OPELOUSAS — A St. Landry Parish man convicted in February of negligent homicide in the death of his girlfriend was sentenced Thursday to five years at hard labor.
Judge Gerard Caswell, of 27th Judicial District Court, handed down the sentence for Kurt Dwayne Miller, 36, who was originally indicted on second-degree murder in the 2009 death of Laura Coates.
The prosecution had argued that the numerous bruises on Coates’ body at the time of her death indicated she was beaten severely by Miller.
The defense had argued that Coates was experiencing a drug overdose when Miller found her in their Port Barre home and the bruises were due to his slapping her in an unsuccessful attempt to revive her.
On Feb. 28, a jury on a 10-2 vote found him guilty of negligent homicide, which carries a maximum sentence of five years.
Prosecutor Donald Richard told Caswell that the jury’s decision was a “compromise verdict” derived from the feelings of some jurors that Coates, because of alleged drug use on the night she died, “put herself in a bad way.”
Miller, whose sentence was effective immediately, had been out on bond since his arrest, although he was subject to ankle bracelet monitoring.
Caswell originally set April 9 for the sentencing. He extended that to Thursday after Roy Richard, Miller’s attorney, filed a motion requesting Miller’s conviction be set aside, arguing Miller had made “reasonable efforts” to revive Coates.
During the four-day trial in February, Miller testified he tried unsuccessfully to revive Coates when he returned home on Dec. 19, 2009, and found her unresponsive.
Miller said he threw cold water on Coates and slapped her. About three hours later, he put Coates in a pickup truck and drove her from their home to Opelousas to obtain medical treatment. Before arriving at Opelousas General Hospital, Miller was stopped for speeding by Port Barre police officers.
Prior to the sentencing Thursday, Caswell listened to a victim impact statement from Brittany Coates, daughter of Laura Coates.
Brittany Coates tearfully testified that when she visits her mother’s grave, she feels deprived of the closeness the two had for one another.
“I can’t tell her that I love her. She never raised her voice at us when we were growing up. I can’t tell her that I love her and hug her one last time.”
Miller told Brittany Coates, “I loved your mother very much. I was with her until she took her last breath. I still love her.
“I am really sorry. I was thrown in a position that I didn’t know what to do,” he testified.
Before issuing the five-year sentence, Caswell said he concurred with the trial verdict.
“A lesser sentence would deprecate the seriousness of this matter,” the judge said.
Caswell also set a June 5 restitution hearing to consider payment of Coates’ medical and hospital bills in the matter. Miller also was ordered to pay $442 in court costs.