A state appeals court panel Tuesday ordered a new hearing for a man who pleaded guilty to murdering his estranged wife in a Torrance hotel room shortly after he was paroled from state prison in a domestic violence case involving the 45-year-old woman.
The three-justice panel from California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal ordered a judge to conduct a new hearing in the case of Steven Richard Miller, while noting that it expressed “no opinion regarding appellant’s entitlement to relief” as a result of a change in state law that affects the cases of some defendants who have been convicted of murder.
Miller, now 50, pleaded guilty in March 2013 to second-degree murder for the strangulation of his estranged wife, Blaza Renee Miller.
The woman’s body was found June 20, 2011, in a third-floor room by employees at Extended Stay America in the 3500 block of Torrance Boulevard. She had been strangled with a cord, but authorities did not determine a motive for the attack.
Miller — who had been paroled in March 2011 from state prison on a domestic violence case involving his wife — was arrested after turning himself in to the Fresno Police Department in connection with a parole violation for leaving Los Angeles County, according to Deputy District Attorney Lowrie Mendoza.
The defendant was sentenced in April 2013 to 24 years to life in state prison, with the appellate court panel noting in its 15-page ruling that he apologized then to her family and friends and expressed “the deepest feeling of shame and regret for taking the life of someone so special to us all.”
He subsequently filed a petition for re-sentencing under new state law in which he contended that he could not now be convicted of murder because he did not act with the intent to kill, with a judge summarily denying the petition without appointing an attorney for him or receiving further briefing, according to the ruling.