KISSIMMEE, Fla. – The penalty phase for Everett Miller, who was convicted of murder earlier this year in the 2017 shooting deaths of two Kissimmee police officers, continued Wednesday.
A jury convicted Miller in September in the fatal shootings of Officer Matthew Baxter and Sgt. Sam Howard.
The prosecution rested its case Tuesday in the penalty phase, and the defense began arguing its case Wednesday. Jurors will then recommend whether Miller should face life in prison or the death penalty.
Prosecutors said Miller killed the officers in a premeditated, cold and calculated manner.
The defense, however, maintains there was no time for premeditation because the shootings happened so fast. The defense also says Miller, a Marine veteran, suffers from PTSD and depression.
On Wednesday, the defense called Miller's cousin, Devona Barnes. She said Miller had a happy childhood but his demeanor changed after he left the military. That's when she said Miller started showing signs of PTSD.
"He was depressed and began to have some issues and going in a downward spiral," Barnes said. "His demeanor began to change and he became more depressed and remorseful about what he had done, and it started to take a toll on him."
Barnes described a time in which Miller was taken to a hospital for a mental evaluation because of behavior she said wasn't like Miller.
"I got a phone call that he was running around in his underwear, and I needed to come and get him," Barnes said.
Psychologist Steve Gold testified Wednesday that Miller appeared to be showing signs of PTSD and depression at the time of the shooting. Gold said Miller being laid off from his job, breaking up with his girlfriend and even being homeless right before the murders made things even worse.
"He was feeling remorseful for his involvement in killing people in the military, so there were a lot of tough circumstances weighing on him at the time," Gold said.
The defense will continue calling witnesses beginning at 9 a.m. Thursday.
Officer Baxter's widow, Sadia Baxter, said Tuesday that her husband's death has been a nightmare.
"How can I rest, knowing that I am the sole provider to my girls because their father was taken?" she said. "Never in a million years would I have thought my husband, Matthew, would be shot and murdered. On top of Matthew being taken from me, I also lost my friend and Sgt. Sam Howard."
Sadia Baxter is raising the couple's three young daughters.
Matthew Baxter's sister became emotional while reading her impact statement.
"I wish that he was here. I miss him so dearly and I wish that he was here," Elizabeth Sawyer said. "He was the most amazing brother. I'll never forget the impact he had on my life."
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