Freeze Frame on a Bad Cop

Still stuck in prison for three decades: the once famous, now forgotten, Bill Phillips

Because he has never been cited for a disciplinary infraction, he was moved to a medium-security prison about five years ago. He believes he is the oldest prisoner there, and odds are that he's one of the oldest in the system.

The reason his parole was denied in 1999 was that he told the board he didn't do the murders. "You accept no responsibility for these crimes," they ruled. So for the past five years he has told the board—sort of—that he takes responsibility for the murders of James Smith and Susan Stango.

"I had many, many sleepless nights," he says. "I had to decide if I am going to go in there and keep getting hit or am I going to acquiesce, tell them what they want to hear, and come up with a story. So I've done the best I can to piece together a story."

photo: Jason Torres

His first effort to admit he did something he says he didn't do came in 2001, when he started his pitch to the parole board this way: "I have no legal remedies left in this matter, and therefore, at this particular time, I have to accept culpability for this."

His story has since gotten better, but his performances still lack remorse, which he says he can't muster, "because I didn't do it, but if I tell them that I'm never getting out."

After reading the minutes of last year's parole hearing, Phillips's lawyer included a paragraph in the appeal stating that Parole Commissioner Robert Dennison "actually wants [Phillips] to be released at this point" but won't do it because of "the political sensitivities involved." (Dennison declines comment through a spokesman.)

For public consumption, Dennison told Phillips, "You are what they call a model inmate. . . . It's just that you killed two people, you tried to kill a third. And I know the courts have commented on it and the judge commented on it the last time about rehabilitation and the fact that, you know, you are not a threat to society, that what else can someone like you do, except just to do what you are doing. But the hard part for us is that you're responsible for two lost lives. . . . I know that was many years ago, but that is the hard part for us. How many years is enough for taking two lives and trying to kill a third?"

Bill Phillips thinks he knows the answer: "All of them."

« Previous Page