Defense for convicted woman files appeal

Published 11:48 pm Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Vanessa Gill’s attorney has filed legal documents asking the judge to reduce his client’s verdict, overturn the verdict or grant a new trial.

Julian McPhillips filed the documents at the Dallas County Courthouse on Tuesday. A Dallas County jury handed down a guilty verdict after Gill’s capital murder trial. She was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

“We intend to stir it up big time,” McPhillips said in a telephone interview shortly after filing the documents. “It was a grave miscarriage of justice.”

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District Attorney Michael Jackson said he was not surprised at the filing. “It’s automatic in capital cases,” he said.

Gill was convicted of hiring her nephew, Curtis Cook, to kill her husband, Marshall Gill. Cook bludgeoned Marshall Gill to death with an aluminum baseball bat. Prosecutors said Vanessa Gill complained her husband cheated on her and controlled all the family finances.

The defense had claimed Vanessa Gill did not play a part in her husband’s death. The defense’s position was Marshall Gill was murdered because of a bad drug deal.

In his filings, McPhillips said the evidence at the trial did not rise to the level of capital murder. The defense attorney argued his client did not intend for Cook to kill her husband.

“Even Curtis Cook, the co-defendant, stated that it was only the intent of Vanessa Gill to assault the victim or beat him, but not to kill him,” the document states.

At one point during deliberations, the jury asked Circuit Judge Jack Meigs to distinguish between murder and capital murder. Because of that confusion, the defense asked the judge to consider overturning the verdict or , at the least, to reduce the verdict to a plain murder conviction.

McPhillips also attached two affidavits of two witnesses in the case who saw a supporter of the prosecution’s talking with jurors in the case. The supporter was the girlfriend of a half-brother of Marshall’s, according to the defense. McPhillips said the contact tainted the jury’s verdict.

Additionally, said McPhillips, the judge allowed the prosecution to flash photographs of the victim in front of the jury during closing arguments, which caused the jury to make an emotional decision about the case.