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PAGELAND – Prosecutors had planned to seek the death penalty against Gary Miles in the death of 43-year-old Dennis Clayton.
But prosecutors abandoned those plans after a judge ruled a confession it planned to enter as evidence was inadmissible.
The reason: a former Chesterfield County Sheriff's Office investigator who interviewed Miles in 2006 did not read him his Miranda rights.
"It changed everything," 4th Circuit Solicitor Jay Hodge said. "On one hand, you had a confession that he did it, and on the other hand, you have nothing."
Miranda rights must be read when a suspect is brought into police custody and questioned about a crime. They begin with "you have the right to remain silent."
If the rights are not read, evidence may be found inadmissible in court.
In this case, it meant the confession couldn't be entered as evidence and evidence collected stemming from the confession was also inadmissible.
It also meant the solicitor's office no longer had the evidence to prosecute the case as a death penalty case.
Hodge said he wishes things could have been different.
"This guy scares me," Hodge said. "I wanted to give him more than 30 years. I'm not going to be around in 30 years, but a whole lot of people will."
He hopes law enforcement officers will learn a valuable lesson from the case.
"Maybe this will remind every police officer out there that there's this group in Washington called the Supreme Court and they say you have to read a suspect their rights. Or else, guilty people start walking."
Read more about this: Man gets 30 years in killing