The Ronald Regan State Building in downtown Los Angeles and home to the 2nd District Court of Appeals. Photo by John Schreiber.
The Ronald Regan State Building in downtown Los Angeles and home to the 2nd District Court of Appeals. Photo by John Schreiber.

A state appeals court panel on Friday upheld a man’s conviction for murdering two of his adult stepdaughters at a 30th birthday party for one of the women in South Los Angeles.

The three-justice panel from California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal rejected the defense’s contention that there was insufficient evidence to support Robert Lee Phillips’ conviction for the Sept. 2, 2006, killings of 30- year-old Sabrina Taylor and her 33-year-old sister, Charlotte Johnson, with whom he had argued.

In a 33-page ruling, the appellate court justices found that there was evidence of planning and motive.

Phillips shot Taylor twice in the thighs, incapacitating her, as she tried to run from him and later returned to “finish her off with a shot to the heart,” the justices noted.

“His methodical execution of her as she lay helpless on the ground evidenced a cold, calculated killing,” the justices wrote.

Phillips aimed and fired at Johnson as she tried to run from him, striking her in the head with a fatal shot, according to the ruling.

Phillips — who was tried three times for the killings — was convicted in July 2013 of first-degree murder for Taylor’s killing, second-degree murder for Johnson’s killing and two counts of attempted murder involving two other people who were not wounded in the gunfire. He was convicted in his first trial of two counts of attempted voluntary manslaughter involving two other party guests.

Phillips was sentenced in September 2013 to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

At his sentencing hearing, Phillips said he was facing the rest of his life behind bars “for something that was accidental,” and accused prosecution witnesses of lying to jurors about what had happened.

“So many things went wrong in this trial,” he said. “I couldn’t even get a chance to defend myself … It definitely didn’t happen the way you think it did.”

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy called the then-67- year-old defendant’s statement “an insult to all of these good people and an insult to the justice system.”

“Nobody concocted some huge lie to somehow get you. You killed, brutally killed two people, two members of your family,” the judge told Phillips.

The judge noted that Phillips “didn’t particularly care for” his wife’s two daughters, but told him that there was “nothing that justified your killing them.”

City News Service

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