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Trial of accused accomplice in death of Columbus imam ends in hung jury

Thursday February 2, 2023

Isaiah Brown-Miller, 23, of the Northeast Side, in Franklin County Commons Pleas Court on January 31, 2023 during his trial on kidnapping and aggravated robbery charges in connection with the death of Columbus imam Mohamed Hassan Adam in December 2021. A mistrial was declared the next afternoon after a Franklin County jury declared it was hung and could not reach a unanimous decision.

A Franklin County jury could not decide whether to convict a Northeast Side man of having a role in the December 2021 death of prominent Columbus imam Mohamed Hassan Adam. 

The jury declared it was hung late Wednesday afternoon in the trial of 23-year-old Isaiah Brown-Miller, who was charged with kidnapping and aggravated robbery in connection with the death of the 48-year-old imam and leader of the local Muslim and Somali communities. After a seven-day trial, the jury deliberated for about eight hours on Tuesday and Wednesday before reporting it could not agree on a decision. 

Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Karen Phipps declared a mistrial. Brown-Miller's case was scheduled for a status conference Feb. 8.

Franklin County Assistant Prosecutor Jack Wong said prosecutors will look into whether to try the case again with a new jury.

Franklin County prosecutors said during the trial that Brown-Miller and codefendant John W. Wooden, who is awaiting trial on aggravated murder and other charges, were attempting to forcibly take money from Adam and possibly from the mosque's funds to which the imam had access.

Prosecutors spent significant time during the trial poring over cellphone records, attempting to link a burner phone to Brown-Miller and the crime. Prosecutors said the burner phone connected to the same cell towers as Adam’s cellphone multiple times on Dec. 22, 2021, the night Adam went missing, indicating they were together.

Brown-Miller’s defense attorney, Lumumba McCord, argued at trial that his client wasn’t involved. During closing arguments, McCord said prosecutors failed to prove Brown-Miller was there or had the burner phone prosecutors citted.

Mohamed Hassan Adam, 48, an imam and leader of the local Muslim and Somali communities, was found dead Dec. 24, 2021 inside a vehicle that was parked in an unpaved and overgrown lot in the 1400 block of Windsor Avenue, near the intersection of Joyce and Windsor avenues. (Photo: Provided) 

“Not once did they prove (Brown-Miller) removed Mr. Adam anywhere from a place that he was,” McCord said during closing arguments. “You can’t put that phone in his hand … that is reasonable doubt.” 

Adam, 48, was an imam at Masjid Abu Hurairah mosque on the Northeast Side and a pillar of the Columbus Somali and Muslim communities. He was last seen on Dec. 22, 2021 when he left home to pick up his child from a daycare center on Oakland Park Avenue. His family reported him missing and his body was discovered inside a van on Dec. 24, 2021 in a wooded lot in the city’s North Side.

Wooden, 47, of Franklinton, is charged with aggravated murder, kidnapping and robbery, among other charges, in connection with Adam’s death. Wooden is set for trial on March 27.

There were twenty failed transactions on Cash App, a money transferring app, from Adam’s phone to a woman on the night he went missing, according to prosecutors. Some transactions were for thousands of dollars.

Adam was seen on surveillance video at an ATM that night along with a man wearing a white mask and white gloves, the prosecution said.

The imam was “taking his card in and out of the machine, stalling for five minutes to do what he could to figure out in his head, 'What am I going to do? Where am I going to end up?'” Wong said during closing arguments.

Wong declined to comment on whether others they accused during the trial of being involved in the robbery will be brought before a grand jury for possible indictment.


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