FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA21) — With DNA evidence and a confession, why did Allen County Prosecutor Karen Richards not seek the death penalty in the April Tinsley murder and child molesting cold case against John Miller?
“People think you get sentenced to the death penalty and in 30 days somebody gets executed. You’re lucky if you can execute somebody in 30 years. And in 30 years, this defendant won’t be alive,” Richards explains.
Despite protests from the community, Richards decided not to pursue the death penalty against Miller because she says his age and health make it likely an execution would never happen.
“The last case in Allen County where we have the death penalty ordered, it’s 21 years later and we’re no closer to Joseph Corcoran’s execution then we were the day he was sentenced,” she says.
Why does it take so long?
The Indiana Supreme Court meticulously reviews every death penalty case.
If the case passes that test, it goes into the federal court system, where each taxpayer-funded appeal takes years.
“It’s challenged initially at the district court level, at the circuit court level, and then a writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court,” Don Swanson tells us.
Criminal defense attorney Swanson has been involved in seven death penalty cases in his career.
In one of those, the defendant was on death row for 18 years, something Swanson says most people don’t think about.
“You kill my daughter, you’re dead, that kind of thing. But that’s not how it really is, and that’s not how it will ever work, I don’t think,” Swanson says.
Miller’s defense team said he told them he wanted the case to end quickly.
“I think this case did have a tremendous impact on our community. A sense of loss of this is good old Fort Wayne, and it’s a great place to raise a family. That took a little bit of a hit,” public defender Mark Thoma says.
Miller will be sent to the Department of Corrections, which will determine which prison to put him in.
Because he had to be sentenced under laws in effect in 1988 he will get time off for good behavior, but will be 99-years-old if he serves half of his 80-year term.