The Georgia Supreme Court has upheld Michael York Miller’s 2014 conviction in the cold-case murder of Shawnita Nicole Campbell on Columbus’ Coolidge Avenue, a place then called the “Dog Pound.”
A jury on May 23, 2014, decided after an hour’s deliberation that Miller fatally shot Campbell in the back seat of a car on April 11, 1999, before the vehicle drove off, its driver yet unidentified.
A transmission repair shop owner found Campbell’s body about 7:45 a.m. the next day, a few blocks away on Warehouse Avenue.
Miller’s threats to witnesses so frightened them that they initially refused to come forward to identify him, and for years the case remained unresolved.
Then in 2010, police Sgt. Randy Long, a cold-case investigator, finally found two women who would testify against Miller.
One, Tuiquianna Dowdell, testified she was sitting on porch on Coolidge Avenue that day in 1999 when Miller angrily asked whether she’d seen Campbell, adding, “Tell that b---h I’m looking for her. I’ve got something for her.”
Later Dowdell saw Miller and Campbell arguing before they walked up the street and got into a car. Then she heard a gunshot.
Lyles also said she saw Miller and Campbell arguing in a car before she heard what sounded like a firecracker and a gurgling noise. As the car drove past her, she saw Miller and Campbell in the back seat, and noted Campbell looked like she was having a seizure.
Lyles was so frightened she hid out at a friend’s house overnight and later moved to Texas in the hope that Miller would not find her.
Dowdell similarly was terrified when Miller afterward told her “you better not say nothing.” Both witnesses said Miller had a small, black bag in which he was known to carry a handgun.
The state Supreme Court said this witness testimony was supplemented by evidence in Miller’s 1988 conviction for pointing a gun at someone. Ballistics tests showed the Raven Arms .25-caliber pistol Miller had then was the same caliber and brand that killed Campbell.
Judge William Rumer initially sentenced Miller to life without parole, but amended it to life with possible parole on June 27, 2016, after Miller moved for a new trial.
Miller appealed on the argument Rumer erred by failing to poll all the jurors after their guilty verdict, missing one. The Supreme Court said Miller’s appeal relied on a precedent in which a juror answered “no” when polled about the verdict.
“In this case, however, there is no indication at all that the jury failed to reach a unanimous verdict or that any juror’s guilty verdict was improperly obtained,” the justices wrote.