A Murfreesboro man convicted of child rape must remain in jail after the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals overturned a ruling last week by Rutherford County Judge Royce Taylor.
Earlier this month, the Appeals Court dismissed Taylor's finding that Nicholas K. Phillips deserved a new trial. Taylor had ruled in a post-conviction relief hearing that Phillips attorney was ineffective and the defendant deserved a second chance at justice.
The Appeals Court disagreed, ruling Phillips had gotten sufficient counsel.
In 2013, a Rutherford County Jury convicted Phillips of raping a 12-year-old girl in January 2012. He was sentenced to 40 years in prison with no chance of parole.
After the conviction, Phillips filed an appeal claiming almost everything you can claim, "his counsel performed deficiently by failing to provide him with a copy of the discovery materials, failing to proceed on a timely-filed motion to suppress, failing to interview witnesses prior to trial, failing to introduce evidence of the victim’s character for untruthfulness, failing to investigate an allegation that a member of the petit jury was aware of information gleaned during the presentation of the case to the grand jury, and by failing to ask that the jury be sequestered."
He also alleged the District Attorney engaged in witness tampering by allowing family members to coach the victim's testimony.
After the PCR hearing, Taylor ruled that Phillips original attorney could have done more to defend him, including challenging the credibility of witnesses and a general "lack of preparation."
"The post-conviction court found that counsel’s 'performance in representing the [p]etitioner was unquestionably outside the range of professionally accepted competent representation and deficient,'" according to the appellate opinion.
The state disagreed citing a "typo" in the evidence presented and appealed the ruling.
The appeals court agreed with the state and overturned the ruling, keeping Phillips in jail for the foreseeable future.
Michelle Willard is a freelance journalist who fills her days with social media marketing, politics, true crime, and taking complaints. You can complain to her on Twitter @MichWillard or by email michelle(at)murfreesborovoice.com.