CEDAR RAPIDS — Before he was sentenced at the Linn County Courthouse to life without the possibility of parole plus 50 years Friday, Ezekiel Phillips asked 6th Judicial District Judge Jason Besler to grant his request for a new trial.
Phillips’ attorney, Tyler Johnston, told the judge that he “believes in no way, shape or form did Ezekiel Phillips get a fair trial.”
“You are about to sentence Ezekiel Phillips to life in prison,” Johnston told the judge, adding that in his 30 years as a lawyer he had never participated in a trial that was conducted the way this one was.
Johnston laid out a litany of reasons, including that evidence still was being filed during the trial — denying the defense a chance to review and analyze it themselves — and what Johnston called a volatile and prejudicial closing argument made by Assistant Linn County Attorney Rena Schulte.
When it was her turn to speak, Schulte told the court she would not “give credence” to Johnston’s argument. She asked the judge to deny Phillips’ request.
Phillips, 31, was convicted Dec. 17, 2019, of first-degree murder in the death Tyrice Douglas, 27, and the attempted murder of former girlfriend Mone Dotson. Additionally, Philips was found guilty of going armed with intent and willful injury causing serious injury.
A jury deliberated for nearly two days, following a more than four-day trial, before reaching a verdict.
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During the trial, defense attorneys maintained Phillips was innocent. They said the case did not have adequate physical evidence to link Phillips to the shooting and emphasized that witness testimony is not proof of guilt.
Phillips did not testify, and the defense didn’t call any witnesses.
Dotson, 19, testified that Phillips entered her apartment at 1623 Park Towne Ct. NE on Dec. 19, 2018, and fired multiple shots at her and Douglas, her boyfriend, while they were in bed. Dotson said Phillips fired four times at her before turning the gun on Douglas and shooting him multiple times.
Douglas, 27, survived the shooting, but he developed an infection and died about four months later on May 6.
Friday’s sentencing was wrought with emotion as Douglas’ family and friends — along with Dotson — packed half the courtroom gallery.
Terriana Harris, Douglas’ sister, told the court that she had lost family and friends to illness, but never one “to rage and jealousy.”
“In losing Tyrice, we lost a father, an uncle, a cousin, a brother, and his brothers lost their best friend,” Harris told the court. “Family pictures, holidays will never be the same. His daughter’s prom, her wedding, he’s going to miss all of those.”
Harris sobbed openly as she spoke, her cries reverberating across the courtroom.
Losing her brother has brought “indescribable pain,” she said — a wound that will never heal.
“My life will never be the same,” Mone Dotson wrote in a victim impact statement that was read by a Horizons victim advocate.
Dotson was shot several times, and her recovery has been long and slow.
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“It’s been a year ...,” she said in her statement, “and that year has been nothing but hell. No one understands what I’m going through.
“I almost died,” she added, “and he took the life of someone who was loved. He had no reason to do what he did.”
Dotson described suffering from constant fear, post-traumatic stress disorder and depression in the year since the shooting. She said she also has endured judgment from other people, hateful text messages and phone calls, and intimidation stemming from her cooperation with the police and prosecution.
“I never thought I’d ever be dealing with something like this at my age,” she said. “And I forgive him because that’s what God wants me to do, but I will never forget what he did.”
Phillips declined to speak when it was his turn to address the court.
Calling the defendant’s actions “violent, unnecessary and thoughtless,” Besler sentenced Phillips to life without the possibility of parole on the murder charge and 50 years for the attempted murder charge. The terms are to be run consecutive for a total of life plus 50 years.
Additionally, Phillips received 10 years for the willful injury causing serious injury charge and five years for going armed with intent. Those terms are to run concurrently to the other sentences.
“I hope you will take to heart all of what was said today,” the judge told Phillips. “These acts of violence don’t just affect the victims, they affect everybody and it affects them permanently. What was done was violent and unnecessary, and it imposed a significant loss on numerous people. So, I hope you’ll take time to reflect on what was done and what was said and maybe you can become a cautionary tale for others.”
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