By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily
A man convicted of strangling his girlfriend and stabbing her with a pen was properly denied the opportunity to plead guilty to some of the charges against him, Wyoming’s Supreme Court ruled Thursday.
Justices upheld the conviction and life sentence of Antoine Domone Miller in connection with a January 2020 altercation, saying his rights were not violated when the Natrona County District Court judge hearing his case refused to accept his guilty plea to two of the three charges against him.
According to the opinion, Miller was charged with one count of felony strangulation of a household member and two misdemeanor counts of domestic battery for slapping his girlfriend and stabbing in the leg with a pen.
Miller asked to plead guilty to the two domestic battery charges, but the judge in the case ruled such a plea would complicate the trial on the remaining strangulation charge and denied the request.
Prosecutors dismissed the domestic battery charge linked to Miller’s slapping of the woman, but left the charge connected with the stabbing intact, along with the strangulation charge.
A jury convicted Miller of both charges and he was sentenced to life in prison because he was also found to be a habitual criminal.
Miller argued his due process rights gave him the ability to plead guilty to the misdemeanor charges. He said even though there was no plea agreement proposed with prosecutors that might have resulted in a lower sentence, the court’s refusal to accept his plea ruined any chances for a plea agreement.
“It strains the imagination to understand how the district court could have rejected a plea agreement that did not exist,” said the ruling, written by Justice Keith Kautz. “Mr. Miller offers no authority to support his illogical argument.”
Miller also argued the judge in his district court case abused his discretion by refusing to accept the guilty plea, but the opinion said the judge acted reasonably.
“In refusing to allow Mr. Miller to change his plea to guilty on the domestic battery counts, the district court expressed concern that a guilty plea to less than all the charges would create significant legal and logistical issues for the trial on the strangulation count,” it said.
Miller also failed to show that the trial court’s refusal to accept his guilty plea prejudiced the jury in his case against him, the opinion said.