in the Court of Appeals 4 May 2017.
by defendant from judgments entered 8 April 2016 by Judge
Edwin G. Wilson, Jr. in Guilford County Superior Court
Guilford County, Nos. 13CRS089956-57.
Attorney General Joshua H. Stein, by Special Deputy Attorney
General David J. Adinolfi II, for the State.
Montgomery for defendant.
Marvin Miller appeals his conviction for killing his
estranged wife and severely wounding her boyfriend. He argues
that the State violated his Confrontation Clause rights at
trial when a law enforcement officer described to the jury
what Miller's wife told him during an earlier domestic
explained below, we agree that the State violated
Miller's Confrontation Clause rights. The victim's
statements to the officer in that earlier domestic violence
incident were made after she fled from Miller in her car and
called police from a safe location. Moreover, the purpose of
the officer's questions was to determine what happened,
not what was happening. As a result, those statements were
testimonial in nature.
Miller was tried for that earlier domestic violence offense,
the record in this case does not indicate that Miller had an
opportunity to cross-examine his wife about the challenged
statements at the time. To the contrary, Miller's wife
asked the State to drop the charges and sat with him at the
trial, which suggests Miller may have had no need to
cross-examine her in that earlier proceeding; in any event,
because the record contains no transcript of the proceeding,
this Court has no way to know.
the record contains no indication (and no findings from the
trial court) that Miller killed his wife to prevent her from
testifying about that earlier incident. Thus, under
controlling U.S. Supreme Court precedent, the mere fact that
the victim is unavailable because Miller killed her
does not mean Miller forfeited his Confrontation Clause
because this is a constitutional error, the burden is on the
State to show that the error was harmless beyond a reasonable
doubt. The State did not argue harmless error on appeal and,
as a result, abandoned any harmless error argument. We
therefore vacate the trial court's judgments and remand
for further proceedings.
and Procedural History
September 2013, Defendant Marvin Miller entered the home of
his estranged wife, Lakeshia Wells, and found her and her
boyfriend, Marcus Robinson, naked. Miller attacked Wells and
Robinson with a knife, wounding Robinson and killing Wells.
jury indicted Miller for first degree murder, attempted first
degree murder, and burglary and the case went to trial. The
jury acquitted Miller on the burglary charge but convicted
him of first degree murder and attempted first degree murder.
The court arrested judgment on the attempted first degree
murder conviction ...