LEAVENWORTH — A U.S. Army National Guard sergeant who had been incarcerated at the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks on Fort Leavenworth for eight years has been released.
Sgt. Derrick Miller, who had been incarcerated on charges of premeditated murder while serving in Afghanistan, earned parole and walked out of the prison at the military installation Monday a free man.
“I’m tremendously grateful for the opportunity to be with my kids and family again,” Miller said. “I am just an average guy,but people I didn’t even know have come out to help me have a second chance. To step outside those concrete walls and the razor wire to see the green grass was amazing.”
Miller said the first person he saw upon his release was his mother, Renee Myers.
“I love you,” were the first words he spoke to his mother, followed by a big hug.
“I feel elation,” Myers said. “I knew deliverance was coming, I just didn’t know how long it was going to take. This is an indescribable feeling. It’s like a vision has come to reality and it’s even better than I thought it would be.”
On Sept. 26, 2010, Miller’s life changed forever.
While serving in Afghanistan, he identified a Taliban scout and interrogated him. When the enemy grabbed for Miller’s weapon, Miller fired and killed the man. Miller was found guilty and sentenced to life on charges of premeditated murder.
He had been incarcerated at the Disciplinary Barracks since 2011.
United American Patriots, an organization that advocated for Miller's release from prison, argues the sergeant acted in self-defense. In April 2018, United American Patriots enabled the reduction of the life sentence to 20 years via a clemency hearing. In February, Miller gained his freedom at a parole hearing.
According to a news release, Miller’s interpreter, who observed the incident in Afghanistan, “made a contradictory statement after investigators agreed to help gain him asylum and U.S. citizenship.”
“On one hand, we’re elated that this outstanding individual is out of prison and back into society and to his family,” said David “Bull” Gurfein, the organization’s chief executive officer. “On the other hand, this is just one step.”
Gurfein said Miller still has a murder accusation “hanging over his head.”
Gurfein said the next step will be for the organization to try to gain a presidential pardon to remove the charges.
“We want the president to disapprove of the charges and sentencing,” Gurfein said.
According to a press release, even if the court rejected Miller’s self defense argument, “the facts show the charges … should have been voluntary manslaughter, an offense which carries a maximum 15-year sentence.”
Miller is 36 years old now. He has two children who live in Maryland. He said he soon will be moving to Maryland and work as an electrician.
Miller said there are four inmates at the Disciplinary Barracks who are incarcerated on similar combat-related shooting charges.
“These are warriors not criminals,” Gurfein said. “We are working to make sure their cases are handled properly.”
For more information, visit the organization’s website at www.uap.org.