Paul Miller, the 70-year-old man serving a life prison sentence since a jury convicted him of murdering his neighbor Dana Mulhaull in Flagler Beach in a dispute over a barking dog in 2012, is returning to court in Flagler next week to contest his sentence.
Miller is arguing that he got an ineffective defense from his Doug Williams, his private attorney at the time, because Williams never retained a use-of-force expert even though “the theory of defense at trial was self-defense,” according to Miller’s motion.
“Defense counsel failed to present a use of force expert who could have opined tht Defendant Miller had an objective fear for his safety in light of the events of the evening (and the previous encounter with Mr. Mulhall) and that the use of force and amount of force used by Defendant Miller was justifiable.”
Miller shot Mulhall on March 14, 2012. Miller lived at 1340 South Flagler Avenue. Mulhall, 52, lived in the house next door, across a white, plastic picket fence Miller had installed, at 1336 South Flagler. They’d had words before over Miller’s small, barking dogs. Miller claimed Mulhall had previously threatened to kill him. That day, after Mulhall complained of the dogs, Miller went into his house, picked up a 9 mm handgun, and sat on the porch, waiting for Mulhall to come out again. Mulhall did. When he did so, Miller walked toward him, meeting him across the fence dividing the two properties. Mulhall, he said, kept yelling at him and at one point may have had his hand behind his back. Miller claims he feared Mulhall was going to pull out a gun.
Mulhall never did. He had been drinking—he had a blood-alcohol level of 0.188—and he’d been cursing at the dogs, but he was not armed. And he never did more than hold the picket fence. He never crossed it, or acted as if he would. Yet Miller took out his gun and started firing, slowly, five shots, all of which struck Mulhall. The last two were in Mulhall’s back as he was crawling toward the door to his house.
Originally from Maine, Mulhall had moved to Florida in 1992 and started a landscaping business.
The prosecution made much of the facts that Miller at several points had the chance to retreat if he felt threatened, to call law enforcement, or simply to remain in his house: had Mulhall crossed over to Miller’s property or entered his house, Miller’s claim of self-defense would have been more justified. But Mulhall never did.
At trial, Miller had been his own worst witness. Central to the case against him was the recording of the 911 call he made after the shooting, telling the dispatcher immediately after killing Mulhall that he’d “shot his fucking ass.” He’d spoken the words with an audible sneer, the same sneer that would characterize his testimony on the stand as then-Assistant State Attorney Jackie Roys cross-examined him. He projected an air of contempt toward her, at times making sexist remarks, at others refusing to answer her questions. He showed no contrition, no regret. The jury took just 90 minutes to find him guilty of second degree murder.
“I will note that lack of remorse is not a proper basis for the court to determine a just sentence,” Circuit Judge J. David Walsh said at sentencing the following month. “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.”
That was a life sentence with a mandatory term of 25 years. Miller was 66 at the time and in poor health.
In June 2014 his then-wife Derrol filed for divorce. The marriage was dissolved that Sept. 11. Weeks later, she sold the house on South Flagler Avenue. It has since been converted into a rental unit.
Within days of the house selling, the 5th District Court of Appeal affirmed the sentence against Miller. It’s not clear why Miller waited two years to file the current motion, though that sort of motion is not in itself unusual when all else fails. It is more of a legal Hail Mary than a sound argument. The state sought to refute it in its answer to the motion. Testimony from a use-of-force expert would have been inadmissible as the “Florida Supreme Court has held that it is generally improper to permit an expert to express an opinion which applies a legal standard to a set of facts,” the state argued.
The hearing is set for Dec. 1 at 9 a.m. before Circuit Judge Dennis Craig in Courtroom 401 at the Flagler County courthouse. Miller, looking emaciated and now 70, was booked at the Flagler County jail Sunday morning. He’s been serving his time at Sumter Correctional Institution, a 1,600-bed prison north of Tampa. He’ll be represented by a public defender. Mark Johnson is prosecuting the case for the state.
Concerned Citizen says
You summed it up nicely when you stated in the article that he murdered his neighbor. That’s exactly what happened when Mr. Miller decided to pull a weapon and discharge it 5 times.
The only time it is ever OK to use deadly force is when your life is being threatened and there is NO OTHER recourse. Being retired from Public Safety I still carry and keep something for home defense.
And I still hope the day never comes to where I have to use it. Shooting and killing someone over barking dogs and an argument is in no way justifiable.
This is one case I see the judges saw thru a lot of things and sentenced accordingly. Mr.Miller needs to own up to what he did and not waste tax payers money trying to get out of it.
This guy is a stone-cold murderer. He is the poster child for the angry armed old white guy who just waits for a chance to pull his gun out and shoot someone. He needs to go back to his prison cell and live out his final years separated from the society he insulted and rejected the moment he murdered his neighbor.
This man needs to to serve out his time. Too bad he didn’t get his anger management issues addressed before he took another life and his own was forfeited in return and as a result.
No matter the reasons he alleges Mr. Miller has to remain in prison because he got the best part, as Mr. Mulhall’s life was taken away and even shot in the back while trying to run for safety. Mr. Miller is a danger to society so keep us all safer by keeping him in prison.
Guilty! Two of the shots were into the Muhall’s back while he was trying to escape back to his home. I see that as an execution and in no way self defense. Miller needs to shut up and do his time!
I echo Concerned Citizen’s sentiments. The day that Mr. Miller killed his neighbor, he was
“laying in wait,” gun in hand. It was a premeditated killing by a miserable man looking for
some kind of sick glory.
On a happier note, I wish all of my fellow readers a very happy Thanksgiving.
An especially warm “hello” to Sherry and Pierre.
Another angry old white guy trump voter we don’t need to worry about anymore
There are two sides to every story. Though I am not defending the man, I do know that not all attorney’s defend clients as they should–they take the money and try to get you to agree to a plea offer. Public Defender’s are worse yet, they do NOTHING to defend those accused. Anyone who is represented by a Public Defender and the Public Defender does not file any motions in the case, the defendant should always state to the courts that they received inadequate representation. Far too often people take a plea because they don’t have money for an attorney or they fear they are going to given more serious punishment if they challenge the accusations….this is all just WRONG! Everyone should be entitled to fair representation. Too many attorney’s out there just take the money and run. We don’t know what we don’t know….we only know what is being reported. The accused rarely ever speak so a lot of what the prosecution is only what is heard, and it’s not always accurate.
You are not only defending the man, you are making excuses for him. I would suggest that entitlement, rather than concern, may be at the crux of the problem here. True concern for this man would have taken the form of getting him professional help for his anger/conduct issues before they turned deadly. If there are no consequences for such deadly acts,such expressions of violence will be further enabled.
ASF–You are innocent until proven guilty. We are not hearing but one side of this story, and if the man was not properly defended you may be making a premature or inaccurate judgement. The neighbor may be dead, but there may be more to the story that the defendant can’t speak of. All I am saying is too many people are convicted of crimes because they end up with poor or no representation and attorney’s are taking the money and running. I am not defending the man, I am pointing out a flaw in the justice system.
Dana was abrasive at times, but Mr. Miller laid in wait with gun in hand. He murdered Dana in cold blood and deserves all the time and misery he gets.
marking the days–if Dana was abrasive at times did an old man like Mr. Miller have reason to fear him? I don’t recall anything being said about Dana being abrasive so was information withheld that helped a jury convict this man? If there is any question about the conviction and reason is shown that the man deserves a new trial, then so be it. If Miller can’t defend himself to prove otherwise then he should get the same result. Innocent —Innocent UNTIL proven guilty…..it’s not what we know or what we think, it’s about the facts in the case. There are some attorney’s that do not defend, they encourage the plea and take the easy way out. It is a lot of work to go to trail. Never should one be cornered to take a plea rather than go to trial because of stiffer sentence for doing so and that happens everyday.
@Anonymous says–Mr Miller was proven guilty in a court of law. Hard to believe that you missed it. Denial might explain that but denial does not excuse Mr. Miller’s actions, nor does it exempt him from the consequences of them.
There ARE two sides….one man is DEAD and the other is alive. THREE years is nothing compared to the hell he brought to Dana’s family and friends! Every day Dana’s mother has to wake up knowing she will never hear her son’s voice again or see his face. SHE got a life sentence! THERE is a side. Every day the man who killed him should wake up to bars surrounding him for THAT very reason!