YORK Theres only one word David Roberts now wants to hear spoken in a York courtroom after seven days of testimony from black-market plastic surgeons, longtime friends and police officers.
Guilty, he said Wednesday, minutes after Julia Phillips defense team rested its case after presenting evidence and expert witnesses in her murder trial in the 2010 slaying of former York Mayor Melvin Roberts.
Bobby Frederick, Phillips Myrtle Beach lawyer, requested again Wednesday that charges be dismissed against Phillips, accused of having Roberts, her longtime boyfriend, killed to safeguard her own financial interests.
Frederick has argued that prosecutors have no direct evidence linking Phillips to the crime, and results from a minuscule amount of gunshot residue found on Phillips clothes are inconclusive at best.
Circuit Court Judge Derham Cole again denied Fredericks request and said the jury will hear closing arguments today before he instructs the jury on what laws will be applicable in deciding Phillips fate.
The 13th Circuit Solicitors Office in Greenville is prosecuting Phillips, as solicitors in York County recused themselves because of past associations with Roberts, who worked as a lawyer in York for 55 years. York County judges also recused themselves from the case, which is why Cole is presiding.
Roberts was found strangled to death with a zip tie in the driveway of his home on Feb. 4, 2010 Phillips birthday.
Three months later, police charged Phillips with murder.
Prosecutors say Phillips grew greedy and desperate when she realized Roberts planned to end their decade-long relationship. He already had started cutting her off financially at a time when she had less than $2 in her checking account, owed creditors nearly $1,500, paid expansive out-of-pocket costs to support a prescription pill habit and became solely responsible for paying bills to a Gaffney store that Roberts owned but she managed.
Julias Inc. suffered a shortfall after Merle Norman, a cosmetics franchise, dissolved its relationship with Phillips. Testimony last week showed Roberts also paid all of Phillips utilities, health insurance and trips to beach houses and lawyer conventions.
Phillips has claimed that she was ambushed by a Hispanic attacker who, depending on which statement she gave police, either only said money or threatened her several times as he bound her with duct tape and dragged her behind a brick wall. Her alleged assailant then hit Roberts with a metal pipe and fired a gun.
Prosecutors have relied on police witnesses, who have drawn attention to at least 12 inconsistent statements Phillips gave to detectives about her attack and Roberts death. Video of those statements and a police re-enactment Phillips participated in were played for the jury, who also heard Phillips 911 call and her insistence to a dispatcher that details of her robbery were true, not a hoax.
Friends and people who worked with Roberts testified that she wanted for nothing thanks to Roberts, though the couples relationship was on rocky ground.
Guy Blankenship, a confidential police informant, admitted thief and black-market plastic surgeon, on Friday gave the most lively and potentially damaging testimony that Phillips offered him $10,000 to kill Roberts.
Police have testified that they found gunshot residue on Phillips clothes. Last week, York Police Detective William Mumaw, lead investigator on the case, testified that authorities considered gunshot residue found on the sleeves of Phillips clothes probable cause to charge her.
But Chris Robinson, a forensics consultant and former crime lab director for the Atlanta, Ga., Police Department, said on Wednesday gunshot residue can be transferred on a persons skin or clothes if they are sitting in a police car or waiting at a police station, which has multiple room for contamination.
Three elements antimony, barium and lead have to be present in particles discharged from a fired gun before the micron-sized debris can be considered gunshot residue. Anything less, he said, does not meet the threshold for gunshot residue.
Despite testimony from several police officers who said they did not fire their guns within months of investigating Roberts death, Robinson said if officers fail to clean their guns and happen to touch it, they can transfer the residue onto clothes or other people.
If an officer fires his gun and then touches his duty belt, the gunshot residue will land on the belt and stay there until its cleaned, Robinson said, adding that theres no time limit for the residue to go away.
Robinson testified that he has tested police cars that had not been used in six months. Still, he found gunshot residue in the vehicle.
The only way for residue to dissipate, he said, is if the surface or clothes are cleaned. Residue on the skin can be wiped away with water, or if the person is sweating, bleeding or holding onto a can of soda with dripping condensation.
Prompted by questions from Frederick, Robinson said gunshot residue from a contact gunshot would not plume upward if the assailant is firing while on the ground. The residue will travel four feet away, at most, he said.
Ive never seen (residue from) any weapon travel 10 feet, he said.
Prosecutors last week displayed the shirt Roberts wore the night he was killed.
On cross examination from Kris Hodge, the lead prosecutor, Robinson agreed that gunshot residue should not land on someone who is behind a brick wall some 60 feet away from where shots were fired.
But, Robinson said a police officer who touches a surface with residue on it will transfer the particles if they touch a persons arms or clothes.
More, per FBI standards, gunshot residue tests should be completed as soon as possible at a crime scene, not after a suspect has left the scene, Robinson said.
Police did not take gunshot residue samples from Phillips until after she had been taken to the police station in a police car. Authorities did that, police testified last week, because it had been raining the night of Roberts killing.
Once Frederick rested the defense case, Cole dismissed court for the rest of the day to attend a memorial service for his father, who died earlier this week, his office confirmed. A female juror also was excused due to a medical emergency involving a child. An alternate will take her place.
Prosecutors rested their case on Tuesday after calling more than 20 witnesses. Frederick called six, including his wife, paralegal and accountant, Joi Frederick.
After court, David Roberts, the oldest of Melvin Roberts two sons, said hes looking forward to a verdict.
Im just wanting to hear one word, he said. Guilty.
Im glad that weve gotten the testimony behind us, said his brother, Ronnie Roberts. I wanted to learn everything I could about my fathers murder. I look forward to the conclusion of the trial.
So does Frederick.
I feel good about it, he said.
Phillips, who has spent the last eight days at the York County Detention Center, is doing really good, he said.
On Wednesday, she reiterated that she does not plan to testify. Prosecutors and Frederick will give closing arguments when court resumes at 9:30 a.m. Thursday.
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