Jury Recommends Death Sentence for Jessie Phillips

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A Marshall County jury recommended the death penalty for Jessie Phillips.

The same jury convicted Phillips Monday of capital murder in the death of his wife, Erica Droze Phillips, and their unborn child in February 2009.

Last week jurors heard audio recordings in which Phillips confessed to investigators  he fired a single gunshot at his wife, got in his car, and left.

She was eight weeks pregnant.

The victim's mother, sister, and two of her brothers were in the courtroom for the sentence recommendation.

Linda Bole said she will never have closure for her sister's death, but the jury's vote helps.

"I think justice was served," Bole said.

"Like the Bible says, an eye for an eye. He did it, he killed my sister, her unborn baby, their unborn baby, in a cold, and calculated way."

Immediately after making that statement, a member of Phillips' family walked past and said to Bole, "it wasn't his baby."

Bole did not respond to the accusation.

"Regardless of who the father is and who the mother is, that life was taken along with the mother," Marshall said.

"That's why the importance of this case is we've established that an unborn child is a person worthy of protection and this jury reaffirmed that with their verdict."

This was the first trial to utilize the Brody Bill statute, passed by the Alabama legislature in 2006.

It allows prosecutors to charge someone with two murders if they kill a pregnant woman.

Capital murder is the intentional death of two or more persons by a single act, so someone convicted of the murder of a pregnant woman can be sentenced to death.

A death penalty recommendation requires 10 votes in favor, but the 12 jurors were unanimous in their decision after one hour of deliberations Tuesday. 

Earlier in the day, Jessie Phillips' mother asked jurors to spare her son's life.

"I can understand as a mother, pleading for your son's life, but what about my sister," Bole said in response.

"Being a mother, she didn't get a chance, she was pleading for her life and he didn't think twice about her life.

"He took her life, and they tried to make him out like he's a good guy and that he tried to help his mother recuperate from the drugs."

Phillips' attorney, Bruce Gardner, told jurors that there were several mitigating factors as to why they should vote for life imprisonment without parole.

Gardner said his client had no prior criminal record, and that Phillips was "at the time of the act was laboring with emotional disturbance" and snapped due to constant verbal abuse from his wife.

Prosecutors countered that the only evidence of the verbal abuse was the defendant's claims.

Marshall said they do not come close to the idea of extreme emotional disturbance Phillips would need for life imprisonment instead of death.

"There's no joy in making that request, but the issue is in Alabama we believe that capital punishment is an appropriate sentence," Marshall said.

"We look at the factors the court has provided us and in this case it's overwhelming that death was the only result in this case."

District Judge Tim Riley will take the jury's recommendation into consideration but he will make the final decision on the sentence.

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