“In our country, you can’t kill another person because you don’t like them or their behavior,” said St. Clair County Assistant District Attorney Gwendolyn Connelly. “The jury spoke for the victim.”
Stephen Jonathan Miller, 28, of Ashville, was convicted for the April 25, 2008 death of Adalberto Aguilar, 43.
Miller shot Aguilar five times with an automatic handgun after he claimed Aguilar threatened his life and lunged at him.
According to forensic testimony, Aguilar was shot three times in the chest and once in the back of the neck and once in the back. The cause of death was multiple gunshot wounds.
The jury returned with a guilty of manslaughter verdict after approximately one hour and fifteen minutes of deliberation.
Halfway through deliberations, the jury asked Hill the penalty for manslaughter and murder.
Hill said that was not a consideration for the jury.
The jury also asked for a copy of the self-defense law, and Hill re-read to them, satisfying the jury.
“I am surprised by the verdict,” said Birmingham attorney Roger Appell, who represented Miller. “I was expecting an acquittal.”
Appell and Miller, who took the stand in his own defense, both claimed Miller shot Aguilar in self-defense.
“I am in shock right now,” Appell said shortly after the verdict was read. “He (Miller) was sorry this ever happened and wished it never did.”
Appell requested Miller remain out on the same $100,000 bond from his 2008 arrest until his sentencing hearing.
St. Clair County Circuit Court Judge Jim Hill denied the request and Miller was taken into custody.
Appell said he intends to appeal the case after Miller is sentenced. Hill set the sentencing hearing for May 12.
Miller faces between 10 to 20 years in prison.
Martin Cuamatzi, Aguilar’s brother-in-law, of New Jersey, and his wife, Maria Teresa, both said they were thankful for the jury’s good work.
“We don’t have any ill feelings toward his (Miller’s) family,” Cuamatzi said. “We are the ones who lost our brother.”
The couple said they felt Miller deserved jail time.
“He hurt both families,” Maria Teresa Cuamatzi said. “He did the damage.”
Connelly said the St. Clair County District Attorney’s Office is satisfied with the jury’s ruling.
“The jury’s verdict said, ‘You can’t shoot an unarmed man,’” she said. “Most of this defense was about putting the victim on trial.”
In his closing statement, Appell reminded the jury that Aguilar was in the country illegally, driving while intoxicated and had smoked marijuana, was working and getting paid “under the table” taking jobs away from other residents who also need to feed their families, could potentially have killed a child in the neighborhood instead of hitting a mailbox, and cursed and threatened Miller’s life.
“Mr. Aguilar set the events in motion that led to this,” Appell said.
St. Clair County Assistant District Attorney Lamar Williamson said in his closing statement that while Aguilar’s actions were illegal, Aguilar should have been arrested for DUI and possibly deported, but not murdered.
“This is not a who-done-it,” Williamson said.
Williamson said while the indictment charged Miller with murder, it also included the lesser included offense of manslaughter, or recklessly causing the death of another person.
“Reckless is knowing if I do this action something might happen, but I’m going to do it anyway,” Williamson said. “He (Miller) would have been better off doing nothing.”