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As Jury Is Seated in Paul Miller Murder Trial, Questions About Guns Weed Out Prospects

| May 20, 2013

It took all day Monday to seat the jury in the Paul Miller trial. Three men and three women will form the all-white jury. Alternates include two men (one of them black)m and a woman. (c FlaglerLive)

It took all day Monday to seat the jury in the Paul Miller trial. Three men and three women will form the all-white jury. Alternates include two men (one of them black)m and a woman. (c FlaglerLive)

The most anticipated trial of the year—of Paul Miller, the 66-year-old Flagler Beach man accused of murdering his neighbor last year during an argument over Miller’s barking dogs—began Monday with jury selection, which by day’s end had seated an all-white jury of three men and three women, plus three alternates (a woman and two men, one of them black).

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The trial may take up to two weeks, with roughly 50 witnesses for the prosecution and a half dozen more for the defense. The jury was not sequestered: its members will go home every evening, though Circuit Judge J. David Walsh cautioned them against speaking about the case at all—including to their spouses—let alone researching it on the Internet.

Miller is charged with second-degree murder, which carries a minimum sentence of 16 years in prison if convicted—what essentially would be a life sentence for Miller, who, according to family members who spoke at his bond hearing last year, is not in god health. He is out on $300,000 bond. He wore a navy blue jacket and tie and sat between his two attorneys, Doug Williams and Carine Jarosz. His wife sat among an audience that amounted to only a handful of people.

The evening of March 14, Miller fired five shots at his neighbor, Dana Mulhall, in the culmination of an argument that had begun when Mulhal complained about Miller’s barking dogs. Mulhall was on his side of a picket fence separating his property from Miller’s, and was unarmed, though Miller says he felt threatened by Mulhall, with whom he’d had issues previously. Mulhall was unarmed. All five shots struck Mulhall, four of them as Mulhall was moving or crawling away from Miller.

Although Williams previously suggested that Florida’s Stand Your Ground law may be invoked, it’s not clear that that will be the defense’s strategy. But an individual’s right to use a firearm in self-defense is likely to play a central part of the defense’s arguments regardless: how and what prospective jurors feel about guns was a recurring theme during Monday’s selection process. A Vietnam veteran who spoke earnestly of what guns do–and of trying to dissuade his two sons from having concealed-carry permits, and forbidding anyone with a gun from entering his home–was among those questioned more than others. He was not chosen.

Jury selection is a laborious and beguiling chess game between the prosecution and the defense as both sides use the process for tactical advantage before opening arguments are laid out. While Miller has the right to a jury of his peers, those “peers” are in fact whittled down to the required six—and three alternates—from a group of two to three dozen.

Walsh himself excused more a half dozen or so individuals before the defense and prosecution picked off one potential juror after another. Neither side has to justify why it eliminates a juror, though each side was limited to 10 such “challenges” for the panel of six, and three additional challenges for the alternates. The defense used all but two of its challenges. The prosecution used fewer.

It was not a surprise, for example, that one prospective juror who emerged as a staunch opponent of guns or a proponent of more gun control, were excused. So was an ex-cop, a retired corporate executive with a penchant for questions, a young man who declared himself incapable of judging others, or a linebacker coach who spoke of an important coming game. And so were several prospective jurors who revealed how much they’d read about the case in newspapers or online. Neither side was looking either for the best informed or the most critical so much as the least objectionable: bland personalities won out over stronger ones.

The prosecution is led by Assistant State Attorney Jacquelyn Roys, with Kayla Hathaway assisting. After Walsh was through making his cutes, the prosecution and the defense were each allowed to make their presentations and questions to the prospects, purposely prompting responses that guided the two sides in their decisions.

The jurors heard about anger, about gun ownership, about hunting, about drinking, or not drinking, about cursing and gruesome pictures (which will be part of the evidence presented). And little by little, based on the reactions they heard from the prospects, the two sides crossed out names and chose others on separate score sheets that they kept to themselves until it was time for the judge to read the names and see where either side stood.

They settled on the nine names with none to spare—and in fact the prosecution and the defense had to agree to take back two names that had earlier been struck, to ensure that there would be a jury seated by day’s end. Otherwise the judge would have had to call up yet another batch of prospects, delaying the process well into Tuesday morning.

The judge asked Miller at the end of the day if he was satisfied with the jury selection. He was. His “yes,” your honor” were the only words he spoke in court all day.

Court reconvenes Tuesday morning at 9 when the jury will hear some instructions and hear opening arguments.

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9 Responses for “As Jury Is Seated in Paul Miller Murder Trial, Questions About Guns Weed Out Prospects”

  1. Concerned says:

    Forget about the possibility of this looney toon pleading the Stand Your Ground law……….what about the good ol’ 10-20-LIFE law we have in Florida? Commit a crime with a gun, get 10 years; fire that gun during the crime, get 20 years; fire that gun and injure someone, get 20 years…….PERIOD! Kill someone, and get 16 years? Did I read that right? This guy would be facing MORE time in prison if his victim had survived? This poster-child for why we need more gun control laws confessed to the murder during his 911 call……outright said he shot Mr. Mulhall……and his family is concerned about his ill-health and 16 years being a life sentence? What about Mr. Mulhall’s health? He was shot 5 times, FOUR of which were in the back while he was crawling away from Miller…….and this is supposed to be self defense?
    This is not good for Florida! Just makes it that much easier to just shoot first and ask questions later.

    Would someone do me and the rest of the residents of the state of Florida a huge favor and make sure those numbskulls in Tallahassee are not smoking the same stuff as Cheech & Chong while trying to write our laws!

  2. Diego Miller says:

    The phsycological ju jitsu used by lawyers confuses a prospective juror. And, is it justice to manipulate the jury selection process with this fog of chicanery? I hope Mr. Miller gets a fair trial. Judge Walsh has an impeccable style and is well equipped to handle the lawyers.

  3. Mr concerned citizen says:

    Mr miller used bad judgement that fateful march day heck! I’ve had arguments with my neighbors over the years and about dogs no less!! Thank the good lord my neighbor was not packing heat or maybe I would not be here typing this today that’s the trouble every body wants to have a gun.now days its crazy!!! A good old spit flying face to face yellin match is a lot better than a visit to the local funeral home! Lets face it gun fights belong in good old Wild West John Wayne, Dirty Harry ETC??????? You get my message lets face it people we all don’t need to carry unless your a wannabe!!! Leave the guns up to law enforcement and for hunting purposes even though I don’t condone killing unarmed animals good luck mr.miller your gonna need it!!!j

  4. So sad says:

    Justice. May Dana’s mom and sister find the strength to get through these proceedings and see this monster put away. Praying for them and for JUSTICE. Mr Miller sir…may you suffer the severest consequences for your actions. After all, by your actions that day… you were “begging for this!!” You deserve nothing less than what you gave!

  5. So sad says:

    Just to make it clear. Dana has a large family. We are very spread out geographically. You will not see us in the court room as the majority of us have to go to work every day…BUT…we ARE paying attention to every detail. We ARE in contact with those who are there. Since that fateful day, i have had google alerts sent to my phone. We still hurt every day because of this ‘mans’ decision. And we are all praying for justice. Don’t mistake our not being visible there for anything less than it is. Our hearts are there every minute!

  6. cindy welborn says:

    AMEN!!!!! So Sad….

  7. Sherry Epley says:

    Right On Mr. Concerned Citizen!

    Here is the perfect example of what happens when guns are so much a part of our “armed to the teeth”, “fearful” culture. If Mr Miller did not own a gun, chances are that this situation would have ended with no more than harsh words exchanged and maybe a call to the police. Two lives and two families have been tragically devastated The consequences and deep wounds are permanent. They will quite painfully impact those families/loved ones/friends for the rest of their lives. These are real human lives, real human broken hearts, real human tears. . . lives torn apart forever!

    Mr. Miller was not a hardened criminal. I would surmise (given his age) that we was not addicted to violent video games, etc. The mere HANDYNESS of a lethal weapon is what caused this tragedy. . . and nothing else.

    Why must so many guns be at the finger tips of our neighbors? What exactly are we afraid of? Why are we so quick to be so hostile, violent, judgemental, prejudice, greedy, self absorbed, entitled? None of these negative character traits create peaceful, productive, healthy societies. What exactly are we, bit by bit, choosing as the future culture of our planet?

    • Mr concerned citizen says:

      Thank you Sherry E.for agreeing with my post I do not own a gun considering where I live , in a very rural area in flagler county the police response here is very good say upon a home invasion a gun would be nice but to face the consequences of those actions after the fact?? Home invasion!! Yes shoot em! But arguing over barking dogs I don’t think so . Very poor choice MR miller again GOOD LUCK ON THIS ONE,,

  8. Leisa says:

    I hate DRUNKS !!!!! I hate businesses that serve alcohol !!!!! I hate governments that allow alcohol to be made and sold !!!!

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