Mar. 27—What was supposed to be a routine hearing to determine whether a Raleigh County man would face life in prison took an unexpected turn Friday when the defendant fired his defense attorney.
A day after being found guilty by a jury of multiple felonies, Andrew Miller, 32, of Beckley, was called back into court Friday for a hearing to determine whether he would receive a harsher penalty for his crimes under the state’s recidivist statute.
Under this statute, if a person has two or three prior felony convictions involving either actual violence, a threat of violence or substantial impact upon the victim such that harm results, then a life sentence can be imposed.
Last week, a jury found Miller guilty of three felonies — malicious wounding, wanton endangerment and felon in possession of a firearm. The charges stem from a June 2022 shooting at the Hargrove Apartments in Beckley when Miller shot and nearly killed Anthony Goard, 27, of Oak Hill.
Raleigh County Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Brian Parsons said Miller already has two prior felony convictions for kidnapping in Raleigh County and malicious wounding in Kanawha County.
Parsons told The Register-Herald Monday that Miller was served documents in Raleigh County Circuit Judge HL Kirkpatrick’s courtroom Friday which detailed his prior felony convictions as well as the prosecution’s desire to pursue a life sentence under the recidivist statute.
Upon receiving the documents, Parsons said Miller “fired his trial counsel and elected to proceed pro se, representing himself.”
Instead of dealing with the matter at hand, which was the extended sentence, Parsons said Miller tried to “relitigate the underlying trial” which was “pointless at that juncture.”
In courtroom video captured by WVVA, Miller brought up several of the arguments addressed by his former defense attorney, Michael Froble, during closing arguments on Thursday.
These arguments included that Goard misidentified the gun that shot him and that one of the shooting witnesses has since disappeared despite attempts made by the police to locate him.
Miller also accused his attorney of feeding information to the prosecution.
Parsons said he believed Miller’s antics were a way to “show off” for the news cameras in the courtroom.
“I think that the coverage in the courtroom encouraged him to want to show off,” Parsons said. “He was looking dead at (the WVVA reporter) while he was making his comments. He spent as much time facing (the reporter) as he did facing the jury … He very much seemed to be enjoying the limelight.”
Parsons said this show did nothing to sway the jury, which deliberated for about 10 minutes.
“(The jury) came back and returned that they did find he was the same person that was charged in those two prior convictions — one from Kanawha County, one from Raleigh County,” he said. “And based on that, the law says that the judge must impose the sentence of life in prison with the possibility of parole, and that’s what the judge did.”
He added that these actions will likely hurt Miller if he tries to appeal his case because he can’t claim poor representation when he fires his attorney.
Parson said this is the first he’s had a defendant elected to represent himself.
“Every time I try a case here, you can always ask me, ‘Has this ever happened to you?’ And I’ll always say, ‘Nope.’ Every time I try something here, something I’ve never seen before happens,” he said. “I had never done a lifetime habitual offender proceeding either. Yeah, that was a first for me, too.”
Despite a few unexpected twists during the trial, Parson said he was pleased to see all the hard work his team put into paying off.
“A lot of work went into it, with the investigators and my office staff,” he said. “A lot of energy was consumed and so you want to make sure that it’s for the right situation. And I feel even more correct in that estimation, kind of having seen how the facts of that case played out and how the defendant behaved through. “
Parson said it was important for him to not just get the convictions but also pursue the life sentence for habitual offenses because of the nature of Miller’s crimes.
“You’re dealing with a really dangerous act, and you’re dealing with a person that has a history of violence, and you very much feel like if you can stop this guy here, you’re going to save a life or you ‘re going to save someone from being hurt in the future,” Parsons said. “So it kind of creates a pressure on you to perform well because you’re literally protecting an unknown potential victim.”
Miller will be eligible for parole after 15 years.