June 30, 2009
Jury: Give Millbrook father's killer life without parole
By Marty Roney
An Elmore County jury has recommended convicted killer Calvin McMillan receive life in prison without parole for killing a young Millbrook father.
The jury had the choice of recommending the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole for McMillan, 20, of Opelika, who was convicted Friday of two counts of capital murder in the shooting death of James Bryan Martin, 23, a father of two.
The jury voted 8-4 in favor of recommending the sentence of life without parole. Circuit Court Judge John Bush can either accept or override the jury’s recommendation. Bush has set sentencing for 9 a.m. Aug. 7.
Defense attorney Kenny James feels the jury made its decision based on evidence of abuse McMillan suffered.
“We’re still looking at life in prison without the possibility of parole, which is a serious sentence,” James said. “Obviously we got to eight of the jurors, who voted for life without over the possibility of a death sentence. I think the jury weighed the evidence of the abuse Calvin McMillan suffered and made the proper decision.”
Prosecutors will begin work to ask Bush to override the jury’s sentencing recommendation in favor of the death penalty, said District Attorney Randall Houston.
“It’s not over. That’s what I told the family,” Houston said. “We’re now going to work to gather facts to present to the judge on August 7th and ask him to implement a death sentence.”
Houston, who has been a prosecutor in the 19th Judicial Circuit for more than 20 years, doesn’t recall a judge overriding a jury’s recommendation for life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Several members of Bryan Martin’s family quietly cried after the decision was announced.
“Obviously they are disappointed,” Houston said. “They were expecting a death penalty sentence, but they realize this is our system, this is how it works.”
Bryan Martin was gunned down the night of Aug. 29, 2007, in the Millbrook Wal-Mart parking lot. Prosecutors proved that McMillan killed Martin during the theft of Martin’s 2004 Ford F-150 pickup.
“Calvin McMillan lay in wait for 40 minutes for a defenseless victim in a public parking lot,” said James Houts, chief assistant district attorney, in his closing arguments this morning. “Bryan Martin was there to buy diapers and baby wipes. Calvin McMillan valued a car more than a human life. He dumped James Bryan Martin in the parking lot without blinking an eye.”
The prosecutor seemed to look ahead to the defense’s closing. In the evidentiary portion on the penalty phase, the defense presented evidence that McMillan was a victim of physical, psychological and sexual abuse throughout his youth and teenage years.
“Calvin McMillan is not deprived. He’s depraved,” Houts told the jury.
McMillan’s attorney told the jury that they must consider McMillan’s background.
“Calvin McMillan sits there guilty of two counts of capital murder because of the way he was raised,” James said, as he turned to point to his client. “Calvin McMillan chose to get a gun and chose to steal a car, but you are the result of your childhood.”
James acknowledged that McMillan is responsible for Martin’s death. “This is about the appropriate sentence given the background Calvin grew up in,” James said. “Calvin is not an animal. He is a human being. You can lock him in a cage like he is an animal for the rest of his life. That’s what needs to be done.”