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Appeals court hears Kirby case

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By Susan Sharp

For Robert Scott it appears honesty is the best policy when facing the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals.

On Tuesday afternoon, Scott told the three justice panel he might bear some of the responsibility for his client’s conviction and subsequent sentencing.

Last summer Miranda Kirby was found guilty of first-degree murder and second-degree murder in the death of Jonathan Pierce. The jury also deemed her guilty of aggravated robbery in the same case.

Opening his argument in the vast second story courtroom, Scott was frank in saying “I am going to tell a story on myself.”

When prosecutors rested their case during the trial Scott said he “made a routine motion for acquittal” based on a lack of evidence.

Senior Assistant District Attorney General Mike Ripley reiterated the state’s case at that juncture, Scott told the panel.

Caught up in the moment and stress of trial, Scott said he didn’t pursue his motion.

“I really didn’t respond,” he said. “That has always bugged me.”

“I take some responsibility for what I feel is a flawed judgment,” Scott continued.

On that June 2005 night, Kirby asked Pierce, whom she didn’t know, to drive her near the top of Caryville Mountain. When they arrived, Travis Gaylor and Sammy Miracle, who were at the destination, attacked Pierce, previous court testimony revealed.

After the attack, the trio robbed Pierce of $400.

Scott told Justices Norma Ogle, Joseph Tipton and D. Thomas Kelly, that to him, the case had always been about Pierce being robbed and consequently killed.

“There was clearly no plan of action in this case,” Scott said referring to Kirby’s first-degree murder conviction.

Kirby didn’t testify at her trial, which placed Scott in a position of having to rely at trial on the statements she gave authorities, he said. While her story routinely changed in the numerous statements Scott said one thing was constant, “she was clearly not admitting to any plan.”

Tipton stopped Scott asking him if Kirby had an attorney when the last two statements were given.

Scott said no.

“We have sixth amendment issues that could come into play,” the justice said indicating for Scott to continue.

Sitting in the audience, listening as Scott worked to lessen Kirby’s punishment was Pierce’s mother and father. Looking at the panel for most of the hearing, his father didn’t move; on occasion, his mother dropped her head.

Scott again said he had a confession to make.

As the jury returned, Scott said he felt confident it would return a not guilty on the first-degree murder charge.

When it didn’t he said he was stunned.

“I just kinda blanked out,” he said.

Scott said after 30 minutes someone else explained the rest of the verdict to him. This left him feeling he should have done something when the jury was still present, he said.

When state prosecutor Renee Turner approached the panel, her argument was concise.

Kirby “lured him (Pierce) there, watched her friends beat him to death and then took pictures with a cell phone,” Turner opened with.

Laying out the case she told the justices Kirby and the two men then disposed of Pierce’s body, smoked some marijuana and then went to a hotel.

It was there that Kirby made the decision to wash her bloodied clothes instead of getting rid of them, according to Turner.

While Kirby may not have struck the final blow, she was there every step of the way, Turner asserted.

Turner’s presentation took less than two minutes.

Taking the podium for rebuttal, Scott revisited the issue of premeditation.

He said the hasty in manner in which the group disposed of Pierce’s body illustrated that no planning had gone into the murder.

“It doesn’t show premeditation,” Scott said.

“It doesn’t show a lot smarts,” Tipton said.

Kirby is currently serving life in jail for Pierce’s death.

If the appeals court overturns the first-degree murder conviction, she will be still left serving time for the other two counts.

Kirby was given 21 years on the second-degree murder conviction and 18 years for the aggravated robbery.

They are being served concurrently.

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