William C. Miller, 79, a retired Circuit Court judge in Montgomery County, who meted out the longest sentence in the county's judicial history up to that point, died Oct. 30 of congestive heart failure at his home in Silver Spring.
Judge Miller was appointed to the Montgomery District Court by Gov. Harry Hughes (D) in 1980 and was named to the Circuit Court two years later. He spent one year as chief judge of the Montgomery Circuit Court before retiring in 1996.
He handled several high-profile cases during his years on the bench, including the 1984 trial of Edward Thomas Mann. Mann, a onetime IBM employee in Bethesda, pleaded guilty to murdering three former co-workers and wounding six others during a 1982 shooting rampage.
Judge Miller sentenced Mann to the maximum amount possible: three consecutive life terms, plus 1,080 years in prison. State's Attorney Andrew L. Sonner called the sentence "an all-time record for Montgomery County."
At his sentencing, Mann spoke for more than an hour, showing little remorse.
"The statement, like the crimes you committed, evidences a twisted mind," Judge Miller said before pronouncing sentence. "I find it difficult, almost impossible, to fathom how such an intelligent and well-educated man can commit such terrible crimes and fail to beg the court for forgiveness."
William Charles Miller was born in Kokomo, Ind., and grew up in Takoma Park. He graduated from Coolidge High School in the District and from the University of Maryland. He served in the Air Force in Korea and Japan in the mid-1950s.
In 1958, after graduating from George Washington University's law school, he joined a Silver Spring law firm with two brothers, James and Ralph Miller. The firm later became Miller, Miller and Steinberg.
While serving on the bench, Judge Miller also taught courses on trial practice at American University's law school. In retirement, he was often called back to serve as a judge in cases in Montgomery, Prince George's, Anne Arundel and Queen Anne's counties, and he was also a mediator, arbitrator and special master in hundreds of cases.
Judge Miller was known for his ready humor and for his drawings. He often sketched caricatures of lawyers and journalists who appeared in his courtroom.
His marriage to Ardith Thom ended in divorce.
Survivors include his wife of 40 years, Anne McCann Miller of Silver Spring; three sons from his first marriage, William C. Miller Jr. of Washington, Chris Miller of Chevy Chase and Navy Cmdr. Matthew Miller of Anacortes, Wash.; two daughters from his second marriage, Wendy Ford of Ocean City and Jennifer Miller of New York City; and six grandchildren.
A Memorial Service will be held on Friday, November 13, 2009 at 4:00p.m. in Courtroom #1 at the Circuit Court for Montgomery County.