Defense attorney: Find teen guilty of manslaughter, not murder
Case goes to jury
July 8, 1999
BARTOW, Florida (CNN) -- The fate of a 15-year-old boy accused of killing his 8-year-old neighbor - then stuffing her body under his bed - landed in the hands of a jury on Thursday, after his attorney made a last-ditch plea for the panel to find the teen guilty of manslaughter.
"We're not here to act out some sort of vengeance," said defense attorney Richard Nichols during his closing argument.
Joshua Phillips is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Maddie Clifton.
A day earlier, in opening statements, Nichols said there is no dispute that Phillips killed Clifton, but he argued that his client is not guilty of premeditated murder as prosecutors claim.
"Because of an act that began as an accident and deteriorated through panic that bordered on madness, he engaged in a monstrous act," Nichols said.
Prosecutor Harry Shorstein said the boy was guilty of "three vicious attacks" in which he hit the girl with a baseball bat, cut her throat and then repeatedly stabbed her before hiding her body beneath his waterbed in his parents' Jacksonville, Florida, home on November 3, 1998.
He is asking the jury to convict Phillips of premeditated murder.
Phillips -- who was 14 at the time of the alleged killing -- would not face the death penalty if convicted. Under Florida law, the death penalty cannot be imposed on anyone under the age of 16.
A first-degree murder conviction would bring a maximum life sentence. The judge instructed the jurors that if they find the defendant not guilty of first-degree murder, they can also consider second-degree murder or manslaughter charges.
By admitting Phillips' role in the killing, defense attorneys hope that jurors will accept a manslaughter charge that carries a maximum 15-year sentence.
Prosecution rests in trial of teen accused of killing neighbor girl
The Jimmy Ryce Center for the Victims of Predatory Abduction
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