Family's history aired in death penalty hearing


CUMBERLAND -- A jury is to begin today to decide whether John A. Miller IV, convicted of killing a Carroll County girl whom he lured to his apartment with the false prospect of a baby-sitting job, should be sentenced to death.

Closing arguments are scheduled for this morning, with jury deliberations to follow -- after Lawyers for Miller rested their case in his sentencing hearing yesterday. In a bid to persuade the jury to spare their client's life, they presented testimony that Miller's ability to cope with adult life was stunted by a "chaotic" upbringing.

Miller, 27, grew up in Rochester, N.Y., in a home where his father frequently beat his mother and both used drugs daily, social worker Caroline L. Burry testified.

"It taught him you could engage in illegal activity. It helped him not be equipped to function in the adult world," Burry said.

Miller, 27, was convicted of first-degree murder, a first-degree sexual offense, robbery and false imprisonment in the July 1998 killing of 17-year-old Shen D. Poehlman. He elected to allow a jury to decide whether he should be sentenced to death, life in prison with or without parole.

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