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Miles opposes commutation while parole is still a possibility

On the same day Gov. Martin O’Malley issued an executive order commuting Jody Lee Miles’ death sentence, Miles’ lawyers filed a motion opposing his new sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Miles’ motion, filed Tuesday in Queen Anne’s County Circuit Court, seeks to allow his appeal of his death sentence to make its way through the legal system. His attorneys note that if the pending appeal is successful, a sentence with the possibility of parole is at least an option.

The Court of Special Appeals heard arguments in December on Miles’ contention that the state’s 2013 repeal of the death penalty made his sentence illegal. The intermediate appellate court has yet to issue a ruling, but the attorney general’s office also took the position that Miles’ death sentence should be vacated.

“Mr. Miles contends that any change at the present time in his death sentence should come from the judicial process, not gubernatorial fiat,” the motion states.

Miles was convicted in the 1997 murder and robbery of Edward J. Atkinson on the Eastern Shore and sentenced to death a year later.

O’Malley announced Dec. 31 he would shut down Maryland’s death row by commuting the sentences of Miles and three other men — Anthony Grandison, Vernon Lee Evans Jr. and Heath William Burch — to life in prison without parole.

Miles’ lawyers argue that Miles must ask the governor to change his death sentence under the state constitution. The motion also claims Miles is not receiving “individual consideration of his situation” by O’Malley.

“Imposing the same sentence on all four defendants at the same time is the type of arbitrary and capricious decision that would arise if Mr. Miles were to be executed based on his sentence being imposed prior to the repeal of the death penalty, and not for any other reason,” the motion states.

Queen Anne’s County Circuit Court Judge Thomas G. Ross denied Miles’ motion to correct an illegal sentence in September 2013.

The motion notes that the trial court will be asked to change the court record to reflect a sentence of life without parole in the wake of O’Malley’s executive order. If Miles’ sentence is changed, his lawyers say they will pursue “all legal remedies against the change.”

Miles is represented by Robert W. Biddle of Nathans & Biddle LLP in Baltimore, Erika Alsid Short of Chason, Rosner, Leary & Marshall LLC in Towson and Brian Saccenti, chief of the appellate division in the Office of the Public Defender.