Jury Hears Recordings of Defendant’s Confession in Capital Murder Trial

Northeast Alabama
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"I shot her and I seen her fall, I thought about shooting myself," a voice said on an audio recording.

"I never thought about shooting her again.  I thought about shooting myself, but I couldn't."

Marshall County jurors heard recordings of two interrogations of Jessie Phillips, the first from two hours after he shot his wife, and the second from the next day.

Phillips is charged with capital murder of Erica Carmen Droze Phillips and "Baby Doe".

Erica was eight weeks pregnant with the couple's third child when Jessie Phillips allegedly shot her at a Guntersville car wash in February 2009.

"There isn't much to say, we was arguing, she was yelling at me, and it built up inside of me, gotta do something," Phillips told investigators on the recording.

Jessie Phillips' arrest mugshot

"At that time, she was telling me I was a sorry a-- [racial slur] and that's all I'll ever be.  Pretty much the usual."

Phillips turned himself in to authorities at the Albertville Police Department less than an hour after the shooting.

Marshall County and Guntersville investigators called to the stand Thursday and Friday testified Phillips walked up to an unmarked car with his hands in the air and bent over the car.

He said "I did it" and told them he had a gun in his back pocket, which officers retrieved without incident.

Phillips recounted his surrender on the interrogation tapes:

     "He asked my name and I lay across the car and told him the gun was in my pocket
     and told him not to shoot me.  He asked my name, I told my name, Social Security
     Number, the other officer came up and I told him the same, not to shoot me.  I think he
     got on his radio and said 'we've got the suspect' and I said 'I did it, I'm not the suspect.
     I did it, I'm guilty, I'm not denying it,' before they read me my rights or anything.  I'm not
     the suspect, I did it."

The Marshall County jury had printed copies of a transcript of the interrogation conducted by Guntersville Police investigator Mike Turner.

"At the time you pulled that trigger, did you mean to kill her?" Turner asked.

"I pulled that gun, and I don't know what I was thinking...[unclear audio]...then I pulled the trigger," Phillips said.

"What were you trying to do?" Turner asked.

Phillips said he was unsure what he was thinking:

     "I don't know.  I don't know.  I don't even know if I thought about killing her.  I don't
     know if the thought crossed my mind.  You've got the gun in your back pocket, pull it
     out and use it.  I don't know.  It just happened, it's not something I planned, it's not
     something I wanted to do.  This is not something I wanted to do."

Phillips told investigators he snapped after an argument that went through the day:

     "It was about everything.  Everything.  You just don't know how to be married to a
     woman, with four years, married two years, every day she was b----ing about
     something, called me a [racial slur], she called me a [homophobic slur].  I don't know, it
     just all add up and it's no way to end it.  I just pulled the trigger.

"I don't know if, to be married to somebody and to hear them call you a [racial slur], you won't let no other white person call you a [racial slur], that kind of hurts," Phillips told Turner.

The defendant also told interrogators his wife's harassment also extended to his faith:

     "She always making fun of me about my religion.  Islam.  She said it's stupid for me to
     shave my armpits and have to shave my body parts and have to pray five times a day.
     She said it's stupid.  I say if it's not good for you then don't do it.  She made fun of me
     every chance she got, she would."

Earlier that day, the couple purchased a car at a used car dealership, and it caused a heated argument.

Phillips said he kept a pistol in the glove compartment of his truck, and when the couple had lunch with their children and Erica's brother, he got the gun and put it in his pocket since she was going to be the driving the truck while he drove the new car.

"I didn't want the gun in the glove compartment there, in case she got pulled over or anything.  She didn't have a permit," he told the investigator.

"I didn't want her to get in trouble for something that was mine," Phillips said.

Turner had not asked where Phillips got the gun.

The investigator asked several times what he was thinking when Phillips shot his wife.

"She just kept on and kept on and kept on and kept on.  I shot and left.  I still don't even know where it hit her.  I'm guessing it did hit her because she fell.  She fell.  I pulled the trigger and fired one shot."

Phillips said he put the gun to his chest and considered pulling the trigger because he did not want to go to jail.

He told investigator Turner he couldn't kill himself, and that he could have run but it was not something he wanted to spend the rest of his life doing.

"I still felt it was better for me to turn myself in before I did something that was stupid," Phillips said.

He drove towards Albertville, where he lived, and stopped to make a withdrawal from a bank:

     "I don't even know why I stopped and got money.  I guess I needed to work my nerves
     up to turn myself in.  I guess you could say, just felt like the right thing to do.  I parked at
     the [Albertville] police station.  I called my sister to tell my step-ma where the car was,
     the truck was, and that the keys were in the ignition."

Phillips got out of the car and still had the gun in his pocket, but told investigator Turner he had no intention of hurting anyone else.

 "If I shot it would have been to shoot in the air, and they would have shot me," he said.

"They would have been doing their job, but it's still killing someone and I didn't want to put anyone else through that."

Phillips' attorney, Bruce Gardner, admits his client killed the victim, but argues he is not guilty of capital murder.

Gardner said in his opening statements the state has to prove Phillips intended to kill not only Erica but also "Baby Doe".

Marshall County District Attorney Steve Marshall said that is not the case because Brody's Law, passed by the Alabama legislature in 2006, allows for the prosecution of two murders in the killing of a pregnant woman.

The second interrogation tape confirmed Phillips knew his wife was pregnant with their child.

He told investigator Turner she missed her period.

"She went to the doctor, she got one of those tests and it said she was pregnant, and she said she wanted a boy," Phillips said.

"I didn't care, as long as it's healthy I don't care if it's a boy or a girl."

In addition to Turner, jurors heard from another investigator who showed images of the victim lying on the ground at the crime scene.

An emergency room nurse testified about treatment for the victim upon arrival at the hospital.

Some members of the victim's family left the courtroom as the nurse described the fatal injuries and their unsuccessful attempts to save her life.

The majority of the rest of the family went outside as a physician from the Department of Forensics explained and showed pictures from the autopsy.

The prosecution rested their case Friday afternoon and the jury was dismissed for the weekend.  The trial will resume Monday at 10 a.m.

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