Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

Local News

June 9, 2014

Miller on trial for James' death

Defense: Miller's a victim too

EFFINGHAM — While Effingham County State's Attorney Bryan Kibler said an Altamont man should be held responsible for supplying the heroin that supposedly led to the overdose death of an Effingham woman in February, Jay C. Miller's defense attorney said his client is nothing more than an addict himself.

"Jay Miller is not a drug dealer," said Public Defender Scott Schmidt. "He suffers from the same unfortunate condition that drove Jessica James to administer herself a fatal dose of heroin."

Miller, 23, is on trial this week on one count of drug-induced homicide and one count of delivery of a controlled substance. He is accused of providing a dose of heroin to Jessica N. James, 29, on the afternoon of Feb. 4. James was pronounced dead the next day. Authorities believe she overdosed on the heroin she received from Miller.

Albert D. Church, in whose Effingham apartment Miller had been staying at the time of James' death, is charged with delivery of a controlled substance. Church is being tried separately for delivery of a controlled substance by theory of accountability. He is accused of connecting James with Miller.

In his opening statement Monday, Kibler pointed to the heroin James received from Miller as the cause of her death.

"Nothing else contributed to her death other than the consumption of heroin," the prosecutor said.

Kibler said Investigator John Maguire of the Effingham Police Department would testify that he went through cellphone records for James, Church and Miller's then-girlfriend Tomeka Price, who had only been dating the defendant for about 10 days at the time of James' death. Authorities do not believe Price had anything to do with providing James heroin on the day she overdosed.

The prosecutor set up a timeline for the day James received the heroin that led to her fatal overdose, including a trip to Decatur by Miller and a friend to pick up heroin, as well as Price giving James a ride to a local bank to write a check for more than what she had in the account.

Kibler said anything other than a guilty verdict would be a miscarriage of justice.

"The only just verdict is to hold the defendant responsible for the drug-induced homicide of Jessica James," Kibler said.

Schmidt told the jury the state planned to use "an actual drug dealer" to show that Miller picked up the heroin that eventually went to James. The defense attorney said that individual, who he did not name in his statement, had an ulterior motive for testifying against Miller.

"It's going to be clear why he's doing what he's doing," Schmidt said.

Schmidt urged the jury to not make James' life more valuable than his client's.

"What Jessica James did to herself was unspeakably tragic," Schmidt said. "But Jay Miller's life is no more or less valuable than hers."

Kibler and Assistant State's Attorney Ralph Fowler began presenting the state's case immediately after opening statements. The trial is expected to end today.

For more on the trial, see Tuesday's paper.

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