Investigators: ‘District Attorney pressured us in murder case’
By 01/10/2008 00:00:00
Victim was aunt of NBC's Stone Phillips
The Ellis County Press
WAXAHACHIE - Ellis County Sheriff investigators told The Ellis County Press they were pressured by the county/district attorney's office to lessen the charges filed against the suspect involved in the killing of NBC Dateline anchor Stone Phillips' elderly aunt, Doris Phillips, last year. Speaking on condition of anonymity because of the nature of the investigation and case, the investigators said prosecutors did not want to hire additional staff to handle a capital murder charge, so instead they instructed the ECSO to file it as simple murder charges. Capital offenses bring a punishment of either life in prison or the death penalty, if convicted.
County Attorney Joe Grubbs, while not addressing the allegations directly, pointed out that prosecutors are only able to make a case when given enough evidence.
He said grand juries can only indict based on the evidence presented and that it would be 'foolish' for his staff to withhold anything related to a case.
Investigators, who were in the audience at last Friday's pre-trial hearings at the Ellis County courthouse, also alleged that discussions were made regarding a plea bargain for the suspect, whose name has still not been released to the public.
Grubbs denied those allegations.
'There have been no discussions involving plea bargains,' he said.
After contacted by The Ellis County Press Monday morning, defense attorneys and ECSO investigators reported that Grubbs spoke to his top assistant, Chief Felony Prosecutor Don Maxfield, for 'almost an hour,' presumably about the case. It was the first time the investigators had seen Grubbs on the case, the investigators said.
Doris Phillips' body was found in an abandoned house outside of Bardwell, southwest of Ennis, after a suspect in the disappearance of the local resident pointed authorities to her location. It was reported by local media last year that the suspect did yard work for her previously.