Three hours after a judge rejected their first guilty verdict, the jury in the trial of Corey
The jury initially voted 10-2 to convict Miller on Tuesday morning, but Judge Hans Liljeberg rejected the verdict and ordered the jury to deliberate further, even though the voting margin was enough to convict the defendant of second-degree murder.
Miller's legal team requested a mistrial, but Liljeberg rejected that motion and pressed the jury to go back to deliberations. The New Orleans Times-Picayune vividly described the contentious scene inside the jury room, in which the jurors struggled for 13 hours over two days in deliberations that "degenerated into yelling, crying and 'people getting violently sick and vomiting.' "
In the end, though, the jury again voted 10-2, finding that Miller, 38, shot 16-year-old Steve Thomas once in the chest as the teen lay on his back while being beaten by the rapper's friends at the now-shuttered Platinum Club in Harvey, Louisiana, on January 12, 2002. Miller faces a mandatory life sentence in prison and a date will be set for his sentencing on Friday.
Judge Liljeberg rejected the panel's initial verdict because he said one juror might have changed his or her vote just to end deliberations. Miller was found guilty by a unanimous verdict of the same crime in 2002, but was granted a new trail by the State Supreme Court.
Miller's family criticized the judge for putting too much pressure on the jury to deliberate, saying he should have ended the proceedings by ruling a hung jury, which would have led to a third trial in the case. "It was a corrupted trial," Miller's aunt Marie Miller said, according to the paper. "It's not fair from the beginning. ... The judge was putting too much pressure on the jury."
A juror who asked not to be identified disagreed, saying she thought the judge was fair and that the jury never felt pressure from him. "He did his job; he warned us this is going to be a very difficult process," the juror told the paper. "I can say that on behalf of the entire jury, we never felt pressured, none of us, by the judge, not one."
The juror said that after three days of testimony last week, by the time deliberations began on Monday morning, nine of the 12 jurors thought Miller was guilty, one short of a legal verdict. But once in the jury room, those who believed Miller was guilty began trying to persuade the other three to change their minds, which resulted in the yelling, arguing and vomiting. "It definitely took a toll on us," the juror said.
The jurors unanimously discredited four defense witnesses because they all put Miller in different places in the club and none showed up to testify in person. Most jurors found the state's two key witnesses, who testified that they saw Miller shoot Thomas, to be credible.
Thomas was a high school student who idolized Miller and his rapper brothers, No Limit founder Percy "Master P" Miller and Vishonn "Silkk the Shocker" Miller, and had even made some gold fronts out of golden ashtrays he got from work as an homage to the hometown hip-hop heroes, whose posters he had all over his bedroom. On the night of the shooting, Thomas told his father he was going to a movie, but used a fake I.D. to go to the Platinum Club, knowing Miller would be there for a rap competition, in which Thomas performed, according to testimony. It is unknown what sparked the fight that led to Thomas' death.
Once deliberations began on Monday, the jury was unable to overcome the split vote and on Tuesday, they sent a note to Liljeberg complaining that one juror — who had fallen asleep several times during the trial — had a Bible and was quoting scripture. "She wants off this jury and really doesn't seem to be able to handle this process," the note read. The judge spoke to the three dissenting jurors and explained that Bibles, and other "extraneous factors" were not allowed in court. Less than an hour later, a 10-2 verdict was returned, but one juror wrote that she changed her vote "under duress" to end the deliberations.
Liljeberg then rejected that verdict and sent them back for more deliberations. When the second verdict came back a short time later, Liljeberg said it was a legal one, and Miller was immediately placed in handcuffs.
Thomas' parents were happy to end the ordeal. "Thank God it's all over," Dolores Thomas said according to the paper. "Now we can rest, and my baby, too."
George Thomas added, "My baby can rest. ... I'm not rejoicing over this. I feel sorry. At least they (Miller's family) can see him. All I got is a grave."
Prosecutors said they were confident in the verdict and did not believe an appeal would be filed. Miller, who changed his rap name from C Murder to C Miller during the trial, pleaded no contest to separate second-degree attempted murder charges stemming from a 2001 incident in a Baton Rouge nightclub, in which he allegedly pulled a gun on a bouncer at Club Raggs. His sentencing in that case is scheduled for August 25.