Jessica Kennedy sentenced in slaying of Jim Miller

Jessica Kennedy sentenced in slaying of Jim Miller

October 4th, 2012 by Shelly Bradbury in Local Regional News

Jessica Kennedy talks with defense attorney John Eldridge during Kennedy's trial for the murder of Jim Miller in this file photo. Kennedy was sentenced to 22 years in prison.

Photo by The Knoxville News Sentinel /Times Free Press.

The woman convicted of facilitating the 2010 slaying of a Monroe County, Tenn., election commissioner was sentenced to 22 years in prison Wednesday.

A jury on Aug. 20 found Jessica Kennedy, 28, guilty of facilitating felony murder, facilitating aggravated robbery, facilitating abuse of a corpse and facilitating setting fire to personal property for her role in Jim Miller's death.

Special Judge Walter Kurtz sentenced Kennedy to 22 years for facilitation of felony murder. He added two to five years on each of the other charges, to be served concurrently.

Miller, then-chairman of the Monroe County Election Commission, was found in the trunk of his burned car with three gunshot wounds in his head in July 2010.

Kennedy initially was charged with felony murder, aggravated robbery, abuse of a corpse and arson, but a jury convicted her on the lesser charges.

Prosecutors admitted Kennedy could not have pulled off the crime by herself, and said she worked with at least one other person. She is the only person charged in the case to date.

During the sentencing, Kurtz said he did not think Kennedy was the leader of the group, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel.

Kennedy gave investigators numerous conflicting statements about the killing - sometimes claiming she witnessed the crime, sometimes naming other people as the shooter and once claiming that she pulled the trigger. She later recanted.

Throughout the trial, Assistant District Attorney Jim Stutts argued that Kennedy was a key participant in the crime. He said the details she told police - such as seeing Miller's gold rings flash in the sunlight - proved she was involved.

"We didn't ask people about that," he said during the trial. "She had to be there to know that."

Defense attorney John Eldridge said Kennedy is mentally ill and that extensive sexual and physical abuse in her childhood caused her to give a false confession.

He has said he intends to file an appeal.