Alabama Murder: Just Because A Lawyer And An Athletic Director Release Statements Doesn’t Mean They’re True

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For someone who said he is not a crime investigator in an interview with ESPN Wednesday, Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne sure has been investigating freshman star basketball player Brandon Miller’s role – or lack thereof – in the murder on the Alabama strip on Jan. 15.

Miller has not been charged as an accessory in the crime or with anything. Even though he did bring the murder weapon to the murder scene on that date, according to bombshell police testimony on Tuesday in a preliminary hearing in Tuscaloosa. His lack of clear intent is what has kept him from being charged. Miller has also not been suspended.


Miller’s then-teammate, Darius Miles, and Miles’ friend Michael Lynn Davis, were charged with capital murder on Jan. 15 and have remained in jail since without bail. It is likely they will be formally charged for murder in front of a grand jury soon. Miller, meanwhile, played for the No. 2 Crimson Tide Wednesday night and scored a career-high 41 points in an overtime win at South Carolina.

Police believe after Miles got his handgun from Miller’s car, he gave it to Davis, who shot and killed Jamea Jonae Harris, a 23-year-old mother of a 5-year-old son.

Jamea Jonae Harris with her 5-year-old son Kaine. Harris was shot and killed on the Alabama strip on Jan. 15. Alabama basketball player Darius Miles and friend Michael Lynn Davis were charged with the murder. (Photo Coutesy of

The problem here is Byrne is a novice investigator. He is much better in his job as one of the best athletic directors in the country. Byrne is very professional and has approached this murder investigation involving Alabama’s basketball team with balance, for the most part. Until Wednesday, that is, when he did not appear to be coming from a very objective place.

Most people are not very objective, are not trained to be, and usually don’t really try to be. Detectives, police and crime investigators are not always objective either, but they are at least trained to be so and do try.


Byrne has been in contact with Miller’s attorney, Jim Standridge of Tuscaloosa. Standridge released a statement about Miller on Wednesday afternoon “in response to misstatements in reporting Tuesday regarding Brandon.”

Well, that’s your opinion, Mr. Standridge.

Now here’s mine, and I’m more objective than most. I was trained to be so. You released your statements in response to accurate reporting that angered you and to harsh criticism of Alabama from around the country for never suspending your client, Brandon Miller, for his alleged role in the murder.

Standridge does not sound very objective at all in his statement. Attorneys can be unobjective often when they are not in court and are communicating with reporters about a case. Naturally, they usually plead their case to reporters in interviews or in released statements. They can basically say whatever they want to reporters. It’s not like they’re in court. And Byrne’s view and objectivity of what happened with Miller has been skewed by Standridge’s statements and opinions.

But just because these two people with significant titles and jobs release official statements does not mean those statements are completely true. Call it institutional spin, if you will. People in high places tend to have automatic credibility. This also gives them license to sneak out a lie or an opinion here and there.

Brandon Miller’s Lawyer Defending Him Through The Press

Byrne released a statement Wednesday afternoon that Miller would not be suspended and referred to Standridge’s unobjective and possibly inaccurate statements in it.

“Today’s statement from Brandon’s lawyer adds additional context that the University has considered as part of its review of the facts,” the statement said. “Based on all of the facts we have gathered, Brandon remains an active member of our team.”

Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne was interviewed by ESPN on Wednesday about basketball star Brandon Miller and his connection to the murder near the Alabama campus on Jan. 15. (Photo by Jamie Gilliam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

What Byrne is really saying is, “Today’s statement from Brandon’s lawyer adds much needed fuel for our argument for Brandon. We agree with Brandon’s lawyer on what he would like the facts to be.” And Byrne’s saying, “Based on all of the facts we have gathered, but especially this last one from the lawyer representing our best player, Brandon remains an active member of our team.”

Miller, a projected top four pick in the June 22 NBA Draft, will play again for SEC leading Alabama (24-4, 14-1 SEC) on Saturday against Arkansas (19-9, 8-7 SEC) in Tuscaloosa at 2 p.m. on ESPN2. He leads the SEC in scoring with 19.5 points a game.

Byrne and Standridge, who has two degrees from Alabama, both want Miller – one of the best basketball players Alabama has had in decades – to not be connected to Harris’ horrible murder. No one does. Or no one should.

As far as the gun, Byrne and Standridge are questioning whether Miller knew the gun was in his car, which is a reach.

Alabama guard Brandon Miller (24) scored a career-high 41 points in the Tide’s overtime win at South Carolina on Wednesday night. (Photo by David Jensen/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

“Brandon never saw the handgun, nor handled it,” Standridge said. “It is our understanding that the weapon was concealed under some clothing in the back seat of his car.”

Did Brandon Miller Know The Gun Was In His Car? Yes

Um, Mr. Standridge, if he didn’t see it, how could he handle it?

Standridge also hurt one of his statements with another statement. Two paragraphs below Standridge’s quote about Miller never seeing the handgun, Standridge says, “Mr. Miles texted Brandon and asked him to bring him his firearm.”

So, Mr. Standridge, even if Miller “never saw the handgun,” as you say, you’re also saying that Miles told him “to bring him his firearm.” Therefore, even if Miller never saw or handled the gun, he knew it was there – in your own words. Because Miles told him it was.

Man, I should’ve been a lawyer.

The police and the detectives say Miller knew the gun was in his car. I’m going with the detectives over Byrne and Standridge, OK. That’s just me.

After all, Byrne did say this on Wednesday: “We don’t try and do the job of investigators. We’re not investigators. We let the experts do their jobs.”

OK, let’s do that.

Quick Review Of The Case

Harris, who lived in Birmingham, and her boyfriend Cedric Johnson were on the strip just off the Alabama campus in Tuscaloosa on Saturday night Jan. 14 and stayed past midnight. Davis, 20, and Miles, 21, were also out on the strip.

Davis showed interest in Harris, according to Tuscaloosa police, and danced in front of the Jeep she and her boyfriend were in. But Harris said she was not interested. Apparently, this upset Davis. Police said he then told Harris, “You don’t know who I am and what I do.” Davis later told police he was drunk on Tito’s tequila.

Jamea Jonae Harris (Photo courtesy of

Tuscaloosa Police detective Branden Culpepper testified Tuesday in a preliminary hearing in Tuscaloosa that Miles soon texted Miller and asked him to bring Miles’ gun to the strip. Miles had been in Miller’s car earlier that night, but left his gun in Miller’s car. But did Miller know the gun was in his car?

“Miles contacted Miller and asked him to bring his gun to where they were,” Culpepper testified. Investigators have likely seen Miller’s cellular phone. They would know more than Byrne.

“I need my joint,” Culpepper said Miles texted to Miller – joint being slang for gun, police said. Sounds pretty convincing right there that Miller knew there was a gun in his car.

But Byrne says that Miller didn’t jump in his car and head to the scene after that text.

“We found out some new facts today,” Byrne proclaimed. “Brandon was already on his way to pick up Darius when Darius texted him, and he was already almost there.”

Byrne said he does not know if Miller read the text. And one would think he could find that out if he doesn’t really know. Regardless of how close Miller was to the scene when he got the text, he still could have turned around when he learned Miles wanted his gun at the strip at a quarter to two in the morning. So this “new fact” is certainly not a bombshell, Mr. Byrne.

Was Jamea Jonae Harris Blocked In By 2 Bama Players’ Cars?

What may be more damning for Miller than his knowledge of the gun or lack thereof is where he parked. When Miller arrived with the gun at about 1:45 a.m. central time, he parked near Miles’ car and the vehicle Harris and her boyfriend were in, police said. This was at the 400 block of Grace Street just off University Boulevard – the strip.

“Two vehicles were blocking the road where Harris and her boyfriend’s vehicle were parked,” Culpepper testified. One of the vehicles was Miller’s Dodge Charger. The other vehicle was Alabama basketball player Jaden Bradley’s Dodge Challenger. Harris and her boyfriend were basically pinned in, police said.


“My child was ambushed,” Harris’ mother DeCarla Heard said on ESPN Tuesday. “This was premeditated. They thought this whole thing out.”

Standridge surely didn’t like that comment and said something completely different than what Culpepper said in court.

“Brandon did not block the Jeep driven by Mr. Johnson,” Standridge said. “In fact, Brandon had already parked on Grace Street when the Jeep pulled up behind him. The street was never blocked by Brandon’s vehicle. All of the events described above are clearly captured on video.”

Well, police and detectives involved have video, too. And again, I’m going with Culpepper here over Standridge.

Miles and Davis walked to Miller’s Charger and retrieved the gun from the back seat, Culpepper testified. Miles immediately took the gun and gave it to Davis.

Davis, according to Culpepper’s testimony, said to Harris, “I told you I was going to get you” and started firing Miles’ gun. Davis shot at least eight times, Culpepper testified, hitting Harris in the face and other areas.

Miller’s Charger was hit hit by two bullets at this point, Culpepper said and added that Harris’ boyfriend returned fire, striking Davis in the shoulder. Miller drove away.

Harris’ boyfriend then drove a short distance away with Harris and saw a police officer nearby at the Walk of Champions in front of Bryant-Denny Stadium. Harris was pronounced dead shortly after this time.

Maybe Brandon Miller Was Only In Wrong Place, Wrong Time

In the end, Miller could have just been in the wrong place at the wrong time. Maybe he shouldn’t have been suspended. Maybe he didn’t know Miles’ gun was in his car until Miles grabbed it and gave it to Davis. He could have not known what was about to go down, even though it went down as soon as he got there.

But there is still likely much more to come out before and during an upcoming trial. Who knows what other texts are on the phones of Miles and Miller? Byrne was asked what could suspend Miller in the future?

“If we gather new information down the road, then we’ll deal with it at that time,” he said. “None of us have a crystal ball.”

Byrne’s shortest answer in the interview interestingly came after one of the best questions. “Have you engaged with police to fact check the narrative that Brandon’s legal team brought forward?”

You know, in case, Standridge is just making stuff up.

“Our legal team has had conversations, yes,” Byrne said and stopped.

Certainly not a ringing endorsement of Standridge’s statements.

Standridge’s release certainly worked in the short term. His comments were picked up nationwide by news outlets via the Associated Press, and Miller looked much better than he did after the preliminary hearing on Tuesday. We shall see if Standridge does as well in the trial.

Miller’s witness testimony could certainly be key. And that may be a reason he was not charged. He saw a lot.

“You can’t charge everyone, or you end up with no witnesses,” veteran Birmingham defense attorney Tommy Spina told this week. “With no witnesses, prosecutors struggle to prove a case beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Miller likely knows a lot more than Byrne and Standridge are revealing at the moment.

Written by Glenn Guilbeau

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