Murder charges dropped against Codey Miller - WFLA News Channel 8

Charges dropped against Codey Miller; previously accused of killing mom in 2009

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WASHINGTON COUNTY, TN (WJHL) -

At the request of prosecutors, a Washington County, Tennessee judge dismissed the murder case against Codey Miller in court today.

The Johnson City teen was previously charged with felony murder, first-degree murder and abuse of a corpse in the May 2009 death of his mother, Sherry Cooper. Johnson City police and prosecutors had accused Miller of killing his mother then raping her corpse. After a hearing this morning, Miller walked out of court a free man.

"Mr. Miller, I don't know what involvement you had in this case, if any, but I don't guess we'll ever know, only you know," Judge Robert Cupp told the man.

According to prosecutors, they dropped the charges against Miller because they couldn't say without a reasonable doubt that Miller committed the crime.

"The evidence just wasn't there," Assistant District Attorney Dennis Brooks said. "If you do this business long enough, there's going to be a homicide victim that doesn't get justice. It's something I regret. It's something I second-guess myself every day."

Prosecutors said Christopher Johnson, a co-defendant who pleaded guilty to lesser crimes in this case last year and was sentenced to probation, has stopped reporting to law enforcement officials, which he must do to meet the terms of his sentence. Prosecutors also said they recently found out Johnson was charged with aggravated assault on a woman years ago in Shelby County.

"A female living with him for two to three weeks was sleeping on a blow-up mattress in the living room (around July 20th, 2008) when she woke up to her hands taped up and tied with rope," Brooks said citing the Shelby County assault arrest warrant officially signed on July 7th, 2009. "The defendant struck her once with his fist."

Prosecutors told us news of that crime gave them doubt as to how much Miller is to blame for his mother death, if at all. In addition, they say the new information about Johnson wouldn't have made him a reliable witness at trial. After all, the only evidence they had was Johnson's statement and a belt found in Miller's room that had DNA matching the victim's profile.

"At this point, with a lot of deliberation, it would be a complete waste of taxpayer resources to continue anything on Mr. Miller, considering this new piece of evidence on Mr. Johnson," Brooks said. "They taught us in law school that our laws are set up where it's better that 10 guilty people go free than one innocent person suffer and that's what we see at play here."

At the time of his arrest, Miller confessed to police. However, Judge Cupp eventually threw out the confession after months of consideration. Even with that confession, prosecutors say their case wouldn't have been that strong.

"Mr. Miller had mental limitations that contributed to that statement," Brooks said.

Public Defender Jeff Kelly says from the start, police and prosecutors honed in on the wrong person.

"I felt (Codey Miller) was innocent from the beginning," Kelly said. "We have always said we think they focused on the wrong individual."

Look for updates to this story on News Channel 11 and on WJHL.com.


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