Florida teen guilty of murdering 8-year-old neighbor
July 8, 1999
BARTOW, Florida (CNN) -- It took a Florida jury about two hours to find a 15-year-old boy guilty of murdering his 8-year-old neighbor - then stuffing her body under his bed. The jury ignored the defense attorney's plea to find the teen guilty of manslaughter instead.
"We're not here to act out some sort of vengeance," said defense attorney Richard Nichols during his closing argument, shortly before the jury got the case around midday Thursday.
A day earlier, in opening statements, Nichols said there was no dispute that Joshua Phillips killed Maddie Clifton. But, he argued that Phillips was not guilty of premeditated murder as prosecutors claimed.
"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 water bed in his parents' Jacksonville, Florida, home on November 3, 1998.
Phillips -- who was 14 at the time of the alleged killing -- will not face the death penalty. Under Florida law, the death penalty cannot be imposed on anyone under the age of 16.
The first-degree murder conviction could bring a maximum life sentence.
By admitting Phillips' role in the killing, defense attorneys had hoped that jurors would 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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