Randall Miller will have to serve another two years of probation, after a Georgia appeals court this week denied his motion to terminate his sentence early.
The director pleaded guilty in March 2015 to involuntary manslaughter in the death of camera assistant Sarah Jones, who was killed by a freight train during the filming of “Midnight Rider.” Miller served a year in jail and was also sentenced to 10 years of probation, during which time he is forbidden from directing movies.
Miller was the first director ever sentenced to jail for an on-set accident. His case has resurfaced in the news after a Santa Fe prosecutor announced involuntary manslaughter charges against Alec Baldwin and Hannah Gutierrez-Reed in the death of “Rust” cinematographer Halyna Hutchins.
Since being released from jail in 2016, Miller has made attempts to loosen his probation restrictions.
Last year, his attorney asked a judge to end his sentence early under a new state law that reduces probationary sentences for first-time offenders. The judge, Anthony Harrison, denied that request. Miller’s attorney appealed to the Georgia Court of Appeals and also asked the appeals court to assign the case to a new judge.
But in a four-page ruling issued Thursday, the court denied the appeal, finding that it was untimely.
Miller previously angered the judge by filming a movie called “Higher Grounds” in 2019 in apparent defiance of his probation terms. The judge ultimately decided not to send him back to jail, but admonished him not to direct any more movies. Miller and his attorneys had argued that the probation terms were not clear and that he believed he could direct a film if someone else was put in charge of safety.
Miller has also told the court that he has struggled financially since being released from jail, given the constraints on his employment and the notoriety of his case.
The Georgia Department of Community Supervision, the state probation agency, petitioned the court in September 2021 to end Miller’s probation early. Under the new law, first-time offenders who have paid their fines and shown good behavior can get their terms reduced.
Harrison denied the request without a hearing on Jan. 7, 2022, citing the “unique circumstances” of Miller’s case. Miller’s attorney then filed his own request for early termination on March 10 and also asked Harrison to transfer the case to a new judge, alleging the judge had shown bias against his client.
Harrison denied Miller’s motion on April 27, finding that it merely restated the same points the judge had already rejected three months earlier. Miller’s attorney filed a notice of appeal on May 3.
The appeals court found that Miller was required to appeal the order within 30 days and that the clock started ticking on Jan. 7.
“Because Miller failed to file a notice of appeal within 30 days of the entry of the appealable judgment against him, his appeal is untimely,” the court held.
The court also refused to assign the case to a new judge.