Judge Resets Child Endangerment Trial for West Branch Man

By Trish Mehaffey, Reporter

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By Ellen Kurt

WEST BRANCH, Iowa - A trial for a West Branch man, who was granted a new trial last year after being convicted in the 2007 death of his 3-month-old daughter, is reset to Sept. 25.

Curtis A. Miller, 33, waived his 90-day right to speedy trial Friday and pleaded not guilty to the amended and substituted charges of child endangerment resulting in death and involuntary manslaughter. The charges were amended for the new trial because Miller was originally charged with first-degree murder but a jury in 2008 convicted him on the lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter.

If convicted, Miller faces up to 50 years in prison.

Miller appealed his conviction based on "jury separation and juror substitution" during deliberations. Following his three-week trial, and after two days of deliberations, the court allowed a juror to leave for a family funeral.

Miller asked the court twice for a mistrial because the juror started deliberations but then left and one of the alternates took his place.

The Iowa Court of Appeals ruled the court should have granted Miller's motions for mistrial because the court allowed the juror to leave deliberations and couldn't determine when deliberations would resume.

Todd Weimer, Miller's attorney, argued Friday that Miller has the right to a bond review because involuntary manslaughter is a lesser charge than first-degree murder. Miller's bond is set at $1 million cash, which is unreasonable for the lesser charge, Weimer said.

First Assistant Linn County Attorney Nick Maybanks argued Miller still faces serious charges and he could be a flight risk. Miller had a bond review by another judge before his first trial and he is only allowed one bond review, according to law, he said.

The defense also asked the court to allow an attorney, Tyler Johnston, to represent Miller, who was previously removed from the case because of a conflict. Johnston also represented a witness in this case on another matter.

Sixth Judicial District Judge Douglas Russell said he would take the bond review and conflict issue under advisement.

Miller's daughter Kimisha died Oct. 11, 2007, from rotational-inflicted head trauma, according to trial testimony. About 19 medical doctors testified that Kimisha had suffered a skull fracture, extensive retinal hemorrhaging, subdural hemorrhaging of the brain, wrist fractures and bruising to her forehead and right cheek. The doctors testified the injuries were the classic remnants of child abuse.

The defense maintained that Kimisha could have sustained those injuries by falling off a bed. Miller's attorneys claimed the injuries resulted when the child fell off a bed two weeks before she was hospitalized on Sept. 20, 2007.

Defense attorneys also argued investigators had not thoroughly investigated another man who was in the house at the time, whom they claimed caused the child's injuries.

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