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Killer in fatal bar robbery offers deal to avoid death penalty

Citizen Staff

Keith Royal Phillips says he may plead guilty in a white supremacy case if prosecutors agree to seek life sentence.



A man convicted in a fatal 1998 robbery spree may plead guilty in an unrelated white supremacy ring case if prosecutors drop their quest for a death sentence.

The Pima County Attorney’s Office will discuss the offer from Keith Royal Phillips on Monday, Deputy County Attorney Rick Unklesbay said in court yesterday.

Phillips, 26, and Marcus Lasalle Finch, 34, were convicted of 48 criminal counts for three robberies in which Kevin Hendricks was killed and four people were seriously wounded.

Their death sentences were overturned after a 2002 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that juries, not judges, must decide capital sentences.

While awaiting resentencing, Phillips and four other inmates at the jail were charged with participating in a criminal syndicate and making threats during a jail investigation into a white supremacist ring.

A trial is set for Dec. 7, but court records show that prosecutors have offered plea deals to each defendant.

Phillips will accept life imprisonment in exchange for pleading guilty to the new charges, said his attorney, Joseph St. Louis.

“He’s being very realistic about the situation,” St. Louis said.

Phillips believes that while he might not get another death sentence, he most likely will face life in prison anyway, St. Louis said.

“He was not the shooter,” St. Louis said. “Keith Phillips never killed anybody. He’s going to plead guilty, they’ll get their pound of flesh and he’ll put it behind him.”

Hendricks, a 34-year-old double amputee, was shot to death April 28, 1998, as he tried to flee from Famous Sam’s, 3031 W. Valencia Road.

Although Finch admitted shooting Hendricks, Phillips also was convicted of the crime under the state’s felony murder law.

The law allows an accomplice in a crime that leads to a death to be charged with murder.

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