Wanda English Burnett
A jail officer at the Ripley County Jail found
herself on the other side of the bars after she was charged
with Trafficking With An Inmate, a Class A Misdemeanor. Jury
trial for Crystal G. Miller, 31, of Osgood, was held in Ripley
County Superior Court September 30 and October 1.
It didnt take jurors long to decide that Miller was not
guilty of the crime she was charged with.
In the Affidavit of Probable Cause filed in March of 2010, it
stated that Miller was employed with the Ripley County Jail
as a Jail Officer. Documents stated that Miller had passed tobacco
products to inmates on more than one occasion.
These allegations came from inmates and were supported by video
evidence according to information forwarded to the prosecutors
office by David Pippin, chief deputy for the sheriffs
During the trial inmates testified that Miller had brought them
tobacco, some testified that while they didnt receive
any, they knew about it and saw the tobacco.
Jurors listened to testimony from not only inmates, but another
jail employee, Karen Demaree. She said there were a lot tobacco
products within the jail.
Witness for the State was Chief Deputy David Pippin. He testified
that he hated to fire Miller, but had fired his own son for
a similar incident.
Jurors are now allowed to ask questions of the witnesses, a
relatively new concept in Ripley County courts. One question
from a juror for Pippin was why charges had been brought against
the defendant and not others. Pippin noted that in Millers
case, it was an on-going occurrence, not a one-time
thing as was the case he mentioned about his son who allegedly
gave an inmate a cigarette.
Pippins son was fired from the jail, but charges were
never forwarded to the prosecutors office, according to
Chief Deputy Prosecutor Ryan King, who was trying this particular
case. He said he had no prior knowledge of the incident, which
definitely caused a problem for the case, he told
The Versailles Republican.
Jurors had another question for Pippin. They asked what percentage
of the time the full pat-down procedure was followed
when inmates return from the work release program. I would
like to say 100%, but its not, Pippin replied. He
said about 75% of the time the thorough searches occur. (The
work release program allows inmates to go to their job each
shift, then return to the jail to serve their sentence).
Another question was, Do the inmates know who is working?
Pippin said the inmates know who is working. They know the rotation
of shifts and details right down to what days milk is delivered
Prosecutor King felt that the testimony of Pippin wasnt
helpful for his case. I knew the State was in trouble
when he (Pippin) said the searches didnt take place all
the time. He said he also knew going into the case that
his other witnesses were inmates, with some people not likely
to believe their stories.
In closing arguments, Matthew Zerbe, attorney for the defendant,
said welcome to Crystal Millers nightmare.
He told that Miller had lost her job, had the humiliation of
her name printed in the newspaper, and the financial loss of
having to hire an attorney. He said, All thats standing
between her (and her freedom) is you and me. He said he
believed that Pippin had a rush to judgment when
firing her and presenting charges to the prosecutors office.
The prosecution said Miller had violated the trust she had been
given as a jail officer being caught time and time
again. King said a video tape proves she was handing something
to an inmate with inmates telling exactly what it was, tobacco.
A search of the cell block revealed tobacco had gotten into
the inmates after Miller was on duty, but jurors needed to know
exactly how. After all, Demaree had testified there was more
than one can of tobacco in the jail.
Both the defendant and her husband took the stand in her defense.
I think they were just real believable, noted Zerbe,
who added, Crystal is a good mom and wife.
Zerbe asked for Miller to be found not guilty. Jurors agreed.
The attorney told The Versailles Republican he was pleased
with the attentiveness of the jury. He referred to his question
of potential jurors in voir dire (selection of the jury) Will
you give my client a fair trial? Zerbe concluded, Thats
all I really asked for. He felt the jurors took notes,
asked great questions and in the end truly respected his question.
Both prosecution and defense said their opponent did an excellent
job. As to the question whether Miller will now file a civil
suit, Zerbe said he couldnt speak for her.
Miller could not be reached for comment.