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Jury is selected in Brittany Miles' murder trial

Brittany Miles, left, watches jury selection Monday at the Hernando County Government Center in Brooksville. She’s on trial for first-degree murder in the death of Henry McCain.

OCTAVIO JONES | Times

Brittany Miles, left, watches jury selection Monday at the Hernando County Government Center in Brooksville. She’s on trial for first-degree murder in the death of Henry McCain.

BROOKSVILLE — Brittany Miles jotted notes as her attorneys went about the process Monday of picking the jurors who will decide whether she will spend the rest of her life in prison.

The 23-year-old Spring Hill woman listened intently as her defense attorneys queried potential jurors about their experiences with car crashes and drug addiction.

"Does everybody agree that good people do terrible things under the influence of drugs?" attorney Aaron Delgado asked.

Most of the prospective jurors nodded. By 4 p.m., attorneys had picked seven women and five men.

The defense attorneys' line of questioning offered insight into the strategy they will take this week as they defend Miles against a first-degree murder charge. Opening statements are expected to start this morning.

On May 10, 2011, Miles was high on prescription drugs when she escaped from a Pasco deputy's patrol car during a DUI traffic stop in Hudson, authorities say. Miles sped off with Deputy Ashley Grady clinging to the truck.

Grady said Miles shoved her while traveling at 70 mph, sending her onto U.S. 19, crumpled with a head injury and a broken leg. Miles continued north, leading deputies on a 100-mph chase that ended just north of the Hernando-Pasco line. There, authorities say, her truck hit 66-year-old Henry McCain of Spring Hill and his 2009 Suzuki motorcycle. McCain died at the scene.

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

On Monday, Assistant State Attorney Bill Catto explained to potential jurors that, under Florida law, someone is guilty of first-degree murder when committing one or more felonies that result in death.

Before the proceedings began, defense attorney Robert W. Rawlins III asked Catto if the state would agree to a plea deal with a 15-year prison sentence. Miles would serve the time concurrent with her Pasco sentence, Rawlins said.

"That's not something we would be interested in," Catto told Circuit Judge Daniel B. Merritt Jr.

Attorneys on both sides eliminated more than a dozen prospective jurors. Among them was a man who said he doubted his ability to be fair to drug addicts.

On the day of the fatal crash, Miles told deputies she had had seven drinks; a drug test later determined she had oxycodone and Xanax in her system. She testified that while in the back of Grady's cruiser, she swallowed a handful of Xanax she had hidden inside her underwear. Miles testified she got one hand free from her handcuffs and reached through the cruiser's window — which had been rolled down for deputies to speak with Miles — to open the door.

During her Pasco sentencing hearing, she apologized to Grady and asked the judge for a second chance. Her parents, Debra and Edward, also asked for leniency.

Miles and her relatives say she was a compassionate person and a good mother to her young son before she was in a car crash that led to a prescription pill addiction. On Monday, Debra Miles, a school resource deputy for the Hernando Sheriff's Office, took off her glasses and wiped tears from her eyes as the selected jurors filed into the box. She declined to speak with the Times.

McCain's widow, Anita, and daughter Kellie also attended. In a written statement, they asked for privacy during the trial.

"No outcome will change this tragedy, one we live with every day," the statement read. "But we do hope these proceedings demonstrate the devastation that driving impaired causes."

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

Jury is selected in Brittany Miles' murder trial 03/04/13 [Last modified: Monday, March 4, 2013 10:28pm]
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