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CSA: Jody Lee Miles’ appeal of death sentence is moot

Convicted killer Jody Lee Miles’ appeal of his death sentence became moot when former Gov. Martin O’Malley commuted it to life in prison without the possibility of parole, the Court of Special Appeals has held.

The appellate court heard arguments Dec. 8 on Miles’ contention that the state’s 2013 repeal of the death penalty made his sentence illegal. The attorney general’s office agreed with Miles.

The two sides also agreed on the effect that a commutation would have, according to the Feb. 4 unreported opinion by the Court of Special Appeals.

“At that time, both Miles and the State – in response to a question from Judge Zarnoch – conceded that, should the Governor commute Miles’s sentence, then this particular appeal would be rendered moot,” Judge Alexander Wright noted for the panel.

However, Miles has another challenge pending.

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. He made it official by executive action on Jan. 20.

On that same day, Miles’ lawyers filed a motion in Queen Anne’s County Circuit Court opposing the new sentence.

His attorneys argued that he should be allowed to continue the appellate process in the hope of getting a life sentence with the possibility of parole.

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

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.

The case in the Court of Special Appeals is Jody Lee Miles v. State of Maryland, No. 2155, Sept. Term 2013.

Read the unreported opinion.