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Jury deliberations cross 10-hour mark in ‘Baby Kate’ murder trial

LUDINGTON, Mich. (WOOD) — Jury deliberations have entered their third day in the trial of Sean Phillips, who is charged with open murder in the death of his missing 4-month-old daughter.

Katherine Phillips, also known as Baby Kate, was last seen alive in June 2011 with her father in Ludington.

So far, more than ten hours have passed without a verdict from the jury of seven men and seven women. Thursday morning, the jury was brought into the courtroom where Judge Peter Wadel told them he could not answer their earlier question and they would have to figure it out for themselves.

Ludington court jury box
The empty seats of the jurors selected for the Sean Phillips murder trial. (Oct. 12, 2016)

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Wadel broke from courtroom tradition and did not read the question or say what it was in open court.

The jury also watched some video in the jury room, but the court would not disclose what they watched.

A letter apparently from Sean Phillips to Ariel Courtland saying Baby Kate is dead. (July 2012)
A letter apparently from Sean Phillips to Ariel Courtland saying Baby Kate is dead. (July 2012)

When asked why they can’t say what is going on, lawyers said “well, it’s a high profile case.”

Since Baby Kate’s remains have not been found, much of the prosecution’s case against Phillips was based on circumstantial evidence, including a letter he allegedly wrote in prison in which he confessed that he pulled Kate’s car seat from his car and that she was thrown from it.

>>PDF: “Confession” letter allegedly from Phillips

In closing arguments following eight days of testimony, Assistant Attorney General Donna Pendergast called Phillips coldly calculating for stripping Baby Kate of her clothes, allegedly leaving her to the elements.

“How could there ever be enough justice for the unceremonious discarding of a baby thrown away like trash?” Pendergast said at the end of her address to the jury.

Sean Phillips, Baby Kate, murder trial
Video is played in court of Sean Phillips’ interview with police on the day Baby Kate disappeared. (Oct. 3, 2016)

“Having baby clothes in your pocket does not prove death,” Glancy shot back during his closing argument.

Kate Phillips. (Undated courtesy photo)
Kate Phillips. (Undated courtesy photo)

Glancy said no individual piece of evidence proved Phillips murdered Baby Kate, and there is no evidence to show Kate’s injuries were not accidental, since her body has never been found.

“At best if you believe there was some act that Sean did that raises his culpability, it’s at most to an involuntary manslaughter, a gross negligence,” Glancy said.

Tuesday, Wadel acquitted Phillips of first-degree murder and allowed the jury to consider a manslaughter verdict. As a result, three options are on the table for the jury to consider: second-degree murder, manslaughter and not guilty, giving Phillips a chance of parole.

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