Appeals court upholds conviction, sentence in murder of Goshen professor James Miller
The Indiana Court of Appeals has upheld the conviction and sentence of Winston Corbett who killed Goshen College professor James Miller and seriously injured his wife in 2011.
Corbett appealed both his convictions on murder and attempted murder as well as his 115 year sentence.
He argued some of the evidence collection was improper, the court erred in allowing evidence about other attempted home invasions in the Miller neighborhood prior to the murders, the jury instructions were improper, the court should not have allowed his Navy punishment as evidence and that his sentence was inappropriate.
Corbett objected to the evidence used to obtain the search warrant for his DNA as improper. The court found when the officers knocked on the door to Corbett’s home to see who lived there, they did not violate the Indiana Constitution because it was minimally invasive.
Corbett also objected to the seizure of his trash in order to obtain a DNA sample, but the court found officers had a reasonable suspicion and did not violate the Indiana Constitution.
The court found the evidence of other attempted home invasions was an abuse of discretion because there was no evidence he was involved. The court found the court did abuse its discretion in allowing evidence of the attempted home invasions because there was no evidence in the record Corbett committed them.
The appeals court also ruled even if the jury instruction and admission of evidence about the other attempted home invasions, there was a substantial amount of other evidence indicating Corbett’s guilt, so the error was deemed harmless and would not affect the outcome of the trial.
For Corbett’s objection regarding evidence he was disciplined in the Navy, the state concedes the trial court errored in allowing the evidence. However, the evidence was deemed harmless and unlikely to affect the outcome of the case.
The final argument, that Corbett’s 115 year sentence was inappropriate, the appeals court disagreed.
Corbett argued he was just 16 when the crime occurred and therefore, inappropriate.
The appeals court disagreed due to the brutality of the crime including 50 stab wounds to James and the attack on Linda that left her in critical condition. And the crime happened in the victims’ home with no apparent motive.
The court found Corbett being sentenced to the maximum for both crimes was not inappropriate.
James and Linda Miller were attacked in their home just after midnight on October 9, 2011.
Linda was in the bathroom when Corbett came into the room and began stabbing her while she was screaming for help.
When James came to the aid of his wife, Corbett attacked James. The attack began in the bathroom, occurred throughout the home and ended in the driveway.
James suffered at least 50 stab wounds, a broken nose and two broken cheekbones.
James died in the driveway.
Linda suffered severe injuries, including stab wounds to the head, hands, face, scalp, shoulder and back but survived the attack.
Evidence taken from the home included bloodstain evidence from the bathroom, bedroom, hallway, foyer, garage and driveway, screen door handle, baseboard of the foyer and blood near James’ body.
DNA testing revealed blood from the foyer had a DNA profile that did not match James or Linda and was marked as unknown male 2.
Blood from the screen door had a mix of DNA profiles, including unknown male 2.
The blood near James’ body contained DNA that could not exclude unknown male 2.
The DNA was run through the police database, but there were no matches and the case went cold.
In 2018, one of the detectives contacted a private company for genetic DNA testing of the samples from the scene after Linda Miller asked him about using ancestry DNA. The company returned with Corbett’s name as a lead.
Police seized trash from Corbett’s house and ran the DNA for comparison. The lab determined the DNA on the trash items were consistent with unknown male 2.
A search warrant for Corbett’s DNA was requested and granted. It confirmed Corbett’s DNA was consistent with the unknown male 2 DNA found at the Miller home.
Corbett was arrested and charged in the attack on Linda and murder of James.
Corbett was tried in November 2020 and found guilty. He was sentenced to 65 years on the murder charge and 50 years for attempted murder with the sentences to be served consecutively.