Dec 12, 2007

Similar transactions

The trial started late, but the prosecution scored an early victory when the judge granted a "motion for similar transaction." That will allow John Turner, executive assistant district attorney, and Bill Dixon, assistant district attorney, to bring up Leon Phillips' previous felony convictions, because of the similarity between the way the 37-year-old allegedly killed Rhonda Rucker in Riverdale last year, and the way he attacked a woman in 1988 in Fulton County.

According to Turner, the granted motion is usually the "kiss of death," in a case that is built substantially out of circumstantial evidence. Dixon said that while prosecutors are not allowed to raise the issue of a defendant's previous convictions in order to question and challenge character, they will, in this case, be allowed to bring up a previous guilty plea as relevant to motive, mode of operation and "bent of mind."

In 1988, Phillips attacked a woman with a knife in her hotel room, Turner said. He attempted to rob and rape her, later pleading guilty to aggravated assault with intent to rape.

Last year, on Sept. 15, Phillips allegedly entered Rucker's Riverdale home with a .45-caliber gun, pulled off her pants, put a plastic bag over her head, bound her with telephone cords and fatally shot her in the head, according to police and prosecutors. He allegedly took a motorcycle, sports utility vehicle, DVDs and other items from the home, after killing the 34-year-old mother of three.

Prosecutors are expected to try to convict Phillips on 25 counts, ranging from malice murder to driving without a license. They intend to show he was in the Rucker's home before the murder to repair a washing machine and was arrested -- a few miles away from the home, a few hours after the murder -- carrying the murder weapon, riding a stolen motorcycle and carrying a number of items stolen from the home.

Turner has admitted the evidence is circumstantial, but said it is strong evidence and he expects jurors to be able to "connect the dots."

Read the rest of the story @ the Clayton News Daily:
Delayed by bomb threat, murder trial begins