Jordan Brodie Miller: Emerald Wardle killer has 20-year jail term quashed

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A man who strangled his teenage girlfriend to death in a drug-induced psychosis, believing she was a “demon”, has had his 20-year jail sentence overturned after a court found he was experiencing an episode of schizophrenic illness at the time.

Jordan Brodie Miller was sentenced to a non-parole period of 13 years for the murder of Emerald Wardle, 18, in Metford in the NSW Hunter region in June 2020.

A Supreme Court jury found Miller’s actions were caused by drug use, including consumption of the drug marijuana and LSD.

His drug use included the consumption of LSD 11 days before Ms Wardle’s death.

The court was told he rang triple-0 after strangling Ms Wardle, telling them he had killed a “demon” that was “sucking the life out of him”.

Miller did not deny killing his girlfriend but claimed he was experiencing the onset of an undiagnosed mental illness.

On Friday, the NSW Court of Appeal overturned the 20-year term following Miller’s claim he experienced a “miscarriage of justice” because of fresh evidence he was diagnosed with schizophrenia after the trial and was experiencing ongoing symptoms.

The panel of judges found he did murder Ms Wardle but declared him “not criminally responsible”.

They ordered Miller’s case to be referred to the Mental Health Review Tribunal.

In their judgment, the Court of Appeal accepted new evidence from doctors that Miller was diagnosed with a mental health impairment, namely schizophrenia, at the time he killed Ms Wardle.

“Although he knew the nature and quality of his acts in causing the death of Ms Wardle, he did not know the act was wrong, because of his psychotic delusion at the time,” the judgment states.

Miller’s defence team relied on reports from his treating doctors that Miller had an “acute and prolonged episode of psychosis” which commenced before his offending conduct.

The psychotic disorder caused a “temporary or ongoing disturbance” to his thought, mood, volition, perception or memory which “impaired his “emotional wellbeing, judgment or behaviour”.

“The applicant was likely in the early stages of psychosis when he took the half tablet of LSD on June 9, 2020,” the judgment continues.

“That the episode of psychosis was potentially exacerbated by the use of substances, although LSD is less associated with psychotic episodes.

“(The doctor) opined that due to the mental health impairment the applicant did not know that his actions giving rise to the offence charged were wrong, on the basis that he acted in response to a delusion that Ms Wardle was a demon.”

In overturning the original sentence, the Court of Appeal acknowledged Ms Wardle’s family.

“The loss of Emerald Wardle has caused enormous pain to her family from which they will never recover,” their judgment states.

During Miller’s trial, the court was told he had become increasingly detached from reality at the time, believing he was “in a matrix” and the only way to escape was either taking his own life, or Ms Wardle’s.

Ms Wardle’s mother Tania Simshauser recalled the horrific moment she found out about her daughter’s death – describing it as the worst day of her life.

“I remember getting the call to see her and formally identify her … it is the day my life changed forever and broke my soul,” she said.

“I will never be the same again.”

Ms Simshauser told the court how her daughter had “trusted a monster” and now she would never get to live out her “hopes and dreams”.

“Emerald has paid the ultimate price … the young man she loved most took her life.”