A Harrison County jury, on Tuesday, sentenced a Marshall man, 36-year-old Earnest Lee Miles Jr., to 70 years for the Feb. 19, 2020 murder of his sister’s fiancé.
The defendant pleaded guilty to the crime, claiming that he was out of his mind and under the influence of “wet” — marijuana laced with PCP — when he heard the spirit of his deceased mother order him to kill the victim, 31-year-old Anniel “Buda” Dixon, of Marshall.
Miles told detectives in his videotaped interview that was played before jurors that his mother, who died from heart complications a month prior, had came to him in spirit and told him that Dixon was responsible for her death.
“She came and told me to kill him, and that’s what I did,” Miles told the detective in his interview. “I ain’t never witnessed this. Like she just came to me and she was like: ‘Kill Buda.’”
The punishment phase of the murder trial kicked off Tuesday in the 71st Judicial Courtroom, with Judge Brad Morin presiding.
Testimony in court revealed that Miles shot Dixon “execution style” as the victim slept in bed, right next to Miles’ sister, Shanerica Slade. Defense attorney, Tim Cariker, argued that it was a case of insanity, and that the actions, under those circumstances, fit a punishment that warrants 20 years.
Prosecutors argued that the defendant knew exactly what he was doing, and asked jurors to assess a life sentence.
“You have to decide what his life is worth,” Taylor Lauer, co-counsel for the state, told jurors in closing arguments.
She reminded that the victim, Dixon, was a father of three children, a brother, a son, a fiancé, and caregiver of his fiancé’s family.
Lauer said Miles chose to walk past two children that were sleeping in the living room, and chose to proceed to the bedroom to kill Dixon.
“A mother was forced to do the unthinkable; she had to bury her own child,” said Lauer.
“What is Anniel (Dixon), a 31-year-old man, who was asleep in his own bed, life’s worth?” Lauer asked.
Cariker, for the defense, contended that “people do stupid things.”
“PCP is a strong hallucinogen. It causes you to hear things, see things to the point my client saw his dead mama,” said Cariker. “The state wants to get up here and talk retribution – what’s life worth.”
Cariker said during voir dire he asked if any of the jurors believed in retribution — “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” — and the answer was no.
“I’m holding you to what you told me,” Cariker told jurors.
Cariker noted that his client is a father of two children, ages 17 and 8. Reflecting on the death of the defendant’s mother, Cariker said his mother collapsed at home and later died.
He said the day of the shooting, Miles had decided to go and visit his mother’s grave.
“He was going to sit there and drink gin, her favorite drink and talk to Mama,” said Cariker.
Cariker said “God dealt his hand”, however, and it ended up raining.
“He ended up smoking PCP, loses his mind and ends up killing Mr. Dixon,” said Cariker. “Those are the cold-hard facts.”
Arguing that Miles “lost his mind and made a mistake,” Cariker said two wrongs don’t make a right.
“Somewhere we’ve got to make sanity out of this insanity,” he told jurors.
“Anniel Dixon is dead based on the acts of Earnest Miles, who was not in his right mind,” said Cariker.
Assistant District Attorney Madison Hood, co-counsel for the state said jurors would have to assess “what is justice when you shoot someone in their sleep in their head, execution style.”
She said the defendant made the decision to smoke “wet”.
“He then made the decision to go get a gun, then made a decision to shoot Anniel Dixon in his head while he was asleep, not while he was awake to defend himself,” said Hood.
Hood continued her arguments, pointing out how vividly Miles recalled the shooting to the detective during his videotaped interview.
“He recalled many details,” she said. “He remembered Shanerica’s face after he had shot Mr. Dixon. He remembered where the gun was.
“He said he was not feeling the (effects) of PCP. He said he was not high and he was in his right mind,” Hood said.
She further noted that the defendant showed no remorse, responding “nope” when the detective asked him if he felt bad about killing Dixon and if he was sorry for his actions.
“And, possibly he was sleeping in his interview because he just didn’t care,” Hood said, pointing out how Miles fell asleep at the interview, and an officer had a hard time waking him up.
“No remorse,” Hood said of the defendant.
“Mr. Cariker’s closing was all about trying to diminish Mr. Miles’ behavior, trying to make Anniel’s death not that big of a deal…that we all do stupid stuff. Well taking a life is serious stuff,” said Hood.
She said an “eye-for-an-eye” is not what justice is about.
“That’s not why we’re here,” said Hood. “Murder is serious. It’s a life altering choice that Earnest Miles made that affects so many people around him.”
“Punishment needs to fit the crime,” she said. “We’re dealing with murder. He took a son, a brother, a cousin, a father. That’s a big deal.”
“It’s more than senseless acts,” Hood continued. “God did not deal him anything. He dealt himself. He decided to do PCP. God didn’t deal him a bad hand. He made that decision.”
She said it’s not a matter of intoxication and insanity.
“He knew his actions were wrong,” said Hood. “He said in his interview he was in his right mind.
“Sounds like he was in his right mind to me,” she said.
Hood noted that the defendant told the detective he had no issues with Dixon, his sister’s fiancé. She said Dixon even helped with his fiancé’s parents. She said the fact that the toxicology report showed drugs also in the victim’s system is not relevant.
“We’re all responsible for our actions and we all have to be held accountable,” she said.
Hood asked jurors to send the community a message that murder would not be tolerated.
“You’re going to send a message to the community and it needs to be a strong one,” she said.
She said there’s only one way to ensure safety and ensure that the same action doesn’t happen again with the defendant blaming his mother’s spirit.
“What if Mama’s spirit tells him to do it again? What if he goes to a post office? What if he goes to a school or a church?” Hood asked. “This is the only answer. I’m going to ask you to give him a punishment of life.”
Victim’s impact statement
Following the announcement of the verdict, Hood read the victim impact statement of Dixon’s’ mother, Beverly Smith. In the statement, Smith shared how her whole family’s life has changed since the homicide of her son.
“To get a call that your son has been (killed), that’s a nightmare that no mother should have to (experience),” she wrote.
Smith said she’s heartbroken by the loss of her son.
“I wonder how was my son’s last breath, did he close his eyes and how would this person stand over him and take his life like that?” she said.
Smith said she wonders how the defendant could think that her son had killed his mother when the defendant’s family is the one that pulled the plug to end her life.
“This feels like a dream that I’m not able to wake up from,” she wrote. “No amount of time is enough for the damage he has caused.”
She said the crime doesn’t warrant a “slap on the wrist” for what Miles did to her son.
“I lost my son and I miss him so much,” said Smith.
During Tuesday’s trial, the jury heard testimony from the defendant’s sister and victim’s fiancé’, Shanerica Slade. Slade testified that her brother had increased his drug use after the passing of their mother.
“I can tell he wasn’t himself,” she said. “He changed.”
Answering questions from prosecutors, Slade confirmed that she didn’t want to say anything bad about her brother.
“He wants to stop,” she said of his drug use. “We talked about that.”
Answering questions from Cariker, representing Miles, Slade said her brother had apologized to her last year for his actions.
The state also called Marshall PD Detective Robert Farnham to the stand. The detective recalled responding to a 9-1-1 call about the shooting around 11 p.m. that night. Farnham was advised that the incident was a homicide, involving a victim that was shot one time in the head while sleeping in bed, in the 1300 block of Evans Street.
Farnham said he learned that children were in the home sleeping at the time of the shooting, but didn’t witness anything. Farnham said during his examination of the crime scene, he noticed the murder weapon, a 38-revolver, in a chair. The detective said they found the victim in a back bedroom deceased. He was found on the left side of the bed.
“It appeared to be a single gunshot wound at close range,” Farnham said, explaining that they made that determination by looking at the burning of the gun powder, which made a tattoo on the right side skin of the victim’s temple.
“These types of injuries are indicative of a close contact womb where the firearm was shot,” the detective said.
Farnham noted the victim also had vomit coming out of his mouth.
“If a victim doesn’t die immediately, they’ll start vomiting nor asphyxiate on that vomit,” Farnham explained.
Prosecutors showed the jury photos of the injuries taken at the crime scene. Photos included the gunshot wound to the head, the vomit, blood splatter and brain matter on a pillow.
In addition to hearing the detective’s testimony, the state played portions of the two-hour long videotaped interview between Farnham and the defendant. In the interview in which Miles initially said an unidentified spirit told him to “kill Buda” and accused Buda of killing his mother, who had died about a month prior, from heart complications.
“It just came to me…just the spirit,” he said. “Something just told me that he killed my Mama. It just kept telling me to kill ‘Buda,’” he said.
Miles then told the detective that it was actually the spirit of his deceased mother telling him those things. The defendant said his sister was in the house, sleeping next to the victim, when he killed him. He said his sister jumped up when he shot him.
“I said he killed Mama,” he said he told his sister. “Her spirit just told me to kill Buda.”
“It was like my Mama was in perfect condition. She wanted me to know what happened to her.”
Answering questions from the state, Detective Farnham said Miles said he was smoking wet. Farnham explained that wet is marijuana, a depressant, that’s laced with PCP, a stimulant that gives a euphoria type of high.
Forensic pathologist, Dr. David Zimmerman, also testified Tuesday, noting that the entrance wound was on the right side of the victim’s head. He said the entire wound is one-fourth of an inch in diameter. Dr. Zimmerman said he determined that it was a close-range gunshot because of the one-inch ring of soot.
The pathologist further detailed how the bullet went through both sides of the victim’s brain.
“There were bruises of the left eye, blood around the left brain …and other fractures around the head,” Dr. Zimmerman said.
Miles will have to serve half of his sentence before he’s eligible for parole. He will be credited for time he’s already served.