“My child is not a monster,” Vanessa McLemore told Marshall County jurors Tuesday morning.
The same jury convicted McLemore’s son, Jessie Phillips, of capital murder one day earlier.
Phillips killed his wife, Erica Droze Phillips, in February 2009 when she was eight weeks pregnant.
“Regardless of what has been printed, and what you have heard, my son is not a monster,” McLemore said.
“He is a very loving, kindhearted, and tender man, and Jessie would give you the shirt of his back if you needed it.
“My child is not a monster.”
McLemore was 16 years old when she gave birth to Jessie Phillips, her first of four children, but lost custody of the boy and three girls when she was 28.
She told the jury it was a result of her addiction to crack cocaine.
After 11 years of abusing the drug, she said Jessie told her she needed to get her life on track and do what was right.
She said he helped her gain her sobriety, and gave her constant encouragement.
“He was with me every step of the way,” she said.
“I had to know that someone believed in me. My son told me he was proud of me.”
McLemore told the jury her son has never had other trouble with the law, never convicted of a felony, and never time in prison.
She said she met Phillips and his wife’s son when he was eight months old, but never met the couple’s daughter.
She said she heard there were problems with the marriage, but never witnessed them.
“Jessie’s always been a good father.”
Phillips’ attorney, Bruce Gardner, asked her several questions about problems she dealt with as Jessie grew up, but closed with one direct question about his future.
“Do you hope that his life will be spared,” Gardner asked.
“Yes sir, I surely do,” McLemore said.
Marshall County district attorney Steve Marshall did not have any questions for McLemore.
In his opening statements to the jury, Marshall told them this is a unique situation in that jurors usually get to go home after a verdict.
However, since this is a capital case, they will make a recommendation about the sentence Phillips receives.
Judge Tim Riley will make the ultimate decision, but the jury will decide to recommend life in prison without the possibility of parole, or the death penalty.
“If we sit and talk about punishment choice of death or life in prison, this community ought to be heard,” Marshall said.
“Your voice needs to be heard as to what needs to be the appropriate punishment.”
The prosecution will make their closing statement Tuesday afternoon.
Ten votes for capital punishment are required for a recommendation of the death penalty, while seven votes of life imprisonment will approve that sentence.