WILLMAR -- Miles David Edinburgh was found guilty Thursday of second-degree murder for the July 2008 stabbing death of Adam Kenneth Milton.
The jury, seven men and five women, deliberated for about 12 hours before returning the verdict in Kandiyohi County District Court just after 2:30 p.m. Thursday.
The verdict was guilty on both the second-degree intentional murder charge Edinburgh faced and also on a lesser included charge of second-degree unintentional murder.
Edinburgh, who was standing when the verdict was read by District Judge Jon Stafsholt, fell backward into his chair and raised his hands. Court security officers seated behind the defense table quickly stepped forward to check on the 19-year-old defendant, who was then handcuffed and led from the courtroom.
Eighth District Public Defender Jay Liedman issued no comment after the verdict. Liedman and Joseph Parise, assistant state public defender, represented Edinburgh and presented a self-defense claim for their client.
First Assistant Kandiyohi County Attorney Connie Crowell said after the verdict that she was "praying that there would be justice for Adam" as the jury filed into the courtroom to return the verdict. "He had such promise and a good life ahead and that was unjustly taken from him."
The 21-year-old came to Willmar to play football, she said, from Dade County, Fla. He felt safe in the community and even tried to get his mother to move here, Crowell said.
"They (Milton's parents) put a lot of faith in us," she said. "I wanted to make sure we lived up to that as a community."
Many in the community were touched by the tragedy of Milton's death, she stressed, including his fellow football players and college students, and the elementary school students he worked with at Roosevelt School.
"The only good thing is that there is some justice for Adam, may he rest in peace," Crowell said.
Previous court information has estimated that Edinburgh could be sentenced to 306 months or 25½ years in prison. That would be the middle of the sentencing range in state guidelines for second-degree murder. The maximum is 367 months, or 30½ years.
Stafsholt ordered that a pre-sentence investigation be conducted. Sentencing will be scheduled at a later date.
The trial began Oct. 8. Edinburgh was charged with one count of second-degree murder for Milton's July 20, 2008, death. Milton, who played football for Ridgewater College, was declared dead at Rice Memorial Hospital about one hour after police were called to the Evergreen Apartments, near the college, regarding a stabbing.
The jury received the case and began deliberating around 4 p.m. Wednesday and continued until about 12:30 a.m. Thursday morning. Deliberations began again at 10 a.m. Thursday.
On Wednesday morning, Edinburgh took the stand and said that Milton ran after him, caught him with one hand and struck him in the neck and ribcage with the other hand before Edinburgh stabbed him.
"I opened up my pocket knife and poked Adam Milton," he said. "I was still trying to run."
Edinburgh said Milton didn't seem to feel the first stab and continued to grasp his shoulder and swing at him, so he stabbed Milton again. He then continued to run into nearby bushes and threw the knife to the ground under a pine tree before running away and hiding under a vehicle.
Testimony on Tuesday by Dr. Kelly Mills, assistant Ramsey County medical examiner, included that Milton's heart and left lung were damaged by one of two stab wounds, one of which penetrated 4¾ inches into his body.
Edinburgh was apprehended nearby by Willmar police. He said on the stand that he told the arresting officer, "They were jumping me, they were attacking me."
The young man said he learned while in jail that Milton had died. "It broke my heart to know that I took the life of another human being," he said. "That's not who I was."
During cross-examination by Crowell, Edinburgh said he did not say anything to Milton about having a knife and that he did not tell Milton not to touch him.
Edinburgh also testified that the knife, exhibit No. 11 in the case, was his knife and that he used it to stab Milton.
On Monday, former and current Ridgewater College football players testified that they saw Milton and Edinburgh scuffle after a physical and verbal altercation between Edinburgh and several of the men.
Walter Rochet, who had just moved to Willmar and would play quarterback for the Warriors, testified that he saw Milton catch Edinburgh by the shirt, that they wrestled and Edinburgh ran away. Milton dropped to one knee, clenched his arms over his wounded chest and "blood poured out on the ground," Rochet said.
The 19-year-old said he ran back to his apartment, near the college, to get his cell phone. Fellow player Justin Melhado called 911 and directed Rochet's first aid response to the bleeding Milton.
"I had his hand clenched so that I knew he was still alive," Rochet said, testifying that he attempted to stop the bleeding. The young man, dressed in an U.S. Army uniform, said he was with the group of young people who followed the ambulance carrying Milton, 21, to the hospital. The group later informed Milton's mother that he had died.
The prosecution testimony and evidence presentation began on Monday morning with the 911 call Melhado made to county dispatch. His frantic voice relays that his friend has been stabbed and that an ambulance is needed.
The dispatcher asks who stabbed him, if the caller has a description of the individual. Melhado is heard asking someone else, "what's his name?" and coming back to the dispatcher with "Miles ... Miles Edinburgh."
Two Willmar Police Department officers, Dustin Van Der Hagen and Chad Nelson, testified that Edinburgh had no signs of injury on him when they photographed him, after his arrest.
During closing arguments, Edinburgh's public defender, Joseph Parise, told the jury that no crime had been committed, just a tragic justifiable homicide. "Miles Edinburgh was assaulted by a big man, he ran and was chased by two other big men," he said. "The peril that Miles Edinburgh faced was great."
Edinburgh, at his arrest, was 5 feet 7 inches tall and weighed 130 pounds, Nelson said. Milton was 5 feet 9 inches tall and 190 pounds, according to the medical examiners report.
During her closing argument, Crowell reminded the jury of the medical examiner's report and testimony that Milton's heart and left lung were damaged by one of two stab wounds, one of which penetrated 4¾ inches into his body. The knife found near the crime scene by Willmar police had a blade of 3½ inches.
"The actions of the defendant speak louder than words," she said, noting that Edinburgh became "conveniently fearful" after Milton's death and then claimed self-defense.
"Where's the fear?" she asked the jury. "That doesn't come until after he's killed someone."
One of the teens with Edinburgh, Albert Navarro, testified Tuesday that Edinburgh was acting like a "bad ass" and used the racial epithet "nigger" toward Milton and several other football players.
"That's not the type of fear that justifies homicide," Crowell said.