Murderer dodges death; prosecutors, family distraught

Family members of a local man murdered in 1997 have written to the governor asking that the killer remain in prison for life, with no chance of parole.

They want to see the man convicted of murdering their son and brother, Edward Atkinson, spend the rest of his life behind bars.

That killer, Jody Lee Miles, was originally sentenced to be executed, but Maryland abolished the death penalty last year, thereby changing his fate.

On Nov. 5, Maryland Attorney General Dan Gansler informed Wicomico County State’s Attorney Matthew Maciarello that Miles would not die by lethal injection.

Maciarello strongly objected, saying the family deserves better treatment from the state.

“Every time these cases are heard through the court system that rips the Band-Aid off the family’s wounds,” he told the Salisbury Independent this week.

“Miles brutally murdered somebody and was given the death penalty because of the egregious nature of his actions. He should never again see the light of day,” he said.

“The family definitely feels death is the appropriate sentence, but they do understand the realities,” Maciarello said.

So, they wrote and asked the governor to see that Miles, at the very least, remains in jail for life. The letter was expected to be sent on Wednesday, Nov. 12.

“The governor has the ability and the power under the Correctional Services Article to commute this sentence to life without the possibility of parole,” Maciarello said.

“Quite frankly, the family is  disappointed in the state of Maryland, especially the legislature, which had an explicit promise in legislation that their actions in repealing the death sentence would not affect others on death row,” Maciarello said.

Atkinson’s mother, Dottie Atkinson, said at a recent press conference that her life has been like a roller coaster ride since her son died.

“It’s been appeal after appeal, and we get some hope each time and then all of a sudden – all these appeals have been in our favor – and then all of a sudden we get this news,” she said.

Her son was active in the Community Players and was directing a presentation of The Sound of Music when he was killed.

The case was moved to Queen Anne’s County because of pre-trial publicity. Miles was convicted of felony murder in the first degree, robbery with a deadly weapon, use of a handgun in the commission of a violent crime and relate offenses.

On March 18, 1998, he was sentenced to death.

He appealed, but the death sentence was upheld by the Court of Appeals, the state’s attorney explained.

In 2013, the Maryland General Assembly repealed the death penalty and it went into effect Oct. 1 last year. It did not, however, remove from death row those already sentenced to death, Maciarello said.

After he heard from Gansler, Maciarello contacted Atkinson’s family. “They … vehemently expressed their opposition to the attorney general’s proposed resolution of Miles’ appeal,” he said.

“It is an understatement, at the very least, to state that both the Atkinson family as well as this office, are disappointed in the decision made by the attorney general.  The fact that this move would be put into action one day after the election gives the appearance that the state is playing a political game that places politics above the interests of people who have experienced an incalculable loss,” he said.

But Gansler was quoted as saying when the state stopped the death penalty, prisoners could no longer be executed.

“People should understand. Life without parole is a death sentence. You’re dying in jail. You’re coming out in a box. It might just not be as soon as it otherwise would be if you had the death penalty,” Gansler said.

 

Reach Susan Canfora at scanfora@newszap.com.

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