Donald Anthony Miller, 44, was executed by lethal injection on 27 February 2007 in Huntsville, Texas for the murder and robbery of two men.
Michael Mozingo and Kenneth Whitt were traveling furniture salesmen who made deliveries in an 18-wheel truck driven by Mozingo. In early 1982, Miller, then 20, Eddie Segura, 20, and Danny Woods, 19 approached Mozingo, 29, and Whitt, 19, about buying a large quantity of furniture. On 2 February 1982, Mozingo and Whitt made a delivery to Segura's house near Lake Houston in north Harris County. Upon arriving at the home, Miller, Woods, and Segura had the men unload the furniture, which was estimated as being worth $40,000. They then robbed the men at gunpoint. Miller was holding a .38-caliber revolver, and Woods was holding a sawed-off shotgun. They ordered the men to the floor and then took ther wallets and Whitt's wristwatch. About $4,500 in cash was taken from them. Miller then instructed the men to take off their boots, and told Woods and Segura to bind their hands with electrical tape. The victims were then forced back into their truck, and their hands and feet were tied with rope. They were then moved into Segura's car and driven to an isolated area.
After stopping the car on a roadside, the robbers let their victims out of the car and unbound their feet, leaving their hands tied. Miller assured them that they would not be harmed, and told them to walk to a fence and cross over it. As the men were walking toward the fence, Miller and Woods opened fire - Woods shooting first with his shotgun, and then Miller with his pistol. Miller emptied his handgun, firing about five rounds, first at Mozingo, then Whitt. The shotgun stock came off while Woods was firing it. The rest of the shotgun was discarded in a canal. A fisherman discovered the bodies the next day.
Segura testified against Miller at his trial, giving the account related above. Ray McCall, who was Segura's girlfriend's brother, testified that he visited Miller's home on the night of the murders. He said that Woods and Segura described the crime to him and that Miller took him to see the bodies. Other witnesses testified that Miller told them he stole some furniture, or that he was trying to sell furniture shortly after the murders. The state also presented evidence that Miller and Segura rented a storage unit to store the furniture, and that Miller's fingerprints were found on one of the stolen tables.
Miller had two previous felony convictions for motor vehicle theft. He pleaded guilty to the first theft in March 1980 and was sentenced to three years' probation. While on probation, he stole another automobile, and his probation was revoked. He was sent to the state penitentiary in October 1980. Information on his release date was not available for this report.
A jury convicted Miller of the capital murder of Michael Mozingo in October 1982 and sentenced him to death. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the conviction and sentence in September 1987.
In February 2004, a U.S. district court found that the state knew that Ray McCall was an unreliable witness, and that the state withheld statements taken from other witnesses who had heard about the crime from one or more of the participants, but who depicted Woods, rather than Miller, as the ringleader. The court ruled that the question of whether Miller or Woods was the ringleader would not have changed the jury finding Miller guilty, but it could have affected their decision to give him the death penalty, so it vacated the death sentence.
In November 2005, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the lower court's decision and reinstated the death sentence. The appeals court found that although the withheld statements did not support the prosecution's view that Miller was the ringleader, they nevertheless reinforced his guilt and participation in the crime. Under Texas law, a participant to a murder can be sentenced to death even if another participant is considered to have greater culpability. The court ruled that the cumulative effect of all evidence in the case made the withholding of some witness statements immaterial to not only the verdict, but also the sentence.
Miller's subsequent appeals were denied.
Danny Ray Woods pleaded guilty to two counts of murder and received concurrent life sentences. He remains in custody as of this writing.
Edward Segura pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated robbery and received concurrent 25-year sentences. His mother, Dorothy Segura, told the Houston Chronicle that he was released around August 2006. According to public records, Segura was paroled in 1991, was subsequently sentenced to 30 days in jail for marijuana possession, and will be discharged from parole in November 2007.
While on death row, Miller declined requests for interviews. In a letter he wrote to the Houston Chronicle in January 2007, Miller admitted being "connected to this case just not to the degree portrayed at trial." He said he would never tell the story of what happened.
Apart from reporters, Miller's execution was not attended by any witnesses. He declined to make a final statement before receiving the lethal injection. He was pronounced dead at 6:16 p.m.
By David Carson. Posted on 28 February 2007.
Sources: Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Texas Attorney General's office, Houston Chronicle, Huntsville Item, court documents.