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Murderer Is Sentenced to Death : Crime: After an emotional outburst by the victim's daughter, judge affirms jury's recommendation. The case had some similarities to the Simpson trial but took only five weeks.

April 08, 1995|PAUL FELDMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

After an emotion-packed, expletive-laced courtroom explosion by the daughter of a murdered woman, 30-year-old Ernest Dwayne Jones was sentenced to death Friday afternoon in Los Angeles Superior Court.

The scene took place just three doors down the hallway from another knifing murder trial--O.J. Simpson's. And even though it was a death penalty case--and proved a more volatile courtroom scene than any in the Simpson trial--not one camera was present.

"I have no mother and father because of that sorry (SOB)!" screamed Pamela Miller, who had lived with Jones for several months before the brutal rape and stabbing murder of her mother, Julia Miller, in 1992. "I don't have a family because of him. That bastard needs to be sentenced to death."

Miller, who was dressed in a flowered hat and had brought her 17-month-old nephew to court, was escorted into the hallway by sheriff's deputies after her six-minute outburst. Jones, after expressing sorrow that he had killed Julia Miller, was sentenced to death by Judge Edward Ferns.

Ferns, however, was temporarily overcome himself after seeing tears in the eyes of Jones' lawyer, Deputy Public Defender Fred Manaster. The judge was able to impose the sentence only after calling two brief recesses in the proceedings.

Imposing a death sentence for the first time, Ferns said his emotions were prompted by those of Manaster, not of Jones. "The facts in this case are very overwhelming, Mr. Manaster. You did the best you could," Ferns said.

Jones, who served six years in state prison for raping his previous girlfriend's mother, remained calm during the proceedings, except to shout back once during Pamela Miller's tirade.

As Miller, her arms flailing, claimed that Jones had spent his prison time reading legal texts to figure out how to use the law to his advantage, Jones responded, "How do you know?"

Miller cursed at Jones and told him to shut up as Ferns pleaded with her to calm down and three deputies moved to restrain her.

Jones was convicted last month of the August, 1992, rape and murder of Julia Miller, a 50-year-old defense industry accountant. Miller's bound and gagged body was discovered by her husband of 30 years, Chester, after he returned home from work. Chester Miller died eight months later at age 53.

Jones, who had been feuding with Pamela Miller in the weeks before the murder, took the stand during the trial and essentially admitted to the killing, saying that as he grappled with the victim, he was overcome by visions of his mother having sex with a man other than his father.

Ferns denied a motion for a new trial Friday, saying testimony concerning Jones' poor and abusive upbringing was not relevant. Jones' death sentence will automatically be appealed.

The case had many similarities to the internationally publicized Simpson case: a brutal knifing, no eyewitnesses, a police pursuit and the introduction of DNA evidence to link the African American defendant to the crime scene. But unlike the Simpson case--yet similar to most murder cases in Los Angeles--the Jones trial drew no media attention. The trial, which took five weeks from opening statements to the death penalty verdict, was conducted with only one prosecutor and one defense attorney and only a single day of DNA testimony

The Jones jury had debated less than seven hours before agreeing that the defendant should be put to death. But unconvinced by the trial testimony of Pamela Miller, who told the jury she used cocaine on the day of the killing, jurors found Jones not guilty of having stolen jewelry from Julia Miller to barter for cocaine.

After Friday's sentencing, Deputy Dist. Atty. Jeff Ramseyer, who prosecuted Jones, praised Ferns' decision to affirm the jury's February verdict.

Pamela Miller said the sentencing was a hollow act because executions are rarely carried out at San Quentin.

Jones' father, Ernest, who remained silent during the wrenching two-hour hearing, departed quietly. "I'm just real sorry about what happened . . . to the Millers," he said. "But death is not the answer."

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