The Supreme Judicial Court today upheld the first-degree murder conviction of Laquan Miller for repeatedly shooting two men in the back in the Archdale housing complex in 2011, killing one of them.
The ruling means that Miller will be able to apply for parole in 2028. Although first-degree murder convictions normally carry a sentence of life without the possibility of parole, Miller was only 17 when he killed Wilfredo Martinez, so he gets to ask for parole after 15 years - with no guarantee he'll get it.
Miller's own mother testified she saw Miller and an accomplice - both of whom lived in a house on Washington Street next to Archdale - leaving the scene moment after the double shooting, after she heard the gunshots and went outside to take a look; his father testified that just 30 minutes after the shooting, Miller was telling him he knew who'd gotten shot.
The accomplice, Elvis Sanchez, never came to trial because he and his mother, Elvira, were themselves shot to death at the Washington Street house.
At issue in Miller's appeals were statements he made to homicide detectives before he was arrested and then after he was arrested and awaiting arraignment in a cell at the E-5 police station in West Roxbury.
At one point, he told detectives he wanted to stop talking and wanted a lawyer, so they stopped questioning him. But later, an E-5 detective who'd taken to chatting with young men at Archdale to try to steer them away from crime, spotted him at the E-5 station and expressed surprise at seeing him there - although she did not know specifically why he was there.
Later, Miller asked to speak to her and said he wanted to talk to the homicide detectives again; she then summoned them down to the district station.
The summary continues that when they arrived, Miller told them a different story about how the shootings, that his initial story, about being at home on Washington Street playing video games was wrong and that, in fact, yes, he was at the scene, but it was Elvis Sanchez who shot the two men and had gotten paid $500 by somebody to do it.
In his appeal, Miller's attorney said the homicide detectives should not have spoken to Miller that second time and that their testimony should have been stricken, because Miller had earlier said he was done talking. In particular, the appeal notes that after Miller said he wanted a lawyer, the detectives continued:
"If something were to change, if there's something we need to know, please make sure that we do, okay?"and "You all set, bro? Is there anything else you want to tell us? You all good?"
The court said those were minor questions and that in any case, Miller didn't answer them.
We conclude that the two brief, somewhat ambiguous questions posed by the detectives do not constitute an improper interrogation after the defendant had invoked his right to counsel.
Also the state's highest court ruled that Miller voluntarily asked to speak to the detectives again, that the detectives conducted themselves professionally and that they had explained Miller's rights to him more than once and he had agreed he understood those rights. But can a minor agree to do that? The court said it disagreed that once a teen says no more questioning without a lawyer, that is absolute.
The motion judge properly took the defendant's age of seventeen years into account here, but nonetheless concluded that the defendant had voluntarily reinitiated discussions, waived his Miranda rights, and made the statements themselves voluntarily. We need not recite all of these detailed findings again,which are clearly supported by the record.