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Joshua Phillips Case Study: A Life Behind Bars - Child Convicted For Life Without Parole

Updated on December 2, 2017
Mug Shot Joshua Phillips in 2010
Mug Shot Joshua Phillips in 2010

Life Without Parole For Children: Justice or Cruelty?

On the fateful day of November 3rd, 1998, two worlds would collide, and forever be changed. A young girl would stand in the face of unimaginable evil, never to return, while a young boy would stand on the precipice of the abyss, never to walk outside of a prison yard again. A vibrant 8 year old Maddie Clifton would be brutally murdered by a once friendly 14 year old Joshua Phillips, and two families (along with an entire community), would now be in a perpetual state of shock and suspended disbelief; until his trial would begin in July of that year. After a week of tirelessly searching for the missing girl they would now have to switch their focus to her murderer's trial, who also happened to be a child. It was unfathomable that the very boy participating in her search (flashlight in hand), could have been her aggressor, and yet that is exactly what transpired.

That hot sunny day in Jacksonville Florida, would prove to set the stage for a perfect storm brewing in the heart and mind of a boy, who was seemingly normal; yet only seven days later would confess to having accidentally killed his little neighborhood friend, and hidden her lifeless body underneath his bed. Josh told police that while playing he accidentally hit Maddie with a baseball, and in a panic (because he was terrified of his father); then proceeded to hit Maddie with a baseball bat and stab her to stop her screaming. He would later be charged, tried, convicted, sentenced and incarcerated as an adult without the possibility of parole, for 1st degree premeditated murder.

The very definition of premeditated murder equates to the prior planning of the taking of the life of another human being, this however is not what Josh did; no one (not even Josh), could know what was going to happen that day, thus proving premeditation was not present. Josh, who had no history of violence, should have been charged with 2nd degree murder at most; what happened that woeful day was nothing short of a horrifying tragedy that occurred between two children. Sadly, by repeatedly bludgeoning, and finally stabbing to death the charismatic fun-loving little girl who just wanted to play with him, he would now be locked in prison for the rest of his natural born life.

By all accounts Joshua has been described by neighbors as a “nice” boy, a bright and friendly child who was good in school and popular with other children; which is most likely why Maddie would have gravitated towards him. She could have looked up to Josh as a big brother figure, which could explain why she felt safe to be alone with him; after all, they had played together outside many times before and nothing bad ever happened, why would that day it be any different?

Sadly, that dreadful day proved to be the end of a nightmare for one family, the disappearance and frantic search for their missing little girl who was now found dead, and the beginning of a darker and more sinister nightmare for another, their son was her murderer. For most people, the thought of a child killer sounds not only disturbing but impossible, and yet children commit these types of heinous and inexplicable crimes every day. The question one must ask is not why they do it, but how could they? How did Josh disconnect from reality so completely, that in one moment of madness he went from being a playful boy to a savage killer?

From A Little Boy Playing On Monkey-bars To A Boy Behind Bars

Josh at 3 years old loved going to the park.
Josh at 3 years old loved going to the park.

Frontal Lobes Extremely Vulnerable To Injury Due To Their Location At The Front Of The Cranium

Josh was described by his mother as having, “An uncanny ability, even at a very young age, to know he was to play differently with little girls than he did with little boys. With little girls, he instinctively knew somehow that he was to be gentler in his play. When he played with little boys, it was rough and tumble play. I never knew how he grasped this concept from so early an age. And, he acted differently with adults, as well; relating on a more mature level with them than with the children.” So how does a once happy, intelligent and gentle little boy one day murder without what appears to be remorse, discernment or even cognizance of his actions? Something happened to Josh along his path to adolescence, whether it was as innocuous as a fall on the playground or as violent as being struck in the head by something, his brain no longer functioned the same way at 14 than it did at 3.

A neurologist hired by the Phillips' family attorney to study Josh's brain, diagnosed him with "bilateral frontal lobe lesions", the frontal lobe of the brain is considered our emotional epicenter and determines the constructs of our personality. It has been documented that lesions on this part of the brain have been proven to impair motor function, problem solving, spontaneity, memory, language, initiation, impulse control, judgement, and social and sexual behavior. The judge in Josh's case Charles Arnold (who is not a neurologist), however, did not allow this vitally relevant evidence to be presented and deemed it inadmissible in his court.

Even a non-expert in brain anatomy and neuroscience can clearly recognize that Josh's behavior aligns extremely well with the results of frontal lobe damage described below. He was diagnosed by an expert as having this condition, so why then were the neurologist's findings omitted by the judge? There appears to have been a grievous miscarriage of justice here, it was not an insanity plea, it was a physical explanation for why Josh had a mental break and did what he did, because his mind was already broken.

The Frontal Lobe Is The Epicenter Of Our Emotions.

http://www.neuroskills.com/brain-injury/frontal-lobes.php
http://www.neuroskills.com/brain-injury/frontal-lobes.php

Bilateral Frontal Lobe Lesions Influence Behavior, Not IQ

A quick layman's search online detailing the serious adverse effects of brain lesions on the frontal lobe explains quite succinctly what happened to Josh, when the crippling fear and panic of the accident took over, his having disobeyed his father's orders rendered him powerless to fight his impulse to escape punishment. His abnormal brain chemistry with its defective functionality (due to the lesions), relayed the message back to him that he had to do whatever it took to avoid discovery, even if that meant killing.

In all likelihood Josh couldn't possibly conceive the implications, ramifications or consequences of his actions at the time because of his diminished cognitive capacity; this by all means does not excuse his behavior and give us the 'why' of what he did, but rather explains the 'how' he came to this macabre conclusion. It has been documented by numerous studies that the human brain is still physically developing and maturing from the age of 4 until the age of 21, therefore the fact that he was only 14 with undiagnosed brain lesions (at the time), reveals how his mind was working, it simply wasn't.

<Quote> "An interesting phenomenon of frontal lobe damage is the insignificant effect it can have on traditional IQ testing. Researchers believe that this may have to do with IQ tests typically assessing convergent rather than divergent thinking. Frontal lobe damage seems to have an impact on divergent thinking, or flexibility and problem solving ability. There is also evidence showing lingering interference with attention and memory even after good recovery from a TBI (Stuss et al., 1985).

Another area often associated with frontal damage is that of "behavioral sponteneity (sic)." Kolb & Milner (1981) found that individual with frontal damage displayed fewer spontaneous facial movements, spoke fewer words (left frontal lesions) or excessively (right frontal lesions). One of the most common characteristics of frontal lobe damage is difficulty in interpreting feedback from the environment. Perseverating on a response (Milner, 1964), risk taking, and non-compliance with rules (Miller, 1985), and impaired associated learning (using external cues to help guide behavior) (Drewe, 1975) are a few examples of this type of deficit.

One of the most common effects of frontal damage can be a dramatic change in social behavior. A person's personality can undergo significant changes after an injury to the frontal lobes, especially when both lobes are involved. There are some differences in the left versus right frontal lobes in this area. Left frontal damage usually manifests as pseudodepression and right frontal damage as pseudopsychopathic (Blumer and Benson, 1975).

Sexual behavior can also be affected by frontal lesions. Orbital frontal damage can introduce abnormal sexual behavior, while dorolateral lesions may reduce sexual interest (Walker and Blummer, 1975)." <End-quote>

From An Animal Lover To A Child Killer?

One of the last pictures taken of Josh before his arrest in November of 1998
One of the last pictures taken of Josh before his arrest in November of 1998

Environmental Influences Severely Aggravate Brain Injuries

Josh was reported as treating animals with such tenderness and love (they had a family dog and birds), so much that his mother stated he wouldn’t even go fishing with his father because he didn’t want to hurt the worms. So how then could he treat another human being with such callous disregard? Children don’t just kill other children without reason, do they? No, they do not. It was reported that Josh had been watching violent internet pornography only moments before his attack on Maddie took place; no one in their right mind would exclude this as a trigger because that's exactly what it was to his already deficient mind.

We can't honestly act surprised by this actually, today's youth have access to and are bombarded by abhorrent sadistic internet pornography, desensitizing violent video-games, over-sexualized trance-like music, dehumanizing and fraudulent trickery in movies, and humiliating degrading magazines that teach them to be fractured from not only a civilized society, but also from themselves and reality. If you see someone die on t.v. they're not really dead, so how do we expect children to understand the truth and convince them that what they see on t.v. and in the movies isn't 'really' reality, especially since they've been brainwashed to believe it is?

We may ask ourselves why our kids grow up to become killers, rapists and hard-core criminals and to some extent we may never know, but the truth is that we permit their day-to-day exposure to the depravity, immorality and malevolent influences of this wicked world. We may fool ourselves into believing that perhaps we can just view them as random evil degenerate environmental causes that can be 'brushed off' later in life, but we forget how extremely vulnerable developing minds are to such deplorable imagery, and social-programming. It seriously harms them and with diminished capacity such as Josh's, they are easy prey to predators.

The formative years of childhood into adolescence are vital markers for our behavior later in life, children are to be protected and nurtured because what they learn when they're young is crucial to a cohesive development as adults. How we see and interpret our world is what makes us the adult we will become, and with all the nefarious outside stimuli that kids view, listen to and face, equates them to being sent out into a cruel world as sheep to the slaughter.

If Child Killer Curtis Fairchild Jones Got Paroled in 2015 After Serving 18 years, Why Not Joshua Phillips?

MELBOURNE, Fla. — Curtis Fairchild Jones walked into prison a 12-year-old boy. On Tuesday morning, he walked out a 29-year-old man.
MELBOURNE, Fla. — Curtis Fairchild Jones walked into prison a 12-year-old boy. On Tuesday morning, he walked out a 29-year-old man.

Curtis Jones, who was sentenced to 18 years in prison for carrying out a murder with his 13-year-old sister in 1999, has been released from Florida prison

If Curtis Jones can be rehabilitated, why can't Joshua Phillips?

<Quote> "Prison officials confirmed that Jones was released from South Bay Correctional Facility, just south of Lake Okeechobee, shortly after 7 a.m. (on July 31, 2015) Jones has refused all interview requests from Florida Today and his attorney said there will be no statement made to the media.

He leaves prison a convicted murderer, a victim of childhood sexual abuse, a brother to a sister scheduled to be released from prison Saturday, and an ordained minister. Time will tell if he has had a chance to work through the demons that terrorized his childhood and drove him to take a life." <End Quote>[http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2015/07/28/young-killer-released-prison/30777929/]

If Adults Who Commit Crimes Against Children Get The Opportunity Of Parole, Why Should Joshua Phillips Serve Life Without The Possibility Of Parole?

Joshua Phillips, 15, enters the courtroom April 22, 1999 for a hearing at which Circuit Judge Charles Arnold ordered the murder trial be moved to Bartow because of publicity.
Joshua Phillips, 15, enters the courtroom April 22, 1999 for a hearing at which Circuit Judge Charles Arnold ordered the murder trial be moved to Bartow because of publicity.

Are Repentance, Rehabilitation, Redemption, Reformation and Reconciliation Possible For Child Killers?


The ills and sins of previous generations are not the same as what our children face today, they are much much worse; when Josh murdered Maddie in 1998 adolescent-mental illness and physiological mental disorders were not even terms we knew of or heard about, yet today they're prominently figured and are at the forefront of all major psychiatric studies. Our rush to technological 'god-hood' negatively impacts human behavior in such a way that we're beginning to see a dangerous pattern emerging among our youth; a frightening trend that makes our future look empty and devoid of humanity itself. Our youth are being exploited by a power so evil and all-encompassing that it's taking on an entity of its own, it's making them children who kill.

As former Florida Sen. Steven Geller said, "Charles Manson gets the opportunity of parole. Why should this 14-year-old at the time of the act … why should they not have the opportunity for parole? I believe in redemption. I believe that there needs to be a second chance, we have to start recognizing that children are not just short adults. What happens if an 8-year-old shoots somebody? Do you put them in prison for the rest of their life? Under current Florida law, you can. I’m sorry. I think that’s wrong."

As for Joshua, he will have to live with what he did for the rest of his life, but should two lives be destroyed knowing that nothing can bring back the one yet something can be done to rehabilitate the other? Can a child killer be reformed and become a productive member of society? I believe so, with the proper rehabilitation program and if needed the proper medication, a second chance at life for children who murder is what a forgiving, reconciliatory and restorative human society does. Locking children up behind bars for the rest of their lives because of something they did as children just cannot be the only answer, if adults who commit murder are eligible for parole and deemed rehabilitated, then there must be another way for children.

In closing, this is not an article about choosing sides, Maddie's or Joshua's, it's about doing the right thing even after the wrong thing has been done; my heart truly goes out to her family which is why I chose to use Josh as a case study. Maddie's mother Sheila Clifton has had a change of heart over the years and has stated that, " I don’t hate him. I hate what he did, being put away in prison for life, I can’t imagine. I don’t think any child should have to suffer that."


[All photos located on http://murderpedia.org/male.P/p/phillips-joshua.htm]

Update: Tuesday, May 3, 2016

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http://www.news4jax.com/news/killers-brain-development-at-issue-in-re-sentencing

February 25, 2016- JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Maddie Clifton's killer will be re-sentenced and his brain development will be reviewed by an expert, a judge decided Thursday.

Joshua Phillips, now 31, was convicted in the 1998 murder of 8-year-old Maddie and was sentenced to life in prison without parole. At the time of the murder, Phillips was 14.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that automatic life-without-parole sentences for juveniles are unconstitutional. The Supreme Court said in 2015 that the law is retroactive, which is why Phillips' lawyer asked the court for a new sentencing hearing.

Judge Waddell Wallace granted the motion on Thursday.

“We have a duty to re-sentence the man and give him a proper opportunity,” Wallace said in court.

Phillips' attorney, Tom Fallis, filed two motions with the court: one for the new sentencing hearing and another to have the court cover the costs of calling new experts to determine the proper sentence.

The second motion was also granted.

Maddie Clifton

Fallis said some of the medical expertise from Phillips' original trial is no longer relevant because of current research into juvenile psychology.

"We're going to need a lot of experts," Fallis said. "This is going to be a very long hearing when it's set, and there will be evidence from what's happened in the last 20 years, what's happened in prison. I suspect there may be experts on prison life and how it affected a 14-year-old who's now 30-some-odd years old, and so the court needs to be educated. And the way you do that is through experts."

Fallis said new scientific research on the development of children's brains could reveal a lot in Phillips' case.

"We have to determine what was going through that young child's mind at the time,” Fallis said. “Did he have the ability or the requisite intent to commit the crime he was accused of? Children are different, and finally it's been recognized.”

The state argued that calling new specialists and expert could be “absurd” and costly, but Wallace agreed to hiring a new expert and said the findings will be essential to the case because of Phillips' brain development.

Wallace set a status hearing for Phillips' resentencing for June 14, when the defense will discuss any new discovery materials and will provide a list of experts it plans to call and why.

Police said Phillips, Maddie's neighbor, stabbed her and clubbed her to death in his San Jose area home. He hid her body under the waterbed in his room.

Phillips' mother discovered the body a week later, after a massive search for the missing girl. Phillips was convicted a year later.

Maddie's family members said they didn't want to comment on the court proceedings Thursday, but they are aware of what happened.

Fallis said he believes that his client can be rehabilitated.

“I believe the court will, too, once they see what he's accomplished in the last almost 20 years in prison,” Fallis said. “He's come a long way, and that's going to be evidence. … The court is going to be asked to make a prediction."

*****This update on Josh Phillips' re-sentencing is exactly what I wanted to read today, and to hear that children will cease to be thought of as small adults brings me great solace, it's bitter-sweet however, but it's a start; how children interpret life and what they do with that perception must be understood more fully by the adults who surround and raise them. A truly great society of peoples strives to protect the least among them; the most vulnerable among them are never abused physically or emotionally, but are rather nurtured and taught love, knowledge and discernment, not degradation, violence and hatred.

The physical injury Josh sustained however has a more tangible effect, it was proven that Josh had been diagnosed with frontal lobe brain lesions, yet the judge chose to completely ignore this crucial evidence. Sad, but the advancements in brain science and brain injuries will reveal the truth, proof positive that justice will begin to be served when neurologists' testimonies not only become admissible in court and entered in as evidence, but also become precedent setting cases involving brain research. The moment we see Josh's accomplishments these last 20 years, I believe we will understand that not all those who are lost at one time in their life remain that way forever.

This is a victory not for Joshua but rather a heart's cry for all children who go untreated from traumatic brain injuries, diseases and lesions, who then go on to commit acts of violence and are misdiagnosed as psychopaths; it's time to start evaluating our society based on how our children deal with the environment we provide for them. If we continue doing things as we always have, it only means that we'll lose more children to this ever increasing societal tragedy. I don't believe we have time left to keep ignoring the signs; children are suffering so profoundly that they're harming other children because of it, and we're locking them up and throwing away the key? There must be another way, we must find it... for those precious children we lose who would be their victims, and for the juvenile aggressors themselves.*****

Josh Phillips-New Brain Development Issue in Re-sentencing

Joshua Phillips speaks during an interview at the Hardee Correctional Institution in Bowling Green, Fla., October 10, 2008.

Source

Case of 14-year-old convicted in 1998 murder will get new sentencing hearing later this year

A Jacksonville man convicted in 1999 for a murder that occurred when he was 14 years old will be getting a new sentencing hearing later this year.

Joshua Phillips, who is now 32, killed 8-year-old neighbor Maddie Clifton in 1998 when he was 14 and hid her under a bed in his home. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

But the U.S. Supreme Court has since ruled that it is cruel and unusual punishment for a juvenile to get a mandatory sentence of life without parole, and also said in a separate ruling that the decision is retroactive to people who are already in prison for life.

The rulings do not prohibit a juvenile from being sentenced to life in prison but says the state cannot have it be without a chance at parole. A recently passed Florida law mandates that juveniles convicted of first-degree murder get a minimum of 40 years in prison with a judge reviewing the case after 25 years.

Assistant State Attorney Bernie de la Rionda said his office would seek to put Phillips back in prison for life, saying the severity of his crime meant Phillips should never get out of prison.

Phillips had a status hearing Tuesday in front of Circuit Judge Waddell Wallace but nothing was decided. Wallace set a hearing for the week of Sept. 7 and said he wanted to set a date for Phillips’ sentencing hearing at that time.

Phillips was not there in person Tuesday and according to prison records is now locked up at the Cross City Correctional Institution.

Attorneys for Phillips are also seeking to throw out his conviction, arguing that his original trial lawyer, the late Richard Nichols, did an incompetent job defending him. It’s unclear whether the motion for a new trial will occur at the same time as the sentencing hearing.

14 year old Joshua Phillips and his then lawyer Richard Nichols

Defense attorney Richard Nichols (L) and now convicted murderer Joshua Phillips (R), sit at the defense table during jury selection July 6, 1999 in Phillips' trial for the murder of Maddie Clifton
Defense attorney Richard Nichols (L) and now convicted murderer Joshua Phillips (R), sit at the defense table during jury selection July 6, 1999 in Phillips' trial for the murder of Maddie Clifton | Source

UPDATE: Case of 14-year-old convicted in 1998 murder will get new sentencing hearing later this year.

By Larry Hannan Tue, Jun 14, 2016 Joshua Phillips Update June 14, 2016

*************************************************************************

Joshua Phillips, who is now 32, killed 8-year-old neighbor Maddie Clifton in 1998 when he was 14 and hid her under a bed in his home. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

But the U.S. Supreme Court has since ruled that it is cruel and unusual punishment for a juvenile to get a mandatory sentence of life without parole, and also said in a separate ruling that the decision is retroactive to people who are already in prison for life.

The rulings do not prohibit a juvenile from being sentenced to life in prison but says the state cannot have it be without a chance at parole. A recently passed Florida law mandates that juveniles convicted of first-degree murder get a minimum of 40 years in prison with a judge reviewing the case after 25 years.

Assistant State Attorney Bernie de la Rionda said his office would seek to put Phillips back in prison for life, saying the severity of his crime meant Phillips should never get out of prison.

Phillips had a status hearing Tuesday in front of Circuit Judge Waddell Wallace but nothing was decided. Wallace set a hearing for the week of Sept. 7 and said he wanted to set a date for Phillips’ sentencing hearing at that time.

Phillips was not there in person Tuesday and according to prison records is now locked up at the Cross City Correctional Institution.

Attorneys for Phillips are also seeking to throw out his conviction, arguing that his original trial lawyer, the late Richard Nichols, did an incompetent job defending him. It’s unclear whether the motion for a new trial will occur at the same time as the sentencing hearing.

JOSHUA PHILLIPS RE-SENTENCING FEBRUARY 27, 2017

Joshua Earl Patrick Phillips was 14 when he killed 8-year-old neighbor Maddie Clifton in 1998 and hid her under a bed in his home.
Joshua Earl Patrick Phillips was 14 when he killed 8-year-old neighbor Maddie Clifton in 1998 and hid her under a bed in his home. | Source

UPDATE: SEPTEMBER 22, 2016

Maddie Clifton's killer to be resentenced in February

Joshua Phillips was 14 when he killed 8-year-old Maddie in 1998

By News4Jax.com Staff Wed, Sept 7, 2016

www.news4jax.com/news/maddie-cliftons-killer-to-be-resentenced-in-february

*************************************************************************

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Maddie Clifton's killer will be resentenced in February after the U.S. Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional for a juvenile to be sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Joshua Phillips, now 32, was convicted in the 1998 murder of 8-year-old Maddie and was sentenced to life without parole when he was 15. At the time of the murder, Phillips was 14.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that automatic life-without-parole sentences for juveniles are unconstitutional, and the Supreme Court said in 2015 that the law is retroactive, which is why Phillips' lawyer asked the court for a new sentencing hearing.

That hearing will be Feb. 27.

Maddie Clifton

Assistant State Attorney Bernie de la Rionda said he will ask the judge to re-impose a life sentence with parole review. That parole review could happen as soon as 25 years after Phillips is resentenced.

Police said Phillips, Maddie's neighbor, stabbed her and clubbed her to death in his San Jose area home. He hid her body under the waterbed in his room.

Phillips' mother discovered the body a week later, after a massive search for the missing girl. Phillips was convicted a year later.

Joshua Phillips Resentencing Delayed until June 14, 2017

Joshua Phillips in 2008
Joshua Phillips in 2008 | Source

*****UPDATE on Joshua Phillips'***** Resentencing of inmate convicted of murder at 14 delayed

Joshua Phillips killed 8-year-old neighbor, Maddie Clifton, in 1998

By Heather Leigh - Reporter Posted: 6:42 PM, January 18, 2017 Updated: 8:57 PM, January 18, 2017 news4jax.com

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The resentencing of Maddie Clifton's killer that was scheduled for next month has been canceled.

Joshua Phillips, now 32, was convicted in the 1998 murder of his 8-year-old neighbor and was sentenced to life in prison without parole. At the time of the murder, Phillips was 14.

More News Headlines

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that automatic life-without-parole sentences for juveniles are unconstitutional. The Supreme Court said in 2015 that the law is retroactive, which is why Phillips' lawyer, Tom Fallis, asked the court for a new sentencing hearing.

At a pretrial hearing Wednesday, Fallis asked for more time to prepare. A new trial date was not scheduled. The next status hearing in the case is March 15.

At a hearing last year, Fallis said some of the medical expertise from Phillips' original trial is no longer relevant because of current research into juvenile psychology.

"We're going to need a lot of experts," Fallis said. "This is going to be a very long hearing when it's set, and there will be evidence from what's happened in the last 20 years, what's happened in prison. I suspect there may be experts on prison life and how it affected a 14-year-old who's now 30-some-odd years old, and so the court needs to be educated. And the way you do that is through experts."

Fallis said new scientific research on the development of children's brains could reveal a lot in Phillips' case.

"We have to determine what was going through that young child's mind at the time,” Fallis said. “Did he have the ability or the requisite intent to commit the crime he was accused of? Children are different, and finally it's been recognized.”

The state argued that calling new specialists and expert could be “absurd” and costly, but Wallace agreed to hiring a new expert and said the findings will be essential to the case because of Phillips' brain development.

Wallace set a status hearing for Phillips' resentencing for June 14, when the defense will discuss any new discovery materials and will provide a list of experts it plans to call and why.

Police said Phillips, Maddie's neighbor, stabbed her and clubbed her to death in his San Jose area home. He hid her body under the waterbed in his room.

Phillips' mother discovered the body a week later, after a massive search for the missing girl. Phillips was convicted a year later.

Maddie's family members said they didn't want to comment on the court proceedings Thursday, but they are aware of what happened.

Fallis said he believes that his client can be rehabilitated.

“I believe the court will, too, once they see what he's accomplished in the last almost 20 years in prison,” Fallis said. “He's come a long way, and that's going to be evidence. … The court is going to be asked to make a prediction."

Copyright 2016 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.

***UPDATE ON JOSH PHILLIPS' RESENTENCING***AUGUST 5, 2017: Joshua Phillips, Returns for a Possible New Sentence.

Joshua Phillips cries as he apologizes for horror of Maddie Clifton's death
Joshua Phillips cries as he apologizes for horror of Maddie Clifton's death | Source

Joshua Phillips cries as he apologizes for ‘horror’ of Maddie Clifton’s death

Joshua Phillips went into prison as a child. So it was inside buildings surrounded by barbed wire that Phillips became a man, raised by guards who bark orders until their shifts are over and another crew clocks in.

Phillips began that life in 1999 at the age of 15. Day in and day out for the rest of his life he would be locked up with other criminals after being convicted of first-degree murder for the death of Maddie Clifton, his 8-year-old neighbor.

“I do understand pain. I have become quite intimate with suffering. Growing up in prison, I’ve seen many dark things and I’ve been [in] some dark places,” the killer began when he took to the witness stand at the Duval County Courthouse on Wednesday during his resentencing hearing.

Through tears, Phillips told the family and loved ones of Maddie how not a day goes by that he isn’t reminded of the horror he put them through and the unbearable loss he caused.

“Many times throughout this journey, I’ve come directly close to ending my life just to escape it all. During these times I was embroiled in a flurry of emotions and feelings: guilt, despair, pain, hopelessness, fear and shame. Each time I was somehow able to continue on mostly because I couldn’t stand for my mother to be put through any more trauma. She’s been through enough trauma.”

Phillips was 14 when he took a bat and repeatedly slammed it into Maddie’s skull. He then shoved the little girl — a girl who’d switch in an instant from leotards and a tutu to a girl in cut-off blue jeans digging for worms — under his water bed.

After hearing her moan, he dragged Maddie out and finished her off by stabbing her with a knife.

Aside from white socks, Maddie was naked from the waist down.

Before and after killing her, Phillips watched pornography.

Seven days later after Phillips’ mother had come home from canvassing an area with fliers for the missing 8-year-old, she made the gruesome discovery of Maddie entombed under her son’s bed.

Missy Dunfee, Phillips’ mother, sat almost motionless staring off into the distance as the details of the horror her son created played out in court Wednesday.

Phillips, now 33, is being given a chance to get out of prison. His case is one of 80 that are making their way back to the 4th Judicial Circuit after the U.S. Supreme Court said it was unlawful to automatically send youthful offenders away for life because science shows that the brain is not fully developed until a person is in their mid-20s.

Therefore, a undeveloped adolescent brain can make a person irrational and impulsive.

“I had no clue what life meant — what death meant — nor the depths of suffering that would follow one act, ” Phillips said as Maddie’s family and others broke into tears. “I had no inkling of how long suffering could last. I have lived long enough to understand what really suffering was.

“I did something horrible and I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry. Even now after all these years, it is just so unfathomable that all this could have occurred. It tears my mind to know that I stole such a precious life from you — from the world. I wish I could take away your pain.”

A nationally known psychologist and expert witness from Chicago, James Garbarino, testified that in his opinion Phillips truly is remorseful — a step in the rehabilitation process. He said Phillips at 14 suffered from the psycho-dynamics of his family. He had a father who was emotionally and verbally abusive and a mother who suffered depression. He described Phillips as a teen who was socially isolated and estranged.

“He didn’t feel connected to positive experiences as an average teenager,” Garbarino said. “He had feelings of hopelessness, despair, possibly suicide which is not surprising given the psychologically abusive treatment by his father.”

Phillips’ father has since died.

Garbarino met Phillips in February and issued a series of evaluations. In spite of hearing all the details of Maddie’s death and of Phillips’ deception, he said Wednesday he could say with confidence that Phillips has been rehabilitated and the crime — as monstrous as it was — is not an indicator to how he will behave in society if released from prison.

“He has moved beyond that period and that will not become part of his life again,” Garbarino said.

Assistant State Attorney Bernie de la Rionda asked Garbarino if he could guarantee that. The doctor whose dealt with 40 or so resentencing cases of juvenile killers said there are no guarantees.

“I feel pretty confident about him,” he said.

Phillips cried during much of the doctor’s testimony before taking the stand himself to address Maddie’s family members, who since Monday have filled three full rows of benches in the courtroom.

“I pray every day that you are able to live your life in spite of the injury I have caused you,” Phillips continued over the strains of dozens of people crying. “I’m supremely grateful to have an opportunity for physical freedom. If any joy arises in my heart, it’s immediately tempered by knowing that these proceedings bring all of it up again — face-to-face — the horror that occurred in 1998.

“When I walk the rec yard here in chains, I look to the skies through mesh wiring and I thank God repeatedly for giving me hope. But my next breath is always devoted to wishing peace and healing to you all.”

See also:
Priest testifies to Joshua Phillips' character, attitude in prison
Emotions run high during killer Joshua Phillips' re-sentencing hearing
Joshua Phillips, 14 when he killed 8-year-old Maddie Clifton, returns for a possible new sentence

Maddie’s mother and sister also gave tearful accounts on the stand, reliving a terrible time and still grieving every day.

The resentencing hearing is expected to wrap up Thursday. It’s unlikely Judge Waddell Wallace will make a decision on Phillips’ new sentence Thursday.

Phillips still faces the prospect of a lifetime behind bars.

State law — it’s being challenged — mandates that the minimum sentence Phillips can receive for first-degree murder is 40 years.

That means if given that, he’ll spend 21 more years in jail. However, the state law also mandates that juveniles sent away for life are also entitled to a review of their sentence at 25 years. So regardless if Wallace sentences Phillips to 40 years or life, in 2023, Phillips could be back in court for another hearing. A judge then could say he’s free to leave the life where he grew up — behind bars — and live in society.

Eileen Kelley: (904) 359-4104

Joshua Phillips cries as he apologizes for ‘horror’ of Maddie Clifton’s death - By Eileen Kelleyeileen.kelley@jacksonville.com

****UPDATE: JOSHUA PHILLIPS' RESENTENCING BEGINS AUGUST 5, 2017****

Posted August 10, 2017 02:51 pm | Updated August 10, 2017 07:56 pm By Eileen Kelley

19 years later, the narrative behind Maddie Clifton’s demise gets even worse Sister can’t bring herself to want Joshua Phillips freed.

She was just a child when the world she knew came to a grinding halt. The doting big sister raced through the neighborhood on her bike calling out Maddie’s name when the 8-year-old didn’t come home for supper at nightfall on Nov. 3, 1998.

Seven days later, a police officer who had camped out at her house while the search for Maddie Clifton was on, rose from the floor in Jessie Clifton’s bedroom where they were playing Monopoly and didn’t come back again. Maddie’s body was found.

Jessie, 11 at the time, raced out of the house and fell to her knees landing on the concrete and cried out.

Nineteen years later, she cried out again in a Duval County courtroom when she looked at Maddie’s killer, Joshua Phillips, someone who had been young too when the world he knew dissolved on the same day as well.

SEE ALSO

Joshua Phillips, 14 when he killed 8-year-old Maddie Clifton, returns for a possible new sentence Joshua Phillips cries as he apologizes for ‘horror’ of Maddie Clifton’s death

The day the 14-year-old killed Maddie, the Clifton family dynamic died. A marriage failed. The laughter silenced.

“I can tell you as a child — much like you were — when you took my best friend, I lost my childhood too. I lost Mom. I lost my dad. And I lost myself,” 30-year-old Jessie Clifton tearfully testified Thursday on the last day of Phillips’ re-sentencing hearing.

“Having to wake up every day in the circus around my house that was supposed to be Mom, Dad, Maddie going on vacations, going fishing, going skiing was spent for seven days waking up in fear and not knowing the unknown,” she said. “What that did to me as an 11-year-old is very hard to explain.

“I was alone and I tried so hard to be so strong because I knew if I fell apart, my parents would fall apart. So I tried so hard to keep a smile on their faces. After the funeral, I don’t really know if I can tell what happened until after I graduated from high school because I don’t remember. I don’t remember anything. I went through counseling — multiple counseling sessions.

“I sat in the dark not knowing what happened. I knew she was gone.”

It wasn’t until Jessie Clifton was 16 that she learned more about her sister’s death at the hands of their neighbor. With that knowledge came another round of counseling sessions.

Over the course of 19 years, there has been largely one narrative when telling little Maddie’s demise. The story, easily one of Northeast Florida’s most horrific and tragic murder cases, goes this way: A 14-year-old boy fearful of his father panics when his 8-year-old neighbor friend won’t stop crying after being accidentally struck by a baseball, so he takes her inside his house and kills her and shoves the body under his waterbed. A week later the boy’s mother finds Maddie entombed beneath her son’s bed.

That narrative was bad enough to send the young teen away to an adult prison for life. But that’s not the story that played out in court this week for Phillips’ resentencing hearing.

Instead, a packed courtroom full of attorneys, family members and friends of Maddie and Phillips heard about a boy who was in a sexually aroused state when he killed the little girl. They learned Maddie was clad only in a red T-shirt and white socks. They learned that Phillips’ watched violent pornography and possibly of underaged girls. And they learned that Phillips had books on devil worships and witchcraft. They learned that Phillips was obsessed with Jessie.

“Jessie Clifton: She’s afraid that if he gets out, he will come after her,” said Assistant State Attorney Bernie de la Rionda.

At the start of the re-sentencing hearing, de la Rionda portrayed Phillips as diabolical. He’s spent the better part of the week trying to hammer home the idea now that Phillips has a chance of getting out of prison.

Phillips’ case is one of some 800 in Florida coming back to the courts now that U.S. Supreme Court decisions have said it is unlawful to automatically sentence killers who were juveniles at the time of the murder to a life behind bars. Life is an option, but it must be left for the very worst cases.

Jessie Clifton, father Steven Clifton and mother Sheila DeLongis implored Judge Waddell Wallace to keep Phillips, now 33, in jail for the remainder of his life.

“When I needed someone to talk to, there was nobody because nobody understood,” Jessie Clifton testified. “Nobody understood me and there were theses days where I go to the cemetery and I’d sit down in the grass because I don’t have anyone to talk to and I just talk to her in the ground.

“There is no reason I believe — I just can’t bring myself to think that you should ever ever be able to walk outside of prison because she can’t,” she said. “It’s just not fair and you should have to pay the consequences for that.”

A date for the resentencing will be set sometime after Sept. 22 when de la Rionda and defense attorney Tom Fallis meet with the judge again.

“Should he ever be released from prison, I pray I will no longer be on this Earth,” DeLongis testified. “Because I know deep down inside he was after Jessie and I can’t bare to lose another daughter.”

Eileen Kelley: (904) 359-4104

****UPDATE ON JOSHUA PHILLIPS' AUGUST 8, 2017**** Priest testifies to Joshua Phillips’ character, attitude in prison

Posted August 8, 2017 01:37 pm | Updated August 8, 2017 06:23 pm By Eileen Kelley

Priest testifies to Joshua Phillips’ character, attitude in prison

Witness is former NYC prison warden

The man had just ventured back into the world behind bars as a volunteer in Florida’s correctional system when he heard about the boy who would soon join the adult inmates at Wakulla Correctional Institution. The retired warden from New York City was concerned.

It was 1999 and Robert Huguenin, who spent decades dealing with prisoners in New York, was exploring a calling for a prison ministry in Florida. At the same time, Joshua Phillips, a child, was starting his life-time sentence behind bars after being found guilty of killing Maddie Clifton, also a child. Maddie was 8 and Phillips 14 when he killed her with a baseball bat and knife and stuffed her beneath his bed. The young Jacksonville teen was tried as an adult and sent to adult prison.

“My correction experience says, that sucks, that’s bad, that this guy is going to be in trouble from the day he walks in the doors,” Huguenin, now an Anglican priest, testified Tuesday during a re-sentencing hearing for Phillips.

Tuesday was the second day of the hearing. Phillips’ guilt is not in question, it’s his sentence.

SEE ALSO

Joshua Phillips cries as he apologizes for ‘horror’ of Maddie Clifton’s death Emotions run high during killer Joshua Phillips’ re-sentencing hearing

When Phillips received a life term in 1999, there were no other options for someone found guilty of first-degree murder.

Rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court have changed all that. Juvenile offenders such as Phillips still can face a lifetime behind bars, but the sentence must be in the exception, not the norm such as they were in 1999 for juvenile killers.

Huguenin, who testified over the phone because he is in the late stages of emphysema, told Judge Waddell Wallace that Phillips attended religious services and helped influence his decision to further his calling when he decided to become an ordained priest.

In spite of Huguenin’s fears that Phillips was in for trouble because of his age and inexperience in the world, Phillips proved him wrong.

Slideshow: Scenes from the courtroom, Day 2

Phillips went on to earn a high school diploma in prison, become a certified law clerk and obtain a diploma of legal assistant/paralegal. He was persistent to get into programs generally left for those who expected to be released one day — not someone doing life, according to Laura Bedard, whose testimony — through what is called a deposition — was read into the records because she is out of the country. Bedard was once the deputy secretary of the Florida Department of Corrections.

In court Tuesday, defense attorney Tom Fallis introduced Phillips’ Department of Corrections disciplinary record for the last 19 years. There were three reports for such things as talking or sleeping during line-up — things that are minor. Another report was because Phillips used newspapers to block a window, also a minor infraction. The last time Phillips was written up was in 2005 when he was 21. He is now 33.

“It’s characteristic of what you would expect from a kid — an adolescent,” Huguenin said. “… It’s so hard not to get a DR [discipline report].”

Huguenin explained it this way: “An inmate going through a normal day is akin to me driving a car with a policeman in the back seat. I’m constantly being watched. It’s so easy to do something wrong unintentionally or not.”

Huguenin said the fact that Phillips spent the next 12 years completely free of written discipline reports is remarkable.

“It’s amazing,” he said.

Assistant State Attorney Bernie de la Rionda, who is hoping to convince the judge to keep Phillips behind bars for life, spent Monday and Tuesday trying to hammer home the notion that Phillips spent the past 19 years being told what to do and when to do it under a very controlling environment. He said a minor record should be considered the norm and not something remarkable.

The state is expected to begin its case midday Wednesday. The family members of Maddie are expected to testify. It’s unclear if Phillips will be called as well.

Testifying Tuesday for the defense was former five-term State Attorney Harry Shorstein. Shorstein was the prosecutor in the original case against Phillips. That trial lasted less than a day. This re-sentencing hearing will last at least four days.

Shorstein told the judge that science on brain development has since been recognized and laws have changed since he prosecuted the case against the 14-year-old. He said given what he knows now on brain development in adolescents, he would have put some consideration into that when deciding on charges against Phillips.

Eileen Kelley: (904) 359-4104

***UPDATE JOSHUA PHILLIPS' NOV. 10/17---RESENTENCING SCHEDULED FOR NOV. 17/17***

Maddie Clifton's family provides emotional testimony in Joshua Phillips re-sentencing

Emotions run high during killer Joshua Phillips’ re-sentencing hearing (August 7-11, 2017)

Joshua Phillips' Re-Senticing Hearing August 7, 2017
Joshua Phillips' Re-Senticing Hearing August 7, 2017 | Source

****UPDATE ON JOSHUA PHILLIPS' RESENTENCING - SCHEDULED FOR NOVEMBER 17, 2017****

Shelby Danielsen, WTLV 8:28 PM. EDT November 03, 2017


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – November 3 marks 19 years since 8-year-old Maddie Clifton first disappeared from her Lakewood home. Her mother searched the neighborhood and called police after Maddie didn’t show up for dinner.

Maddie’s body was found six days later hidden under her neighbor’s waterbed. That neighbor, Josh Phillips, was 14 years old at the time. He was sentenced to life in prison for her murder, but due to a Supreme Court Decision that ruled sentencing juveniles to life was unconstitutional, Josh Phillips was given a second chance and had a re-sentencing hearing in August.

The judge is expected to make his decision on Phillips’ sentence on November 17.

“I woke up this morning and I didn’t want to get out of bed,” said Jessie Clifton, Maddie’s older sister. “I went in her room and sat on her bed and just cried.”

Every November 3, she visits her little sister’s grave.

“It’s more like a ritual now, but I know that’s not where she is, I know she’s in heaven,” Jessie Clifton said. “Not a day goes by that I don’t wonder what she would be like, what I would be like.”

She was too young to be in the courtroom when Phillips was sentenced to life in 1999, so hearing this sentence from the judge will be a first for her in this case; a first she didn’t want to have.

“I’m really on edge about the decision, it makes today a lot harder," she said.

Josh Phillips older brother Daniel Phillips will be there for the second time around. He was in his 20’s when the case first went to court.

“I need to be there for him, our father is gone so I need to be that male influence,” Daniel Phillips said.

He says his brother lives with the guilt every day, but he’s striving to be a better person.

“He’s always tried to put on a brave face for me but he has really suffered in there," he said.

He says he feels for the Cliftons, especially every time this week rolls around. He says his family doesn’t like to discuss it so he tried to stay busy on this anniversary.

Daniel says he admires Jessie Clifton and has always appreciated how she has treated their family when their at the courthouse.

He’s hoping for his brother’s freedom, but says they’re prepared for whatever the judge decides

“It’s in God’s hands,” Daniel Phillips said.

Jessie Clifton says their family is hoping the life-long sentencing for Josh Phillips remains the same.

© 2017 WTLV-TV

***UPDATE ON JOSH PHILLIPS' RESENTENCING***LIFE WITHOUT PAROLE***NOVEMBER 17, 2017: Joshua Phillips, New Sentence.

Posted November 17, 2017 10:45 am | Updated November 17, 2017 08:34 pm By Eileen Kelley

Judge decides life sentence is warranted for Joshua Phillips in Maddie Clifton’s shocking death

Joshua Phillips, known as the boy who killed 8-year-old Maddie Clifton and hid her under his waterbed for a week, showed no reaction Friday as a judge told him he will have to spend the rest of his life behind bars.


Family members and friends — those both in favor and against the decision in one of Jacksonville’s most recognizable cases — shed tears as they completed this process for a second time nearly 20 years later.

Phillips, now 33, was 14 when he beat and stabbed his young neighbor friend.

In 1999 he was sentenced to be locked up for life. At the time, his sentence was automatic. But much has changed since then between evolving science on the development of the adolescent brain and a series of U.S. and Florida Supreme Court decisions. Bottom line now is that it is unlawful to blanketly sentence youthful offenders to life behind bars. A life sentence should be rare.

SEE ALSO

Emotions run high during killer Joshua Phillips’ re-sentencing hearing Priest testifies to Joshua Phillips’ character, attitude in prison

Such cases have recently begun new sentencings. Friday morning Judge Waddell Wallace spoke for a little more than 30 minutes about the sea change in society when it comes to youthful offenders and said it saddened him to sentence Phillips to life.

“This is an extraordinary case,” the judge said.

Wallace urged Phillips to stay on the path of being a problem-free prisoner and said he hoped he’d find a meaningful purpose incarcerated. The judge also remarked on the sheer coldness of the crime.

Phillips beat Maddie with a baseball bat. He then shoved her partially clothed body under his bed and then dragged her out and stabbed her when he discovered she was still alive on Nov. 3, 1998, according to court records. He then resumed watching porn. Later that night Phillips joined the legion of others in Jacksonville when they searched for Maddie. That search lasted until Phillips’ mother discovered Maddie’s body under her son’s bed.

Also discovered were air fresheners, the baseball bat, the Leatherman knife and a flyer that said Maddie was missing.

Phillips’ detachment at the time gave Wallace great concern, said the judge, who noticeably avoided looking at him as he read his ruling. He said he was not convinced society would be safe if Phillips were set free.

“It is appropriate to impose a life sentence in a case that’s a truly unusual case. … Irredeemable depravity or the worst of the worse or circumstances that are truly unique and different from the ordinary,” Wallace said. “I believe this is one of the most rare and unusual crimes that warrants life in prison.”

Phillips’ mother, Melissa Phillips Dunfee, said she hasn’t lost hope and an appeal will be filed. His attorney Tom Fallis told reporters he had nothing to comment on. The defense team had proposed a 40-year sentence.

Maddie’s family had provided emotional testimony in August during the new sentencing hearings and were firm that Phillips should not be offered his freedom. Jessica Clifton was 13 when her sister was killed and the world as she knew it was turned upside down. After the sentencing she and mother Sheila Clifton DeLongis both said they didn’t want to think about what might happen next.

Phillips is entitled to appeal the decision, and under state law his case is up for an automatic review in about six years.

“I have a lot of emotions right now but I am happy. I think this is justice for Maddie and for my family,” Jessica Clifton said.

She praised the work of Assistant State Attorney Bernie de la Rionda who prosecuted the case against Phillips in 1999 and again during for the re-sentencing. She also thanked the State Attorney’s Office and the community.

“I think today is a wonderful day,” Maddie’s sister said. “I thank God and the criminal justice system. I’m just very happy with the way things turned out.”

Phillips is among some 600 Florida killers or criminals who were children when they were sentenced to life. They are now having their life sentences vacated and getting an opportunity to demonstrate rehabilitation and maturity sufficient to warrant release from prison one day. Judges must also weigh the crime, its impact on the community, the age and childhood of the defendant as well as circumstances behind the crime. Only about 50 cases have been heard so far across the state, and of those about 20 percent of the once youthful offenders are sent back to prison with life sentences, said Stephen Harper, a former long-time assistant public defender in Miami-Dade.

Locally there are about 80 cases that have been or will be vacated and re-sentenced. So far two people have been released from prison after a judge said they have served enough time, three have been re-sentenced to life, one was re-sentenced to 45 years and another outcome was unclear.

Wallace’s sentencing order was 31 pages. He detailed the case law for the re-sentencing and also spelled out his reasoning for a life sentence.

“The actions of the defendant in this case reflect characteristics not generally found in criminal behavior typical of juveniles,” Wallace wrote. “His actions were motivated by deviant, prurient intentions. He targeted a helpless victim and carefully planned his actions toward her. His actions in inflicting injuries causing death, particularly in silencing Maddie Clifton by repeated stabbings after he had dismissed her as dead, as well as his cold and callous demeanor in hiding her decomposing body, represent a level of depravity that cannot be explained or attributed to immaturity, impetuosity or recklessness or headless risk taking. The crime committed by the defendant is indeed the uncommon case that qualifies for a life sentence.”

Eileen Kelley: (904) 359-4104

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      harry 25 hours ago

      I am amazed the judge didn't consider in any way the reports made by renowned psychologists and specialists of the brain. Of course my compassion goes to the Clifton family, and I can understand the fears of especially Jessie Clinton. Young Philipps was obviously obsessed with pornography, that has been proved. But he should be medically treated for that, and not locked behind bars. My opinion is that he deserves a chance, but should be under constant survey. Horrible sex offenders and murderers have been set free, but why the opportunity of being treated and getting a chance isn't offered to Philipps? What the purpose of keeping him behind bars until he becomes a crippled old guy? Nazi sadist killers are still being sentenced to symbolic punishment. Philipps became a law student, let us give him an opportunity to become a useful person. Providing he follows treatment and is regularly surveyed. A man in his 30s cannot be the same as a 14y.o. teenager. He was influenced by pornography. This reminds me of the klast interview of a famous murderer of women, since then executed. In that interview, he insisted on the role of porn making him a killer. I am not making a comparison, circumstances are different and the killer of women wasn't a teenager. But it started roughly the same way. On weak minds, this can be devastating. Prison is said to be first for rehabilitation. A sentence of life without parole for a teen is admitting prison has no meaning. Then to be coherent let us execute all those guys instead of having them transformed into those old crippled guys in their 80s/90s. No, a teen like Philipps had to be medically and psychologically cured. It's not too late, but it soon will be. I hope medical attention will be provided to him and that one day, and not as an old man, he could be returned to society. And I also hope psychological support to be provided to the Clifton family as I was shocked to hear young Jessie never received any support and was left alone in sorrow and despair. In this so sad case, so many mistakes have been committed that one should not let any opportunity to correct some of them pass. I have the painful feeling that the court of resentencing just decided to let things go, with no support nor help to anybody. I regret to say so, but to me, this is just procedure, not Justice.

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      severin m 8 days ago

      I think it may be interesting for you. Just another extreme comes from Holland

      https://nltimes.nl/2017/11/24/underage-suspect-gir...

    • profile image

      severin m 8 days ago

      Ghost Rightor...

      The judge decision is very bad. It means that the next 6 years Joshua Phillips spends in the maximum-security. He is 33. He needs to be transferred to some supervised community right now. The appeal will take years. And maybe it will be rejected as Joshua Phillips still has a chance in his next re-sentence in November 2023. He will be 39 years old.

    • profile image

      severin m 8 days ago

      Jazminne Nicole

      And I'm curious what Joshua Phillips would think of this verdict if he weren’t the defendant. I'm afraid he could be one of those who endorse the verdict. He was a coward teenager. He wanted to touch this girl, then was scared and eventually killed her. His only excuse is his age. He was a scared boy, thanks to his dad. Yes, it was unfair to sentence him as an adult.

      But cruel people who pretend to be moral want him and other kids who made mistakes to die in prison

    • GhostRightor profile image
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      Ghost Rightor 10 days ago from Planet Earth

      Me...

      I agree. It is sorrow upon sorrow as far as I can discern however, the Cliftons are professing devout Christians, they will only identify with their faith in Jesus Christ and His teachings. Forgiveness is at the core of Christianity, the entire purpose of Jesus dying for our sins as our atonement, is based in God's commandment that we are to be forgiving and we will in turn be forgiven by God. If we do not forgive however, neither shall He forgive us.

      God bless you... Me. Selah.

    • GhostRightor profile image
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      Ghost Rightor 10 days ago from Planet Earth

      So be it... Appeal Josh, this is not over.

      They said it themselves, life without parole isn't right for children, and now that he is a man, there is no more thought for that fact. They've missed the forest for the trees, the whole point was to prove that rehabilitation for children who are incarcerated as adults, is possible. Josh is living proof that not all who are lost remain as such, he can be an example to other kids who've been through similar experiences.

      The whole purpose of studying Josh's case was to expose and reveal that, true justice can help these imprisoned children (who are now adults), understand the gravity of their actions, but find forgiveness in and through Christ Jesus. If we don't allow people to repent and be forgiven, then we don't deserve it either when it's our sins being judged.

      I pray Josh repents and receives the Lord Jesus Christ as his Saviour, this is truly the only freedom there is in this life. The Cliftons are Christians, forgiveness is what they profess to do as followers of Christ, and I'm certain that's what they will do.

      As long as there is time, there is hope.

      I continue to pray for both the families and all those affected by this tragedy. The human condition is full of sorrow and strife, but there is a way, a life and a truth that sets us free, indeed. Selah.

    • profile image

      Me 3 weeks ago

      What happened to Maddie was tragic but life in prison without parole for a minor is not the answer.

    • Jazminne Nicole profile image

      Jazminne Nicole 3 weeks ago

      Well the Clifton’s got what they wanted. If I’ve ever heard of an inmate who deserves another chance it’s Josh. If Josh’s parents won’t proven as being abusive to him he wouldn’t have committed this crime in the first place. He did it because he was afraid of his father. Rest in peace to Madison Clifton! I wonder what she would think of this verdict. Obviously if she weren’t the victim. I don’t agree with this decision.

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      severin m 3 weeks ago

      All 45 minutes the judge made excuse for his poor decision. He himself doesn't believe in his "justice".

    • TC Lauren profile image

      TC Lauren 3 weeks ago

      Life without parole. Again. Justice was not served today.

    • TC Lauren profile image

      TC Lauren 3 weeks ago

      Does anyone know what time the hearing is tomorrow?

    • GhostRightor profile image
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      Ghost Rightor 4 weeks ago from Planet Earth

      severin m...

      Thank you for your testimony below, it provides insight as a parent, and I couldn't even imagine the trauma of losing a child, much less to know that their murderer was another child.

      I must confess, I was disappointed to hear in the video above that Josh is a Buddist now, I don't believe Buddha has a remedy for sin other than "be a good person" (which we all know is impossible), however, my reason for this case study wasn't about Josh, it was to shed light on children being locked up for life without parole.

      I'm intrigued about your comment on Jessica, as the reporter stated she was 'too young', but these days, journalistic integrity and fact checking is deemed obsolete; it's merely, get the story out and deal with the consequences later.

      On that note, I am still following this case and the repercussions it is having on the criminal justice system, and its treatment of children, and will continue to pray for the incarcerated forgotten children in prisons everywhere.

    • profile image

      severin m 4 weeks ago

      Alisa. I myself is a father of four. Four boys.

      As a father, as human being, I have no doubt Joshua Phillips did a terrible crime killing that little poor girl. Her family went (and still goes) through horrible things. As a father I can't imagine to myself what is to bury one of my kids and I don't want even to think about it. The killer (or murderer if you wish) deserved to live all his life thinking about what he has done. Even as a child he crossed all the human lines between good and bad. I have no sympathy for him. But...

      This US "judicial system" succeeded to make from him THE MAIN VICTIM in all this tragedy. Now Joshua Phillips is a prey who is trying to save his life facing heinous predator system. He was a boy, not fully responsible for what he does. Instead of given him a strict and harsh punishment right to his age, the 14 year old was thrown to die behind the bars.

    • profile image

      severin m 4 weeks ago

      You cited in your last update:

      "She [Jessica Clifton] was too young to be in the courtroom when Phillips was sentenced to life in 1999, so hearing this sentence from the judge will be a first for her in this case; a first she didn’t want to have."

      Strange to me. As I know Jessica Clifton attended the first sentence, jumping for joy when the sentence was announced.

      Look here at 2:10 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e4O73xtJrWE

      There is no age of criminal responsibility in Florida. Children as young as 7 are tried in courts there every week. And Jessica was 12,

    • GhostRightor profile image
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      Ghost Rightor 4 weeks ago from Planet Earth

      severin m...

      Thank you for the update, I've posted what I found.

    • GhostRightor profile image
      Author

      Ghost Rightor 4 weeks ago from Planet Earth

      Alisa...

      You are misinformed. If you have the gumption to post a comment, at least read the article above in its entirety first, it's just respectful to do so.

      I have updated my case study to reflect Joshua's day in court Aug. 5/17, where he cries on the stand and apologizes to Maddie's family and everyone. Josh has had a change of heart, he is a man now, when he murdered Maddie he was a child; the fact that you can't accept that reveals your immaturity.

      Adults KNOW that children are NOT short adults, they are children, and they need to be treated differently than adults – even a fool knows this truth.

      Of course this is a tragedy for Maddie's family however, I believe forgiveness is essential to their healing from such a grave offense as this was; there is something about a forgiving person that makes everyone around them heal as well, anyone following Josh’s case finds this case heart-breaking. If you have a heart you weep for both families, it is literally the worst thing that can happen to a parent, and another child is the culprit – it is sorrow upon sorrow for all involved.

      He should get another chance and will. I know Josh will be released shortly, and I believe he has a story to tell the world, including accusers like you who are quick to judge another man's sins, yet refuse to confess and repent for their own. Hypocrisy is an abomination before the Lord, and men.

      You cannot solely blame the parents; the child's entire environment becomes its aggressor and worst enemy. For you to ignore the violent triggers children face in our society today, along with the systemic abuse of children (eventually leads to trauma for everyone), is evidence you are living in a world of self-deception.

      A human being who has become self-aware knows that the more he learns of human behaviour, the more he learns of himself. We are all capable of moments of insanity, this world is conducive to losing one’s mind; there can never be justification for what Josh did, but there can be reconciliation.

      I will leave your comment because I believe most people think like you, and you should be very grateful that you and your kind are so completely perfect, that you can unabashedly cast your judgment with impunity (no less), on everyone else.

      I believe in redemption, let he who is without sin, cast the 1st stone. Selah.

    • profile image

      Alisa 4 weeks ago

      Let's not forget the fact that he brutally murdered his victim, who was defenseless, he inflicted not once butthree blows of harm to her.when he could have saved her instead he inflicted mire pain. He is not sorry,has never been sorry..rip maddie.He should not get another chance,and his parents should have been sued, for lousy parenting.

    • profile image

      severin m 5 weeks ago

      Eventually the re-sentencing date set to November 17

    • GhostRightor profile image
      Author

      Ghost Rightor 2 months ago from Planet Earth

      severin m...

      Thank you for your thoughtful response, and I do agree with you that Josh will be released; based on the fact that the law has already been challenged and changed, he has served enough time. The issue I've always had with these insane laws governing children who commit violent crimes, is how is it possible that an adult can view a child as basically a short adult? Is there truly never any question in the minds of the adults sentencing them that they are in fact children?

      I find it shocking that our society is so devolved that we cannot (or will not), acknowledge that there is a vast difference between a child's brain and a fully formed adults' brain. The disturbing thing is that we clearly recognize it with respect to the laws of obtaining a driver's license, drinking alcohol and voting. Not to mention, how many adults commit violent crimes who are released on good behavior after 1/3 of their sentence is carried out.

      We believe that adults can be rehabilitated but not children? This madness must cease, sending a child to prison for the rest of their life is cruel and unusual punishment, and is now rightfully deemed illegal. I'm just thankful that this wrong is now being made right. The children whose sentences are being reviewed, will now actually get the professional help they need to deal with their release, and successful re-entrance into society.

      They need our help, and we have a moral obligation to help them - they are counting on us to guide them.

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      severin m 2 months ago

      I'm not american and my point of view can be much different from yours, despite the fact that both of us agree that this judicial child abuse is disgusted

      Also, English is not my mother language. In fact it is my fourth language. So, pleace forgive me all my mistakes.

      All my physical connection with US is that one of my company head offices is placed in Florida, Miami. And I have to visit it once-twice a year for 4-5 days. So all my reasoning is not exactly entirely from facts.

      I think that the judges who involved in cases like this are reflecting the society. In 80th-90th the citizens of US wanted to stop the wave of horrible crimes connected with teenagers younger than 18, sometimes very young children. Joshua Phillips was 14, when thousands of others where 13 and younger. So the law and the judges became too strict, merciless and evil. Today very slowly the laws and the judges became more indulgence to the children and youth who made a terrible mistake. As I said, this process is very slow.

      In today Florida teenagers older then 14 recieve 25 to 40 for a planned murder. And Maddy Cliffton murder was not planned. Joshua Phillips is going out, no doubts. The question is 'when'. I think that the judge took a break before announcing his verdict just to let the Clifftons to understand that life without a parole is not an option today.

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      Ghost Rightor 2 months ago from Planet Earth

      severin m...

      I actually deem trying children as adults and incarcerating them with other adults, as not only a grave miscarriage of justice, but also the criminal and illegal act of advocating pedophilia. In my view, the law is wrong in this instance, lawyers and judges involved in this perversion of justice are diabolical and reprehensible human beings. It is criminally irresponsible of our (in)justice system to send 14 year old children to live with the 'worst of the worst' of imprisoned adults.

      Any intelligent being, with any kind of critical thinking abilities knows that children should be tried as children, with rehabilitation at the forefront of their sentencing duration and classification, and incarcerated with other children - until they have reached the age where adults are deemed to be as such, age 21.

      It has already been proven that it was a terrible accident that gruesomely turned into second-degree murder, but Josh was tried for 1st degree which equates to his prior planning of Maddie's murder. This was not the case and is truly a tragedy in every sense of the word.

      I really don't know how Josh has done it for this long, but I am sympathetic to his cause, and believe he should be released with time served. I can't imagine what he has seen in his lifetime, but I believe documenting it for the entire world to see how unethical and corrupt this unjust law truly is, could permanently change it forever.

      We have created a society that not only preys on children but promotes their ruin. For example, when a society believes that at age 14 a young girl can consent to intercourse with a partner over the age of 18, that society is completely unsound. Especially since it also says she cannot vote until she is 18 or drink alcohol until she is 21; hypocrites of this magnitude are extremely dangerous.

      It just further proves that those who write our laws don't sincerely care about the welfare of our youth, they exploit them and become their aggressors as well; and then proceed to sacrifice them on the altar of their dead false god - 'their personal interpretation of justice'.

      Rehabilitation with children is a much more attainable goal, they do not know what the true consequences of their actions are before the age of 21 as their child-brain is not only still developing emotionally but also physically. This could be the perfect opportunity for us to investigate what is really going on with children who murder, if we can discover the why, perhaps we can also know the how.

      I pray for Josh's release to be imminent, he has proven that he learned from this horrific experience, and I believe he can re-enter society successfully, and with insight that only he could share with the world.

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      severin m 2 months ago

      It was a crime to try 14 year old Joshua Phillips as an adult. Now he already spent behind the bars 10-12 years more then he deserved.

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      Ghost Rightor 4 months ago from Planet Earth

      I've finally located an update on Josh's case from jacksonville.com and am astonished at how unforgiving people in the comments section are; they sound like an angry mob shouting, ""Let him rot in jail!", how easy this is when it's not them being judged. I always try to put myself in the person's place and ask myself if it were me, would I want to be forgiven? My answer is categorically, yes.

      It's so easy for people to judge the sins of others as long as their sin remains unjudged; after all they've never done the horrible things others have done, they're perfect, right? Some have even stated that they were 14yrs old once and never did what Josh did, (as in murder); they forget however, that they were also NOT diagnosed with frontal lobe brain lesions as a child either.

      As Jesus our Lord and Saviour said, "Blessed are those who are merciful, for they shall obtain mercy." and, "He who is without sin, let him cast the first stone." and, "For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."

      The problem with sin is there is no such thing as 'little or big' sin, God said if you break even 1 of the Commandments you are deemed guilty of having broken them all and therefore, without excuse and sentenced as such. I'm not saying lying is worse than murder, what I'm saying is only forgiveness of sin sets us free, and that is why we all need Jesus to be our atonement, for we all fall short of the Glory of God. Selah.

      After reading how much Josh has changed in prison, I have come to the realization that with God, all things truly are possible; if He could change the heart of a rebel like Paul (who gleefully murdered Christians before his conversion), then there is hope for all who call upon the Powerful and Precious Name of Jesus Christ the Righteous. Selah.

      I know there are many people who will disagree with me on this, I believe Josh should be given a second chance, which doesn't mean I don't weep for Maddie's family as she will never have another chance. What it does mean is that we can only change the things we can control, and Josh could help other young offenders learn to repent, as only he can verily identify with them. I try not to take sides when I present these cases but it's human nature to do so, all I can say at this point is, until we learn as a society to view children differently than we do adults, we are doomed to a future of absolute hate-filled chaos.

      Unforgiveness is equated to taking poison and expecting the person we hate to die, it just doesn't work that way. Holding onto hatred, spite, grudges, bitterness and resentment affects us spiritually as well as physically; it's been proposed that many forms of cancer are directly linked to stress, for the body, heart and mind can only take so much.

      Matthew 12:41-Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. Selah.

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      Ghost Rightor 5 months ago from Planet Earth

      Woodland...

      I've been searching for an update on Joshua Phillips' resentencing hearing scheduled for June 14, 2017 for nearly a month now, yet to no avail... I'm not certain it even occurred or was postponed again; I will update as soon as I know...

      Thank you for your interest in this case study.

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      Woodland 5 months ago

      What happened @ the June 14th resentencing hearing? Will he be seeking a new trial? I feel awful for Maddie's family and also feel Josh should not have received life without possibility of parole,

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      Ghost Rightor 8 months ago from Planet Earth

      Agreed. I believe he has a story to tell that could shed much needed light on not only children incarcerated as adults, but adolescent brain anatomy -the study of brain lesions will finally be supported by evidence and 1st hand account. I also believe, I could write that story, concisely and compassionately; I know Josh's story is one that needs to be told, and has for many years. This is all part of a process, the end must always be final.

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      Toyia Truelove 8 months ago

      They need to let him go home.

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      Ghost Rightor 10 months ago from Planet Earth

      I pray he is released with time served, with a Manslaughter charge only. I believe he would use a second chance at life to help us all understand better what young offenders live through; he could be their voice, seeing as they have none. Not only are children still being tried as adults and incarcerated in adult prisons, their cries for help are remaining unheard by the world - it's time they cease being seen as small adults, they are not.

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      annabilly 10 months ago

      Of course, it is so sad for the child who was murdered. But this young boy was a child himself and he truly seems to be remorseful. I hoe he has a chance to be released.

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      Ghost Rightor 16 months ago from Planet Earth

      Thank you both for your thoughtful responses, I'm thankful that there is a definitive side to take on this issue, children are not small adults and until we cease thinking of them as such, they will continue to be preyed upon by those who unfortunately were once preyed upon also. If we don't stop the cycle of violence against our children, there truly is no hope for our race; without discernment and wisdom, a kingdom crumbles on itself.

      grand old lady... I agree 100% with you that all violent child aggressors should be brain scanned for abnormalities (even for adults too) and as in Josh's cash, actual lesions. Crimes committed by children should no longer be judged in the same way adult crimes are, there's a massive difference between 21 and 14.

      fpher... I also found Josh's story painfully catastrophic, heart-breaking and sorrowful, both families have endured such tragedy. It's hard to think upon either Maddie or Josh's family without saying to myself, "How sad for everyone involved, 2 young lives destroyed in an instant, so many lives forever impacted and bound together by suffering, how sad that such a thing could be." and yet increasingly children are perpetrating these types of violent crimes, and then being tried as adults and locked away for life. It's a vicious cycle that must end with our generation, we must cease ignoring the way we are rearing our children, it is defunct; it is no longer acceptable to say it's always been this way so we can't change it, that cop-out must cease. The Responsibility = Ours

      also fp, I wasn't comparing Josh to OJ, there isn't one whatsoever, what I was expressing was that OJ was also brain damaged from his NFL career steroid use and blows to the head; it's most definitely not an excuse for his violent behavior, it is a cause. Just because you're sick and you don't know it doesn't remove the responsibility from you for seeking out help, but where is that help today for kids like Josh?

      I am very grateful for this opportunity to shed some light on a subject very close to my heart, it's time we as a society stop looking the other way when it comes to our species development; if not, we'll wake up one day without our humanity altogether and that's a world I don't believe would be safe - for any of us.

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      Paula 16 months ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      This piece is very well-written and you have brought out some excellent legal & medical points that scream loudly for re-examination and re-consideration. This was difficult for me to read on both an emotional and professional level. I am not familiar with any similar cases involving minors who have been dealt such harsh and inhuman sentences.

      While his crime was an egregious and horrific tragedy, the facts remain he was a 14 yr old child, had no previous events of violence and discovered brain lesions that SHOULD have been considered in court. This Judge was blatantly wrong to have denied this boy every possible avenue for a sound & fair defense.

      My hope is that this is corrected, the sooner, the better. I have been moved to tears, literally.

      Excuse me please, but to compare this young, non-violent, brain-injured CHILD to the likes of adult abusive & aggressive MURDERER OJ is beyond ludicrous. There is NO comparison. OJ needs to rot behind bars. He's had his freedom through the result of a verdict formed by 12 idiots, who could not see a thing past his high-profile celebrity, fame and fortune. As expected, he went on to trip over his own ignorance, narcissism and brutality.

      I am sincerely rooting for this now 32 yr old man. Thank you for presenting this case to your readers. I appreciate your candor & research. Paula

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      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 16 months ago from Philippines

      It is really such an incredible thing to think of children killing other children, or killing their families. I'm glad the court is considering Joshua's temporal lobe dysfunction. But it might be a good idea to require all child killers, when they are jailed, to undergo brain scans and such regularly, and have a consulting psychiatrist. It will help to see how the brain evolves overtime. While this treatment is expensive, if we can truly understand the difference between a murderer, a psychotic, or someone with a temporal lobe malfunction, then it can enter the realm of learning, and families can look for signs in their children and have them diagnosed and treated before hearts are broken. I hope this can be done.

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      Ghost Rightor 19 months ago from Planet Earth

      My thoughts and prayers are with you, God is able to do above and beyond what we can ask or even think; that which is impossible with man is possible with God. Selah.

      The Lord God hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary: he wakeneth morning by morning, he wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned.

      A Word in season... Is New life to the dying.

      Isaiah 61:1-3-The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;

      2 To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn;

      3 To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified.

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      Ghost Rightor 22 months ago from Planet Earth

      I agree we cannot 'excuse' brutal human behavior due to brain abnormalities or injuries however, we cannot 'exclude' the fact that this does explain cause and effect either; without normal cognitive brain function, a persons' reactions to reality can be altered in such a way that not only limits their understanding of it but also their interpretation. Josh's brain was proven to be defective due to the frontal lobe lesions he sustained at some point in his young life, and his inability to comprehend the consequences of his actions coupled with the violent images he viewed just prior to his attack on Maddie, coincides exactly with the medical communities published studies of evidence supporting that social behavior is governed by the frontal lobes. If your mind doesn't function properly, are you really ruled by free will or is your damaged brain deciding things based on a distorted version of reality?

      Also, you bring up a very good point about free will and what O.J. did (for example), however Joshua was 14 years old at the time and non-violent up to that point, O.J. on the other hand, had been violently abusive to Nicole for the better part of their marriage. Not only that, one could easily argue he too was subject to traumatic brain injuries during his career as an NFL football player; I don't believe we have all the answers yet but the studies are clearly demonstrating that 'injured' brains tend to create 'disconnected' individuals.

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      McKenna Meyers 22 months ago from Bend, OR

      New brain research will definitely give us insight into criminal minds. But it's a slippery slope to excuse brutal crimes because of brain abnormalities. Many people have brain abnormalities but never commit a crime. The doctor made famous in the movie, "Concussion," is now saying O.J. Simpson suffers from CTE and that explains the vicious murders of Nicole and Ron. Yes, it certainly may have been a factor but, ultimately, it was O.J.'s decision to act that way. He still had free will. Interesting Hub!