 years in prison and the DUI causing injury carried a 3-12 month sentence.