Case sparks bond controversy

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 3, 2003

Eric Leon Phillips is out on bond for felony charges, and some people are wondering why.

Phillips, 27, of Selma, is wanted by both Selma and Mobile authorities for felony warrants stemming from charges of burglary, attempted burglary, attempted murder and sexual assault.

Mobile Chief of Police Samuel Cochran said that both the criminal justice system and the state Legislature are to blame for Phillips being out on bond at the time of the crimes. He added that Alabama is in dire need of bail reform.

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Cochran said that the Supreme Court created a list of guidelines for bails, and added that bail amounts generally fall within the suggestions.

Cochran also said that the current system is antiquated, and added that change won’t happen until members of the criminal justice system and the general public raise the hue and cry for bail reform.

Dallas County District Attorney Ed Greene said that prosecuting and defense attorneys look at bonds in different ways.

The defense, Greene said, can argue that because of the defendant’s financial history a high bond is more akin to having been denied bond, since it can’t be paid.

The state, Greene added, can argue that a prior criminal history, the impact on the community and the severity of the crime should require a bond that’s higher than what the guidelines suggest.

Greene said that holding people prior to being convicted of a crime is punishing them for that crime, and in effect convicts them before they’ve been tried.

However, Green added, both the public and the victim are entitled to relief from repeated criminal acts.

Greene said that Phillips was arrested on May 18, 2002, and charged with rape first degree and burglary first degree. The alleged victim said that she was raped; Phillips, however, said it was consensual.

Bond was set at $10,000 for rape first degree and $10,000 for burglary first degree, Greene said.

On May 23, 2002, Phillips was arrested for an attempted burglary and bond was set at $2,500.

Greene added that his office may ask the courts to raise or even deny Phillips’ bond depending on the cases in Mobile. That decision, he said, could occur as early as Friday morning.

According to Cochran, Phillips allegedly broke into a Mobile home and sexually assaulted both a 9-year-old girl and her mother.

Cochran added that the police department was currently pursuing leads as to Phillips’ whereabouts, but currently didn’t have anything solid.

Greene said that the rape case would probably go to the grand jury in February regardless of whether or not Phillips was in custody.