Marshall Island Supreme Court

MAJURO, 15 MARCH 2021 (MARIANAS VARIETY) — Sentenced to 50 years in Majuro jail as a teenager for a gruesome double murder, rape and robbery in the rural Laura area of Majuro in 2017, Alee Phillip received a modest victory with the recent Marshall Islands Supreme Court decision eliminating his conviction for rape.
The Supreme Court dismissed the rape conviction on a technicality: A victim must be alive for the perpetrator to be charged with rape under Marshall Islands law, which differentiates such a charge from necrophilia. The Supreme Court ruling will shave time off Phillip’s prison term, the longest in Marshall Islands history. But last week’s High Court re-sentencing ensures that Phillip will remain incarcerated for four decades.
The Supreme Court decision last year returned the case to the High Court for re-sentencing on Phillip’s conviction for murder and burglary, both of which were upheld by the three-judge Supreme Court. Last week, Judge Witten Philippo handled the re-sentencing. The Supreme Court is made up of American judges from Hawaii, California and Alaska.
In the vast majority of sentences handed out by High Court judges in the Marshall Islands, multiple prison terms for different offenses are served “concurrently.” This means, for example, that a person sentenced to 10 years for aggravated assault and three years for a related burglary will not serve 13 years. The lower sentence is wrapped into the longer one and served as a single sentence of 10 years.
In Phillip’s case, the heinous nature of the murder and robbery led Judge Philippo to issue two maximum jail terms to run “consecutively,” meaning one after the other.
In June, 2017, local businessman Robert Marques and his three-year-old daughter were brutally murdered in their beds by Phillip, who police said slashed Marques’ throat with such force that it nearly decapitated him. The U.S Federal Bureau of Investigation was called in to conduct the crime scene investigation, generating evidence that was evaluated at an FBI laboratory in the U.S. FBI agents later testified at Phillip’s trial about his handprints being found around the point of entry into Marques’ residence and that Phillip’s DNA was found on both victims.
Although his jail time was reduced from the original 50-year jail term with the dismissal of the rape conviction, Phillip’s new sentence carries a jail period of 35 years, still one of the longest in the history of this western Pacific nation: 25 years for murder and 10 years for felony burglary. The two prison terms will run consecutively, meaning Phillip, who is now 20 years of age and gets credit for three years already served since his conviction in February 2018, will not be out of Majuro jail until his early 50s.
Philippo said he took into account recommendations from both prosecutor Attorney General Richard Hickson and Chief Public Defender Russell Kun, who represented Phillip. He also considered “the gruesome facts and heinous nature of this case” and pointed out that the Supreme Court ruled the High Court “is not bound by its earlier sentence that the sentences for the burglary conviction run concurrent to the sentence for the murder conviction….. PACNEWS

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