Journal Express, Knoxville, IA

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January 9, 2014

UPDATE: Court affirms Miller conviction

Knoxville — The Iowa Court of Appeals has affirmed the first-degree murder conviction of Michael Jamey Miller. 

Miller was convicted of hiring Terry Tobias Cobbins, Jr., to kill his wife, Teresa, in the couple's home, south of Knoxville on Jan. 7, 2011. Cobbins and Miller were tried separately on first-degree murder charges. Both were convicted. They were sentenced on the same date in 2012 to a mandatory life in prison term. 

Cobbins' trial took place first. The Journal-Express was the only news outlet present for nearly every minute of this trial, as well as Miller's. Media coverage of the Cobbins trial led to a request by Miller's defense for a change of venue. This request was granted, and Miller was tried in Clarke County, as opposed to Marion County. 

Even with the change of venue, the court encountered 16 potential jurors in the 64-member pool who had been exposed to coverage of the Cobbins case. Attorneys for the the State and defense were provided the opportunity to question these jurors in regard to their knowledge of the case. 

One juror, identified in the Court of Appeals' opinion as Brian Stuva, read a small article in the Osceola Sentinel. He said it indicated that he "didn't pay much attention" to the article, but remembered that there was someone else involved in the crime who had already been convicted.

Miller's appellate counsel argued that there was prejudice due to the number of juror strikes available to the trial counsel and alleged that three disqualified jurors sat on the jury. Miller contended that the juror's knowledge of Cobbins' conviction "could not reasonably be set aside" because of the link to the Miller case. Each side was given ten strikes, but the defense chose not to use all of them. 

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