Delaware, US: Wilmington Prosecutor Ipek Medford asked a jury of 12 to “let the punishment fit the crime”
and recommend the death penalty for Otis Phillips for his slaying of Herman Curry on July 8, 2012, when he and a co-defendant turned Eden Park “into a bloodbath.”
Medford, in opening statements, Monday, in the penalty phase of the Eden Park case, said that Phillips was exacting revenge against the Jamaican community for the slaying of Kirt Williams, and as a bonus, was eliminating a man who could have identified him as the shooter in a 2008 homicide.
Medford also revealed for the first time that Curry’s dying words to those who ran to his side after he had been shot three times by Otis Phillips were “to tell his wife and kids that he loved them.”
The slaying of 47-year-old Curry, who was unarmed, “wasn’t just a murder, it was an execution,” she said, and it terrorized hundreds of people at Eden Park and deserves the death penalty as punishment.
Defense attorney Michael Heyden, meanwhile, told the jury that prosecutors are now asking jurors “to do what they decry.”
Prosecutors charge that Otis Phillips, 38, was guilty of seeking revenge and retaliation and Heyden now wants the jury to do the same by imposing death.
Otis Phillips and co-defendant Jeffrey Phillips, were found guilty of the first-degree murder of Curry, along with the manslaughter of 16-year-old Alexander Kamara Jr. and a number of lesser charges, including gang participation, on November 21, following a month-long trial.
Separately, Otis Phillips, who is not related to Jeffrey Phillips, was also convicted of the 2008 second-degree murder of Christopher Palmer.
Both men now face a possible death sentence, but Superior Court Judge Calvin Scott ruled that each should have a separate penalty hearing. The hearing for Otis, which started Monday, is expected to conclude by the end of the week. After the jury deliberates and decides if there is a statutory aggravator qualifying the case for death and then votes on if death should be imposed, Jeffrey Phillips will have his penalty hearing.
All sides expect that Jeffrey Phillips’ penalty hearing will start December 10.
The vote on the death penalty does not have to be unanimous and the judge, not the jury, will make the final call on whether to impose death.
During the past week, Judge Scott also dismissed a defense motion seeking to have him either step aside or bar the imposition of the death penalty.
On Monday, Medford told the jury that they will be hearing about other violent crimes that Otis Phillips committed before July 2012 that were not discussed during the Eden Park trial. The panel also will hear from Herman Curry’s friends and family members, who will talk about how Curry’s loss has affected their lives.
Because this proceeding only relates to the death penalty and the single charge of first-degree murder related to the slaying of Curry, the jury will not hear victim impact statements from family and friends of Alexander Kamara Jr. or Christopher Palmer. Instead, Judge Scott will hear from family and friends of those victims at a later date, before he imposes sentences on the lesser, non-capital charges.
In his opening statement Monday, Heyden told the panel they would also be hearing about Otis Phillips’s upbringing in a poor, violent village in Guyana and how at age seven his parents abandoned him for two years before summoning him to the United States.
And two years after that, Heyden told the jury, Otis Phillips’s mother died and his father abandoned him a second time, along with his brothers, to go off with a new wife.
Finally, Heyden said that in the short time when Otis Phillips was in school they discovered Otis had both a learning disability and low IQ.
Considering all that, Heyden said, Otis Phillips “was a boy who never had a chance. I’m asking you to give him a chance.”
Medford, in her final words to the jury before testimony started, said that now is not the time to debate the merits of the death penalty. “This is the time for you to uphold the laws of Delaware and apply them to the facts and circumstances in this case,” she said, adding that when that is done, “justice demands the death sentence in this case.” (www.delawareonline.com)
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