According to various reports, Alabama Men’s Basketball player, Darius Miles and another man, Michael Lynn Davis have been charged with capital murder in connection with a shooting near the University of Alabama campus in the early hours of January 15, 2023. The root of the shooting appears to have been a minor argument between the alleged victims and the alleged suspects. However, what does capital murder actually mean in the state of Alabama?
For a crime to be classified as capital murder, there has to be a special circumstance. In this case, the special circumstance is that the alleged victim was shot in a vehicle. According to Alabama Criminal Code Title 13A-5-40(17), it is a capital offense because it is “murder committed by or through the use of a deadly weapon while the victim is in the vehicle.” Additionally, if the alleged suspects fired the deadly weapon from within another vehicle, that would be a special circumstance capital as well. If convicted, Mr. Miles would be eligible for the death penalty. If the suspects were convicted of capital murder and the jury chose not to impose the death penalty, they would have to serve a minimum mandatory sentence of 30 years in prison day for day before they would be eligible for parole. The biggest question will be who was the shooter and was this potentially self-defense?
As stated by the Captain Jack Kennedy, commander of the Tuscaloosa County’s Violent Crimes Unit, he didn’t say who investigators believe pulled the trigger, but he did say “both suspects are being charged because their actions led to the alleged victim’s death.” The alleged victim was the passenger in the vehicle, but the driver of the vehicle told officers, “The vehicle had been shot into and he (the driver) had fired back in self-defense.” These two pieces of evidence are potentially significant. First, as to who is the actual shooter. Both individuals can be charged with capital murder (usually an accessory/accomplice theory) but it sounds like only one of them shot at the vehicle. That is because whoever wasn’t the shooter probably doesn’t need to worry about getting the death penalty imposed if they were convicted of capital murder. A jury isn’t going to impose a death sentence for potentially someone being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The other key piece of evidence is that the alleged victim’s vehicle shot back. This is significant for the defense of Mr. Miles and Mr. Davis because now their defense attorneys can potentially argue a “who shot first defense”. That is because Alabama is a “Stand Your Ground” state which allows a Judge to grant absolute immunity to a defense if the Judge determines that the actions of self-defense were reasonable under the law.
This case is a long way from trial. However, it is not far away from seeing the inside of the Courtroom. This article will be the first in a multi-part series.
Matthew F. Tympanick, Esq. is the Founder/Principal of Tympanick Law, P.A., located in Sarasota, Florida where he focuses his practice on Criminal Defense, Personal Injury Law, and Sports Law. Arrested or Injured? Don’t Panic…Call Tympanick! 1(888)NOPANIC. He is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts School of Law where he served as a Public Interest Fellow and a Staff Editor on the UMass Law Review. He has appeared nationally on television, radio, and podcasts discussing criminal cases specifically sports criminal cases. He was previously a felony prosecutor where he prosecuted thousands of misdemeanor and felony criminal cases. He also has tried over 40 jury and non-jury cases. You can follow him on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook @TympanickLaw