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Evan Miller, foreground, and Colby Smith after they pleaded not guilty to capital murder and robbery charges Thursday in Moulton.
DAILY Photo by Clyde Stancil
Evan Miller, foreground, and Colby Smith after they pleaded not guilty to capital murder and robbery charges Thursday in Moulton.

Troubled teens or adult killers?
Lawrence slaying suspects plan mental-defect defense

By Clyde L. Stancil
DAILY Staff Writer

cstancil@decaturdaily.com 340-2443

MOULTON — The attorney for one of two teens who pleaded not guilty to capital murder and robbery charges Thursday said he will ask the court to consider a maximum penalty less than life without parole.

"To me, it's a slow death instead of a fast one," Moulton attorney Tommy Turner said.

Turner represents Colby A. Smith, 18, whom authorities accuse of killing Cole C. Cannon, 52, in his mobile home July 15, 2003. The killing occurred at Country Living Mobile Home Park. The mobile home park is on Lawrence County 87, between Speake and the Morgan County line in the Five Points Community.

Smith and Evan James Miller, 17, allegedly beat Cannon with a baseball bat, stole $350 and a baseball card collection, and set fire to his mobile home. An autopsy showed that Cannon died of smoke inhalation and that the beating was a contributing factor in his death.

Both teens pleaded not guilty by reason of mental defect at their arraignments in Lawrence County Circuit Court on Thursday. They walked out of the courtroom in shackles.

Miller was 14 at the time of the death, and Smith was 16. Turner said a Decatur psychiatrist was treating Smith when he allegedly committed the crime, but he has not yet been able to obtain the psychiatric records.

Regarding his planned motion to ask for a lesser penalty, Turner said the U.S. Supreme Court in its ruling that bars the death penalty for people who are 18 and younger didn't consider if it was appropriate to sentence them to life without parole.

"My position is if they are too young to be executed, then they shouldn't be able to get life without parole," he said.

Moulton attorney Chris Malcom represents Miller. He said he will ask the court for money to hire a psychiatrist to evaluate the teen, a request that juvenile court officials denied when the case was in juvenile court. Malcom tried unsuccessfully to have the case remain there, but the Alabama Supreme Court ruled against Miller.

Malcom said he entered the mental defect plea "in part because of his age and emotional immaturity" at the time of the crime.

During interviews with investigators, Miller told authorities that he was too drunk to remember if he started the fire. Smith told investigators that Miller hit Cannon with the bat and took money from his wallet. Smith also claims that Miller cleaned up Cannon's blood, hid Cannon's wallet and set fire to the couch and two other areas of the mobile home.

According to Smith's account to police, the two returned to Cannon's mobile home and Miller tried to stop the fire by causing the kitchen sink to overflow. Thick smoke prevented them from entering the home a third time.

Both teens have been jailed since their arrests.

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