Judge throws out possibility of 1st degree murder conviction in Baby Kate trial

Posted at 10:12 AM, Oct 11, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-11 20:34:12-04

LUDINGTON, Mich. - The Baby Kate murder trial is nearing an end in Mason County.

After several motions were presented Tuesday afternoon, Judge Peter Wadel ruled that jurors cannot consider a 1st degree murder conviction for Sean Phillips.

Phillips was accused of murdering his daughter, Katherine, in June 2011.  Baby Kate was four months old at the time and her body has never been found. Judge Wadel ruled that Manslaughter can be considered by the jury.

The defense had argued that since Kate's body had not been found, prosecutors could not prove that Phillips killed her.  The defense had also asked that the judge issue a direct ruling without the jury, but he declined.

The jury returned from a break at about 1:30pm, but Judge Wadel sent them home for the day saying "more matters need to be discussed."  Closing arguments will not take place Tuesday.

Phillips is currently serving a ten year sentence for kidnapping Kate.

The prosecution rested its case at about 10:00 Tuesday after calling a detective back to the stand for some follow up testimony.  He testified that investigators looked equally at Sean Phillips and Kate's mother, Ariel Courtland, equally in the first days of the investigation.

After the prosecution rested its case, the defense asked for a break to review the witness list.  The defense team then announced they will not be calling any witnesses.

The case is its third week.

We'll have more from Ludington as the day progresses.  You can also follow Darren Cunningham on Twitter for updates from the courtroom.