Judge will decide in 2 weeks if Phillips case to be bound over

July 31, 2014
Defense attorney David Glancy argues against open murder.

Defense attorney David Glancy argues against open murder.

By Rob Alway. Editor-in-Chief. 

LUDINGTON — The decision of binding the murder case against a 22-year-old Victory Township man will be made within the next two weeks. Closing arguments were held this morning in the 79th District Court preliminary examination against Sean Michael Phillips. The hearing was held today after a three month adjournment.

Sean Michael Phillips of Victory Township, is charged with the June 2011 murder of Katherine Phillips, who was 4-months-old when she disappeared. He is currently serving a 10- to 15-year prison sentence for the unlawful imprisonment of Katherine, also known as Baby Kate. In October 2013 he was charged with the open murder of the baby, even though no body has been found. Mason County Prosecutor Paul Spaniola and the Michigan Attorney General’s office state the charges are based on circumstantial evidence.

Today’s preliminary examination was a continuation of a hearing that began in April.  A preliminary examination is a time for the prosecution to show there is probable cause to prove a felony was committed and thus turn the matter over to circuit court.

The matter had been adjourned in April to allow the defense team enough time to have experts analyze a confession letter Phillips presumably wrote from prison and then sent to Ariel Courtland, the mother of Katherine (and their other child, Haley).

While the prosecution is arguing that Phillips should be tried on open murder charges, the defense claims there is not actual evidence proving that Baby Kate was murdered, and if Sean Phillips had murdered Baby Kate, there is no evidence that the murder was premeditated, which is a condition required for first or second degree murder charges.

Because only a judge decides the probable cause in an preliminary examination, details of some evidence are not presented to the open court, unlike in a jury trial.

Judge Pete Wadel said he would make a decision within the next two weeks.


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