Last mission to repair the Hubble telescope Hubble space telescope discoveries have enriched our understanding of the cosmos. In this special report, you will see facts about the Hubble space telescope, discoveries it has made and what the last mission's goals are.
For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
Fill out this form to email this article to a friend
Did judge obey law?
Gov. Crist wants to know if a killer's bail was legal.
By COLLEEN JENKINS, Times Staff Writer
Published August 18, 2007
Michael Phillips had been arrested at least 20 times.
TAMPA - Gov. Charlie Crist wondered Friday whether his new "Anti-Murder Act" should have kept Hillsborough Sgt. Ronald Harrison's killer behind bars.
The governor ordered his general counsel to review Circuit Judge Manuel Lopez's decision to grant bail for Michael Allen Phillips, who gunned down the veteran deputy on Wednesday.
"I'm wondering what the judge was thinking in that case because one of the new laws that I campaigned very hard on was this antimurder bill," Crist said during an interview with the St. Petersburg Times editorial board. "And it was specifically designed for cases very much like this one."
The governor acknowledged, however, that he wasn't sure the statute fit the case.
Legal experts contacted by the Times quickly cast doubt on its relevancy.
The act, which became law in March, requires that violent felons who violate probation be jailed until a judge decides whether they are a danger to the community and should go back to prison.
Phillips, killed a few hours after Harrison by SWAT snipers, was arrested at least 20 times by age 24 and violated probation in the past. But he was not on any type of community supervision when his case came before Lopez earlier this year.
The judge didn't have the authority under the act to keep Phillips incarcerated, experts said.
"I do not see how this anti-murder bill, as drafted, fits the situation of Mr. Phillips," said Stetson University College of Law professor Charles Rose.
In February, Lopez revoked Phillips' bail because authorities said the Brandon man committed two felonies while awaiting trial on a prior felony fleeing and eluding charge.
Phillips sat in jail for four months. On June 12, his attorney requested bail, arguing that the state had weak evidence to support its claim that Phillips attacked a man with a rake.
Prosecutors objected. They said Phillips' violent history, which included arrests for aggravated assault and domestic battery, should preclude his release.
Lopez ordered a $30,000 bail.
John J. Rogers, the defense attorney, recalled Friday that he told his client the judge had done him no favors.
"I thought, 'The judge is being tough on this kid because of his history,' " Rogers said. "In anybody's book, that's a high bond."
Lopez, a judge since 1997, could not be reached for comments Friday. He defended his decision in a public statement a day earlier, saying Phillips' case had not risen to the level needed to keep him in jail indefinitely.
Judges weigh a defendant's rights against the safety of the community in decisions every day. Most don't end in tragedy. Few crimes or arrest histories are severe enough to deny bail.
"There's always a possibility that you make the wrong decision, but you have to follow the law," Hillsborough Circuit Judge Debra Behnke said, talking about bail hearings in general. "Everybody is presumed innocent until proven guilty, which is kind of a major thing you have to remember."
Area lawyers said Lopez, a Tampa native who served as both a prosecutor and public defender before his election to the bench, has earned a reputation for considering all sides before ruling.
Another recent case illustrated the weight he places on such decisions, and the ire he has drawn from prosecutors.
Edwin A. Kendrick, accused of stabbing his nephew, sought bail from Lopez on a second-degree murder charge in May.
A prosecutor said he objected "violently," a transcript shows, given Kendrick's extensive criminal record and his violation of probation for habitually driving on a suspended license.
The judge released Kendrick on his own recognizance. Two days later, Lopez said he "may have rushed a judgement" and ordered a $20,000 bail and a GPS monitor instead.
"I know one thing," the judge said. "I got a dead young man on my hands and I'm the one, the gatekeeper, that's supposed to keep the community safe. Me."
Crist said his office's review should "not take more than a few weeks." The governor's authority is limited; only the Florida Supreme Court can punish a judge.
"I'm requesting it today because I just think it's so important," Crist said. "It's frustrating. It's gut-wrenching. It breaks your heart. You wonder how the system could let something like this to occur. I'm sure the family does. I do."
Times staff writer Adam C. Smith contributed to this report. Colleen Jenkins can be reached at email@example.com or 813 226-3337.
How to help
The family of slain Sheriff's Sgt. Ron Harrison has asked that donations be made in lieu of flowers to the following:
- Office of Instructional Advancement, Bethune-Cookman University, 640 Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune Blvd., Daytona Beach, FL 32114. Note that the donation is in honor of Sgt. Harrison and is to support criminal justice instruction.