For the first time since Paul Miller murdered his neighbor Dana Mulhall by slowly and deliberately firing five shots into him from across a fence in March 2012, Miller spoke apologetically, contritely.
“I’m very sorry about Dana’s death and to his family and my family over all this grief in this situation that I’ve brought,” Miller said in Flagler County Circuit Court this afternoon. “I’m very sorry.”
Miller was standing for his sentencing before Flagler County Circuit Judge J. David Walsh. His demeanor, his wrists and legs in chains, his person in a green and white striped jail suit, was a stark contrast with his brash and at times rude demeanor during the trial.
Walsh was not moved. He sentenced Miller to life without parole, with a minimum of 25 years in prison.
“I will note that lack of remorse is not a proper basis for the court to determine a just sentence,” Walsh said. “I am not considering such—if that were true, I’m not considering possible lack of remorse. But the seriousness of this crime, in the court’s view, stuns the sensibilities of reasonable people. There is no sentence that is appropriate in this matter but for the maximum allowed by law.”
The moment he imposed the sentence, a member of Mulhall’s family, in the second row of pews, murmured “Thank you God.”
At the end of a five-day trial on May 24, Miller was found guilty of second degree murder with a deadly weapon. Twenty-five years in prison was the minimum he faced under Florida law, with a maximum of life in prison—what Mulhall’s family and friends were asking for.
Miller’s attorney, Doug Williams, said after the sentencing that an appeal would be filed. Williams at sentencing had cited Miller’s age my client’s age and health to keep the sentence to the 25 year minimum, with 15 years’ probation after that. Even if the minimum is imposed, Williams said, “the likeliness is that he’ll pass away in jail,” and if he is paroled, he’d be 91, “and not a threat to anyone.”
Assistant State Attorney Jacquelyn Roys opposed imposing anything less than a life sentence.
“Do we change our sentence because of Mr. Miller’s age?” Roys said. “Mr. Miller should be punished to the fullest extent that this court has,” meaning life in prison. In the alternative, she asked that Miller get a “set number of years that exceed the minimum. The minimum is not acceptable in this case.” In other words, “a term of years sufficient to secure that Mr. Miller will not leave that jail.”
Williams countered that Miller was in fear for his life that day. For that reason, it should mitigate his sentence. “Give this individual an opportunity that, if he does make it 25 years from now, that he at least could see his grandkids.” One detail not heard until now emerged during the sentencing: Miller had a previous conviction for drunk driving. But it did not appear to affect the outcome of the proceedings today.
Curiously, no one else spoke on Miller’s behalf, though his wife sat in the audience, alongside three women. Miller’s daughter, who had sat through the trial, was not present.
Karen Mulhall Theriault, Dana’s younger sister, was first to deliver a statement. She walked to the dais before the judge. Her voice breaking before she started, she spoke of her older brother, how her family’s and Dana’s friend’s lives were changed forever that day in March, when he was killed. “In the future if my daughter, who is Dana’s only niece, decides to get married, her uncle will not be attending,” she said. His friends will not have him to fish in Flagler Beach with. All, she said, “because of one man, Paul Miller,” whom she described as “rude and disrespectful,” and not once remorseful, regretful, or apologetic. “Instead, I heard, ‘I shot the sonofabitch, I shot his fucking ass.’” She asked for life in prison without parole. “And to you Paul Miller, out of respect for this court, I cannot tell you what I think of you or how I truly feel,” she said.
She also read a statement from her younger brother Michael. “I was not sure I could sit near him in court and keep my emotions in check,” he said in his statement, referring to Miller, after making another point: that knowing that, he knew how to control the sort of flammable situation Miller chose to fuel rather than walk away from. Dana hunted, knew his way with a gun, but never kept guns in Florida because he hunted in Maine. “This is the thing that haunts me the most,” he said. “Because of Dana’s hunting experience, he knew that when that bullet ripped through his chest, he was going to die.”
On March 2, 2013, he stood in Dana’s yards, where Dana was killed, “and I walked away. The revenge we’ll have to settle for is the knowledge that Paul Miller will die in prison. To Paul Miller, may you never see another day of freedom.” He begged the court to impose a sentence of life in prison with no possibility of parole.
Cindy Wellborn, who maintained a long-distance relationship with Mulhall, conveyed a statement that was read by Roys. “I will never know what could have been” she said. “Yes I have moved on, but Dana will always have a place deep in my heart. You can;t and you won’t take these memories.”