Juvenile lifer who set precedent sentenced to life again

Kim Chandler appears via video from prison in St. Clair County, Ala., during a hearing, Tuesday, April 27, 2021.  A judge on Tuesday sentenced Miller to life without possibility of parole for a slaying committed when he was 14. (AP Photo/Kim Chandler)
Kim Chandler appears via video from prison in St. Clair County, Ala., during a hearing, Tuesday, April 27, 2021. A judge on Tuesday sentenced Miller to life without possibility of parole for a slaying committed when he was 14. (AP Photo/Kim Chandler)

MOULTON, Ala. – Evan Miller was just 14 when he committed the slaying that sent him to prison.

In reviewing his case, the U.S. Supreme Court banned mandatory life without parole sentences for juveniles — saying judges and juries should consider the special factors of youth — a decision that eventually led to inmates across the country getting a chance at release.

But Miller will not get that chance. A judge on Tuesday handed down a second life sentence without possibility of parole.

Lawrence Circuit Judge Mark Craig ruled that Evan Miller, despite being a young teen when he committed his crime, met the legal criteria to be sentenced to life in prison without the chance of parole. Craig said the severity of Miller’s crime outweighed the mitigating factors of Miller’s age and his abuse-filled childhood that the defense argued made him deserving of an opportunity of a chance to get out of prison some day.

Craig said a sentence of life without the possibility of parole was the “only just sentence” over the lesser punishment of life with a chance of parole after 30 years.

Miller was 14 in 2003 when he and another teen beat Cole Cannon with a baseball bat before setting fire to his trailer, a crime for which he was originally sentenced to a mandatory life sentence.

Before handing down the sentence, Craig repeated the line that Miller was attributed with saying before he delivered a final blow to Cannon: “I am God. I’ve come to take your life.” Craig said those were some of “the most chilling words I have heard.”

Craig said he was not convinced Miller could be rehabilitated and noted that Miller was the primary aggressor in the slaying.