State won’t seek death penalty in man accused of murder outside Denver restaurant
By Ken H. Fortenberry
The state won’t seek the death penalty in the murder case of a man who was shot to death in the parking lot of a local restaurant last year.
Assistant district attorney Micah Sanderson said that the case against Jason Lee Eastridge, charged in the first-degree murder of Richard Gary Miles, didn’t meet the statutory requirements for a death penalty prosecution.
Eastridge allegedly shot the 21-year-old Miles to death in the parking lot of Midtown Sundries just after the restaurant closed early Sunday morning, Aug. 29. Eastridge and two other people with him fled from the scene, but he was arrested a short time later and is being held in the Lincoln County Jail under a $250,000 secured bond; the others were not charged.
It’s still unclear what occurred before the shooting. Some have claimed that Eastridge provoked Miles inside the restaurant bar, and they argued before taking their dispute outside. Others claim that Miles, who was in the restaurant with his brothers, started the dispute.
“In this case we’re not seeking the death penalty,” said DA Sanderson. “It’s still a first-degree murder charge, though.”
Sanderson said that state law requires that before a death penalty case can be pursued the defendant must meet one of more qualifying factors including aggravating circumstances.
“I didn’t find them in this case. He didn’t meet any of them.”
Some of those factors include a previous conviction of a violent felony, the murder was committed for financial gain, the murder was especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel.
After the death penalty hearing, Eastridge’s attorney, Andrew Jennings asked that his client’s bond be reduced.
“We talked about the facts of the case, the criminal history of both the decedent and the defendant, what’s going on in the community, the possible risk of flight, and the danger to the community,” said Sanderson.
Eastridge’s attorney said that if released on bond his client might leave the county to avoid any confrontation with any of Miles’s friends or family. He also portrayed Miles as the aggressor, the one who initiated the incident, according to the DA, “like the decedent was the aggressor and that’s why the incident took place.”
The attorney also alleged that Miles had a history of aggression and indicated that a restraining order had been placed against him by Courtney Bumgardner
The bond hearing and the decision not to seek the death penalty angered friends and family members of Miles who posted numerous comments on a Facebook page for Miles.
Among those posting was the dead man’s mother, Ginny Keblin Jerkins:
“The death penalty hearing was today. More people showed up to support the murderer than Richard. The state is not seeking the death penalty and they are going to offer a deal. 16 years. Thanks to Courtney Bumgardner they made Richard out to be a woman beating, gun carrying lunatic,” Jerkins stated.
Sanderson denied that a 16-year plea deal.
“No plea offer has been made,” he said.
Jerkins said that she would not comment “at this time” on the advice of her attorney.