Driver to be tried in shooting death of boy, 3, on freeway

Derrick Durham

A 24-year-old Detroit man was ordered Friday to stand trial in the fatal shooting of a 3-year-old Detroit boy during a road rage incident last month.

Judge Ronald Giles of the 36th District Court bound over Derrick Durham after a preliminary hearing that began Wednesday. Durham is charged with open murder in the death of 3-year-old Christian Miller, who was shot at about 6:40 p.m. Jan. 24 while riding with his godmother and another child in a vehicle on the Southfield Freeway.

Durham's defense attorney Wyatt Harris asked Giles to drop the open murder charge against his client and instead send him to trial on a lesser charge of manslaughter. Harris argued that Durham did not intend to shoot the child and did not know that there were children in the vehicle driven by Miller's godmother, Charmaine Strickland.

Harris said Durham was provoked in the road-rage incident by Strickland when she cut Durham off and allegedly honked her horn at him.

Strickland denied honking her horn or rolling down her window, an account Harris said was "inconsistent" with that given by Durham's passenger and friend Jena Ewais.

"It's obvious Mr. Durham did not premeditate the situation and it's obvious that Mr. Durham did not intend to kill Christian Miller," Harris said. 

But, according to Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor John Donaldson, "even if you believe that (Durham) didn't mean to shoot anyone" there's plenty of evidence that supports the murder charge. He cited Ewais' testimony that Durham told her to roll her seat back, grabbed a gun and fired into Strickland's vehicle.

"People don't pull out guns and shoot people because of that," said Donaldson, referring to the accusations of road rage. "That is not provocation to warrant involuntary manslaughter."

The judge said the question is whether or not Durham had time to think about the consequences of his actions.

"He had time to open the window and then fire at least one if not more shots," said Giles. "One of those shots killed this young boy."

Giles added he would send the case to trial and let a jury decide it.

Durham is due back in court at 9 a.m. Feb. 22 for an arraignment on information.

On Wednesday, Ewais testified that she and Durham took the car, a silver Mercedes, to a detailing business on Detroit's west side to vacuum it out because they feared bullet casings from the shooting had been left behind in the vehicle.

Ewais said she and Durham also took the car to a home in Detroit where they hoped to alter the Mercedes' appearance or color. They ended up hiding the vehicle in the garage of the home, she testified. 

On Friday, a worker at the car wash was asked about the couple bringing the car into the shop and whether Durham said the car was "hot" and needed to be cleaned. The man was inconsistent in his brief testimony and said he didn't remember or recall some parts of what Durham said.

(313) 222-2027