Judge allows Justice briefing on state’s handling of Boone County 14-year-old’s death to continue

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Julie Anne Stone Miller of Boone County, W.Va., has been charged with child neglect linked to the death of her teen daughter on April 17, 2024. An emergency motion filed Wednesday by Miller’s attorneys says Miller had her constitutional rights violated when a Child Protective Services investigator attempted to “interrogate” her earlier in the week as part of the state’s investigation. (West Virginia Regional Jail Authority)

A press briefing where Gov. Jim Justice and other state leaders have promised to release details of an investigation into the state’s handling of a 14-year-old Boone County girl’s death last month will continue as scheduled, according to a judge’s order issued Wednesday and reported by WCHS.

Boone County Circuit Judge Stacy Nowicki-Eldridge also directed the state to turn over all information it has gathered from the girl’s mother, Julie Miller, to the attorneys representing her in her criminal case as well as the Boone County prosecutor. Miller is facing charges of child neglect related to the death of her daughter. 

Nowicki-Eldridge further said that Justice nor any other state officials shall share any details obtained from Miller during questioning for the investigation at the press briefing, which is scheduled for 2 p.m. Thursday. All further communication between the state and Miller should go through her attorneys.

The order came in response to an emergency motion filed Wednesday by Miller’s attorneys, who say Miller had her constitutional rights violated when a Child Protective Services investigator attempted to “interrogate” her earlier in the week as part of the state’s investigation. Her lawyers were not contacted or present for the questioning.

In the motion, they urged Nowicki-Eldridge to issue an order delaying the governor’s press conference until the contents of the state’s investigation could be reviewed by counsel for Miller’s criminal case. Given the media attention on the case, they wrote in the motion, not doing so could violate Miller’s right to a fair trial. 

The attorney’s also allege that any information obtained by the state in interviews with Miller without her attorney present violated her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. 

According to the motion, Miller — who is being held at South Central Regional Jail — was told Tuesday that her attorney was at the jail to see her. Miller instead was greeted by a CPS investigator, who attempted to “interrogate” her about her daughter, who was found dead on April 17 in an emaciated state. Miller refused to answer questions without her lawyer present.

Her attorneys later called the CPS office, where a supervisor told them that this was not the first time they had questioned Miller for the state’s investigation and that they had “the absolute right” to do so, per the motion.

The attorneys say in the motion that there is no reason for CPS workers to be investigating Miller since there are currently no children in her care who are at risk of being abused or neglected.

“What is clear here is that CPS has endeavored to undertake an investigation beyond their investigative powers pursuant to [state code] and more akin to a criminal investigation,” the motion reads. 

The motion asserts that the Boone County Prosecutor’s office — which is litigating the criminal case against Miller — did not have any knowledge of the CPS worker’s actions and also have not received any information gathered by state workers during their investigation.

“It is readily apparent the departments of the state have additional information which they have neither shared with the defense or even the prosecutors’ office,” the motion reads.

Instead, Miller’s attorneys said that while it’s unclear who exactly ordered CPS to question their client, it’s inarguable that the workers were conducting the interview on behalf of the state as part of its “clandestine” and “secretive” investigation.

“… [T]here appears to be a rush to investigate and a fervor to scapegoat wherever possible; this inherent rush gives no credence to Ms. Miller’s constitutional rights and must be halted to ensure adequate protections are present in the investigation,” the motion reads.

Miller’s attorney’s also levied criticism at Justice in the motion, saying he has “stoked” media attention through his office’s demands for the investigation, in turn harming Miller and threatening her right to a fair trial.

Under Justice, leaders at the Department of Human Services and other state agencies have faced scrutiny from the public and the media relating to allegations that the state failed to follow up on abuse and neglect referrals regarding 14-year-old Kyneddi Miller prior to her April 17 death.

It’s unclear what information will be shared at Thursday’s press conference, which will be held in-person at the state Capitol — a rare occurrence for Justice. Officials have repeatedly denied requests for records from multiple media outlets seeking further information on what previous contact occurred between CPS and Kyneddi Miller’s family leading up to her death.

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