LEE COUNTY, Fla.- A man convicted of manslaughter in 2011 will get a new trial, because he was excluded from a meeting about his attorney's sobriety, an appeals court ruled Wednesday.
James Sims fatally shot Roy Radabaugh outside a Lee County bar on January 20, 1981. He was a fugitive for nearly thrity years. The state charged Sims with second-degree murder. On November 28, 2011 a jury convicted him of the lesser offense of manslaughter. Sims is currently serving a seventeen year prison term.
On the second day of his trial, the judge interrupted court proceedings to hold a meeting in his chambers attended by the judge, a prosecutor, and Sims' defense attorney Karen Miller. During the conference, the prosecutor raised concerns about Miller's performance. The judge asked Miller if she was intoxicated. Miller denied being under the influence, but when the judge asked if she was ready to proceed she replied, "No judge. Just declare a mistrial. I don't think--I mean--I think it's my fault and jeopardy hasn't attached," according to court transcripts.
The appeals court ruled Wednesday Sims should be tried again, because "Sims had a constitutional right to be present at this crucial stage of the proceeding." The appellate court decision also indicated Miller "appeared to have been competent during the remainder of the trial."
In a phone interview with WINK News Thursday, Miller said Sims should have been present at the meeting. "I am very happy Mr. Sims will get a new trial," Miller said.
Miller maintains she was not intoxicated during the trial.
"I got a manslaughter out of a second-degree murder charge after he was on the run for thirty years," she said.