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

Updated on July 8, 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 murderers’ 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

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

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.

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    • letstalkabouteduc profile image

      McKenna Meyers 17 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!

    • GhostRightor profile image
      Author

      Ghost Rightor 17 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.

    • GhostRightor profile image
      Author

      Ghost Rightor 14 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.

    • grand old lady profile image

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 11 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.

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 11 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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      Ghost Rightor 11 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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      annabilly 5 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 5 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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      Toyia Truelove 3 months ago

      They need to let him go home.

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      Ghost Rightor 3 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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      Woodland 2 weeks 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 2 weeks 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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