Death penalty sought in 2012 soccer tournament murders

 (John Jankowski/for NewsWorks)

(John Jankowski/for NewsWorks)

“Let the punishment fit the crimes.” That’s what Deputy Attorney General Ipek Medford told a group of jurors on Monday as they decide whether or not 38-year-old Otis Phillips will receive the death penalty.

The jury found Otis Phillips and 23-year-old Jeffrey Phillips, who are not related, guilty on Nov. 21 of first degree murder for the death of Herman Curry and manslaughter for the death of 16-year-old Alexander Kamara.

Prosecutors argued that the men were out for revenge when they shot and killed Curry at Eden Park on July 8, 2012. Curry, who was a soccer coach and had organized the event, was targeted because he had witnessed a murder allegedly committed by Otis Phillips in 2008.

Kamara, a soccer player, was killed in the crossfire.

During opening statements of the penalty hearing phase, the prosecution argued that Otis Phillips is a violent, cold-blooded killer who had no mercy for anyone when he opened fire in Eden Park in 2012.

Medford also said the death penalty is the “only punishment that will fit the crime.”

The defense argued that Otis Phillips came from a poverty stricken village, has a low IQ and is “a guy who never had a chance.”

According to his attorneys, Phillips, a native of Guyana in South America, was abandoned by his parents, and left to fend for himself in a violent, underdeveloped village.

When his family finally brought him to the United States, he struggled in school because he was so far behind and had trouble adjusting.

The defense is asking for a sentence of life in prison and will call character witnesses including a neuro-psychologist who will provide details of Phillip’s psychological profile.

After the penalty hearings, the jury will make their recommendation to Judge Calvin Scott. If their decision is not unanimous, Phillips will automatically receive life in prison. If their decision is unanimous for the death penalty, Judge Scott could choose to take their recommendation or hand down a sentence of life in prison.

Jeffrey Phillips will have a separate penalty hearing.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.