When I went to interview this week's cover story subject, Harry Miller at his brother's South Salt Lake apartment in early May, I encountered a vivid connection to another story that dominated Salt Lake City's headlines two years before.---
Miller's niece, Starshemia Brown, was visiting him. While small song birds in a cage covered by a blanket, noisily trilled, she started talking about her son, Trejon Fite, who, will playing on a pipe across a canal near Redwood Road and California Avenue on June 13, 2009, fell in. After state and city employees called off a search for his body, a group of duck hunters discovered his remains in the Great Salt Lake on Aug. 1.
To my surprise, there were stark echoes with Miller's story in that both he and his niece were suing the state for compensation for what they saw as Utah's mistakes, and each said the state refused to recognize its culpability.
"The state argued [her son] shouldn't have been there," Brown said. "They were making him responsible for his own death. We have to fight that." She acknowledged parallels with her uncle's long fight to get Utah to declare him factually innocent. "I'm pretty sure it's been a long hard fight [for Miller]," she said. "The state is not going to admit to anything. They won't admit they're wrong."
Recently, Brown's attorney, Ed Brass, reportedly filed a law suit against the state and Salt Lake City, alleging that they had been negligent in not restricting access "to an obvious attraction to children."
Towards the end of the interview with Miller, his sister-in-law lifted the blanket on the bird cage, letting in light. The birds abruptly quieted down, their chattering shifting to simple song.
At the end of the interview, Miller's brother, Wilbert arrived. A tall, reserved man, he stood silently by the window, looking out, offering short responses to questions. His brother Harry, he said, "has changed plenty, he's got back in society," since he was released from prison. "He's got a good job and he's staying out of trouble."
Wilbert is an usher at the Calvary Baptist Church. Harry Miller, however, while raised baptist, does not attend. "I'm not ready," Harry Miller said. "You have to be ready."
Wilbert angrily shook his head when talking about the parallels between his brother's case and his daughter's struggles for accountability over her son's death. The state of Utah, "don't want to pay nobody," he said. "They didn't fix the shit up right."