Trials & Litigation
Girlfriend, 69, found guilty of murder in slaying of lawyer, 79, and sentenced to life
Posted Sep 6, 2013 9:12 AM CST
By Martha Neil
Julia Phillips told authorities she had been bound with duct tape and dragged behind a brick wall by the same assailant who beat, shot and strangled a 79-year-old lawyer to death outside his South Carolina home in 2010.
But they didn't believe that, and neither did a York jury who found the 69-year-old woman guilty Thursday of murder in the slaying of longtime practitioner Melvin Roberts, who also served as the mayor of York, the Herald reports. The verdict followed about half a day of deliberation.
Although prosecutors said someone else actually killed Roberts, they contended in the circumstantial case that Phillips sought his death and played a role in his slaying after he cut off the financial support she had enjoyed from him during their 10-year relationship.
Her lawyer, Bobby Frederick, said during closing arguments that she should never have been charged, and contended that authorities were especially eager to resolve the murder case because of Roberts' prominence in the local community and pressure from his family and the media to identify a culprit, the newspaper recounts.
It was easy to make his quirky client look bad during a police interrogation, but that doesn't make her guilty, Frederick said. "She's grandiose. She's attention-seeking. She doesn't act normal, and she's on a lot of medications," he said of Phillips, but prosecutors "built a case based on motive, not evidence."
He also pointed out that no one had been arrested for actually killing Roberts and said no direct evidence links his client to the slaying, the Associated Press reports.
Phillips was given the maximum sentence, life in prison, immediately after the verdict.
ABAJournal.com: "Did longtime girlfriend plot to kill 79-year-old lawyer?"
Herald: "Phillips in denial right to the end"