Public Safety

Judge resets murder trial for Cedar Rapids man accused of shooting man in vehicle

CEDAR RAPIDS — A judge Friday reset the first-degree murder trial of a Cedar Rapids man accused of shooting Leland Harris from the back seat of a car in 2017.

Lawyers for James Stephan Phillips, 19, told 6th Judicial District Judge Mary Chicchelly more time was needed for discovery and preparation. She reset the trial to March 23 in Linn County District Court.

Phillips was charged in April with first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit a forcible felony, first-degree theft and going armed with intent. He is accused of fatally shooting Harris, 34, of Cedar Rapids, on Nov. 21, 2017.

A criminal complaint charges the shooting happened in a vehicle when Phillips shot Harris from the back seat. The complaint doesn’t specify if Harris was in the front seat or in the back seat with Phillips.

The first shot killed Harris, but Phillips fired two more shots, striking Harris, after pushing him out of the vehicle, according to the complaint.

Phillips also is accused of conspiring or agreeing with others to commit the crime of intimidation with a dangerous weapon and/or aid another in the planning of a crime.

Police say Phillips, after killing Harris, took his cellphone, wallet and cash.

Witnesses told police Phillips was the shooter and the only person in the vehicle with a gun, according to the criminal complaint.


Harris was found at 7:27 a.m. Nov. 22, 2017, in an alley in the 500 block of 10th Street SW, according to police. The state medical examiner determined Harris died from gunshot wounds. Police said Harris likely died late Nov. 21.

Phillips remains in jail under a $1 million bail pending trial

Phillips was convicted in June in a separate case of third-degree sexual abuse and faces 10 years in prison.

At the time of arrest in the Harris fatal shooting, he had been serving a short jail sentence for an assault conviction in February, according to court documents.

If Phillips is convicted of first-degree murder, he faces life in prison without parole.

l Comments: (319) 398-8318;

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.