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Prosecutors get verdict on 17 year-old murder case

Posted on September 03, 2010 3:00 AM EST

Local prosecutors obtained a guilty verdict in a little more than an hour on a 17 year-old murder case. The unusual thing about his case is that detectives were never able to recover a body. All Miami criminal defense attorneys know how difficult it is to convict a person of murder without a body. It is so difficult to prove a case without a body that this case is only the second no body murder conviction in Miami-Dade County's recent history. The reason it is so difficult to prove a murder case without a body is that the prosecution cannot call the medical examiner to testify as to the cause of death of the victim. In the majority of murder and manslaughter cases, the most compelling evidence that is often presented is that by the medical examiner.

It took a jury a little over an hour to convict Christopher Phillips for the second degree murder of his former girlfriend. The lack of a body was overcome by strong witness testimony presented by the prosecutors for the Miami-Dade County State Attorney's Office. Phillips along with other youths traveled to Miami, Florida after Hurricane Andrew looking for work. Phillips, a purported drug dealer and roofer hooked up with the victim who was working as a waitress in a Homestead restaurant. Evidence was produced at trial describing Phillips as a violent and manipulative boyfriend. Workers from the restaurant testified on behalf of the state that the defendant always hung around the restaurant, jealously guarding his girlfriend and often demanding her tip money. Other testimony described the how the victim appeared for work with black eyes and bruises.

The most damning testimony put on by the prosecution was the testimony of a bartender, the defendant's uncle with a long criminal felony record and the defendant's ex-wife. The bartender testified that she had overheard on several occasions from the defendant's own mouth that he caused the disappearance of his ex-girlfriend. In fact, the bartender had at one time confronted the defendant about killing the victim. According to her testimony, upon asking the question, the defendant's eyes welled up and walked away from the witness. The defendant's uncle testified that Phillips's had bragged to him on several occasions that he in fact had murdered his ex-girlfriend, even describing in graphic detail how he choked her to death. The defendant's ex-wife testified regarding the defendant's past violent conduct.

Criminal cases can be proven by two forms of evidence, physical and testimonial. Examples of physical evidence include: ballistics reports, DNA evidence and other types of evidence obtained from the crime scene. The murder weapon, whether it be a gun or knife would also be considered physical evidence. Witness testimony is considered testimonial in nature. The law in the State of Florida requires jurors to not give more weight to either type of evidence. In fact, the judge will provide jury instructions to jurors regarding that law. Be that as it may, most jurors will honestly tell you that they give more credence to physical evidence than testimonial evidence. The jurors in this particular case were able to follow the law and convict Phillips without a shred of physical evidence.

No Body Found, but a Guilty Verdict in Homestead Woman's Death, The Miami Herald.com, September 3, 2010.
Categories: Violent Crimes