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Lawyer in Brittany Miles murder trial says first-degree charge is not justified

BROOKSVILLE — As he chased the red pickup truck toward the busy intersection, Pasco County sheriff's Deputy Chris Greifenberger saw the man on the motorcycle and hoped.

"I was hoping he was going to see what was going on and hear the sirens," Greifenberger testified Tuesday. "I saw his head turn and look right at the truck."

By then, it was too late.

On the second day of her trial in Hernando County Circuit Court, 23-year-old Brittany Miles conceded she is guilty of murder for what happened next.

Barreling north on U.S. 19 with two patrol cars in pursuit, the Spring Hill woman drove the Dodge Ram through a gap in traffic that had stopped at a red light at County Line Road. The truck slammed into 66-year-old Henry McCain as he steered his 2009 Suzuki into the intersection.

Miles, a former stripper, admits to the series of choices that resulted in McCain's death, her attorney Aaron Delgado said during his opening statement. But Miles is not guilty of first-degree felony murder, as prosecutors allege, Delgado said.

"Brittany Miles will never dispute that she is 100 percent responsible for (McCain's) death, and she should be punished and found guilty of a crime," Delgado said. "What the evidence will show you is she is guilty of third-degree felony murder."

Later, Judge Daniel B. Merritt Jr. asked Miles if she believed that conceding to third-degree felony murder was in her best interest.

"Yes, sir," she replied.

The distinction is important. If the 12-member jury convicts Miles as charged, she faces a mandatory life sentence. The lesser charge of third-degree murder carries a maximum prison term of 15 years.

On May 10, 2011, Miles was under the influence of prescription drugs and alcohol when she escaped from Pasco Deputy Ashley Grady's patrol car after being arrested on a DUI charge. Miles ran back to her truck, handcuffs dangling from her left wrist. As she sped away, Grady jumped onto the running board of the truck and urged Miles to stop.

Grady testified Tuesday that Miles elbowed her while traveling about 70 mph, sending her to the pavement. Miles continued north, leading deputies on a roughly 7-mile chase at speeds up to 100 mph.

During his opening statement, Assistant State Attorney Sonny McCathran said the chase didn't end when the mangled truck would go no farther and rolled to a stop just north of County Line Road. Miles bailed out and ran, with Greifenberger in pursuit.

"She was yelling that she didn't do anything wrong and she wasn't drunk," Greifenberger testified later in the day. After he tackled her, "She was still trying to pull away."

For her actions in Pasco, Miles was sentenced last year to 15 years in prison after being convicted of battery on a law enforcement officer, escape, fleeing and eluding, and DUI.

Under Florida law, someone is guilty of first-degree murder when committing one or more certain felonies that result in death. One of those felonies is escape. Prosecutors are using Miles' escape conviction as a basis for her Hernando murder charge.

Delgado told the jury that Miles' escape ended in Pasco County. Therefore, he said, McCain's death was not caused while she was escaping.

Miles' attorneys tried unsuccessfully to prevent jurors from viewing grisly photos of the crash scene. One woman at the intersection that day broke down on the witness stand when asked to describe what she saw.

At one point during testimony, Henry McCain's widow, Anita, and the couple's daughter, Kellie, wiped tears. Across the aisle, Edward Miles put his arm around his wife, Debra, and pulled her close as she dabbed her eyes with a tissue.

Seated at the defense table, their daughter did, too.

Miles is also charged in Hernando with aggravated fleeing to elude law enforcement. Earlier Tuesday, Merritt denied a defense motion to dismiss that charge, disagreeing with the argument that it violates Miles' constitutional protection from being tried twice for the same crime.

Testimony is scheduled to end Thursday. Delgado said Miles will testify in her own defense.

Reach Tony Marrero at tmarrero@tampabay.com or (352) 848-1431. Follow @tmarrerotimes on Twitter.

Lawyer in Brittany Miles murder trial says first-degree charge is not justified 03/05/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 5, 2013 10:21pm]

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