South Mississsippi Sun Herald
October 28, 2002

ATLANTA - Georgia's Supreme Court on Monday upheld the murder conviction and life sentence imposed on a school bully who killed a 13-year-old classmate with a blow to the back of the head in 1998.

In a unanimous ruling, the state's highest court rejected defense arguments that the jury that convicted Jonathan Miller in 1999 may have been prejudiced by exposure to news coverage of the Columbine High School massacre just weeks before Miller's trial.

Fourteen students and one teacher died at the school in Littleton, Colorado, after two students went on a shooting rampage.

In a written opinion, Georgia Supreme Court Justice Leah Sears said a lower court did not violate Miller's right to a fair trial when it denied defense lawyers' request for a change of venue.

"We have reviewed the evidence of record concerning the actual pretrial publicity in this matter and it was not inherently prejudicial," Sears said.

Miller, now 19, was charged as a juvenile with aggravated battery and assault after punching Josh Belluardo after the two boys got off their school bus on Nov. 2, 1998, in a suburb north of Atlanta.

Belluardo died two days later from a severed artery in his brain, prompting prosecutors in Cherokee County to indict the then-15-year-old Miller for felony murder and try him in adult court. Miller allegedly had a history of harassing and bullying Belluardo.

The case attracted national attention and led the Georgia Legislature to pass an anti-bullying law, which allows a school to suspend students after two incidents of bullying. A student is transferred out of the school after a third offense.

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