Anna M. Phillips, Times Staff Writer

Anna M. Phillips

Anna M. Phillips writes about legal affairs and criminal justice in Tampa and Hillsborough County. Before joining the Times in 2012, she covered the New York City public schools for the New York Times and for the education news website Chalkbeat New York (formerly GothamSchools).

Phone: (813) 226-3354


Twitter: @annamphillips

  1. Hillsborough County Judge Chris Nash cruises to re-election


    TAMPA — Voters Tuesday decided to keep Chris Nash on the bench in Hillsborough's only race for a county court judge seat.

    Nash topped his opponent, Norman Cannella Jr., the son of a prominent Tampa defense attorney, by a margin of 65 to 35 percent.

    Nash, 43, was appointed to a judgeship last year by Gov. Rick Scott and was on the job only a few weeks when he learned of his high-profile challenger, who entered the race with considerably more name recognition. Cannella Jr., 46, is a former prosecutor who has been in private practice since 2001, but it is his father, Norman Cannella Sr., whose name carries great weight in the legal community....

  2. Hillsborough voters elect two circuit judges


    TAMPA — Voters elected two new Hillsborough County circuit court judges Tuesday, but two more races are headed for a final decision in November after none of the candidates in them secured more than half the vote.

    Circuit court judges are elected to six-year terms.

    Group 8: In a three-way race, the two top vote getters, Barbara Twine Thomas and Carl C. Hinson, will face each other in the Nov. 4 general election. Thomas, who has twice been nominated for a judicial appointment but never chosen, lead with more than two-fifths of the vote. Hinson won abut a third and the third-place candidate, John Dingfelder, received about a quarter of the vote....

  3. Blind Tampa man says he has 'no remorse' for shooting great-nephew in self-defense


    TAMPA — A legally blind Tampa man shot and wounded an intruder Sunday night, discovering afterward that it was his 15-year-old great-nephew.

    Melchisedec Williams, 50, was in his home near Chipco and N 30th streets around 10:30 p.m. when, according to Tampa police, his great-nephew cut the wires bringing power to Williams' house and broke in through a bedroom window. Inside the house, he made his way to the kitchen and grabbed two of his great-uncle's steak knives....

    “That’s what made me stop shooting,” Melchisedec Williams said, about hearing his great-nephew’s groans. “I was in the dark, and I was ready to unload that gun until I heard his voice.”
  4. Hillsborough Circuit Judge, Group 8


    Circuit Court | Group 8

    The three candidates for Hillsborough circuit judge in Group 8 all maintain solo law practices focusing primarily on civil claims, but that is where the similarities end. John Dingfelder is a former public school teacher and Tampa City Council member, Carl C. Hinson has devoted his career to personal injury law and Barbara Twine Thomas has twice been nominated for a judicial appointment but has not been chosen by the governor. This is a nonpartisan race. Anna M. Phillips, Times staff writer...

    Barbara Twine Thomas
  5. Hillsborough Circuit Judge, Group 34


    Circuit Court | Group 34

    This race for a rare open seat has drawn three candidates, two of whom run solo legal practices focused on personal injury claims and a third who specializes in construction and business law. One of the candidates, Constance Daniels, has run for a judicial seat before. Robert Bauman and Melissa "Missy" Polo are new names on the ballot. Anna M. Phillips, Times staff writer...

    Melissa Polo
  6. Hillsborough Circuit Judge, Group 20


    Circuit Court | Group 20

    The two candidates for this open seat have no experience in politics, but they have names that may resonate with voters in the legal community. Karen Stanley has years of experience practicing criminal law with the Hillsborough State Attorney's Office, and Laura Ward, the daughter of a retired Hillsborough Circuit Court judge, has a background in civil law. This is a nonpartisan election. Anna M. Phillips, Times staff writer...

    Laura Ward
  7. Hillsborough Circuit Judge, Group 19


    Circuit Court | Group 19

    This race pits former law school classmates Michael John Brannigan and Michael Scionti. Both men grew up in Hillsborough County, graduated from the South Texas College of Law and returned to Florida. Anna M. Phillips, Times staff writer


    Michael John Brannigan, 45



    Michael John Brannigan
  8. Miami, Orlando immigration courts fast track juvenile deportation proceeding


    Acting on orders from the Obama administration, immigration courts in Orlando and Miami have created accelerated dockets for unaccompanied minors and families, prioritizing their cases as part of a national effort to stem the flood of Central Americans crossing into the United States illegally.

    Under the new procedures, immigration courts have set up "rocket dockets," speeding up the time it takes to review migrants' cases and determine whether they should be deported. Whereas it typically takes two or three years to resolve deportation proceedings, the new process could take months....

    U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents work at a processing facility in Brownsville,Texas. Immigration courts in Miami and Orlando are speeding up hearings for the children and families who have been sent to Florida after entering the country illegally.
  9. Richard McTear Jr. sentenced to life in prison for killing Hillsborough baby


    TAMPA — A jury rejected the death penalty Tuesday for Richard McTear Jr., who was convicted of murdering a 3-month-old boy by throwing him onto the side of an interstate.

    Following jurors' recommendation, Hillsborough Circuit Judge William Fuente sentenced McTear to spend the rest of his life in prison. He imposed a second life sentence for the charge of burglary with assault and a 30-year sentence for kidnapping....

    Jackline Patton, the mother of Richard McTear, testifies during the trial of Richard McTear at the George E. Edgecomb Courthouse in Tampa on Tuesday, August 5, 2014.
  10. Defense asks jury to spare Richard McTear Jr.'s life in baby-killing case


    TAMPA — Attorneys for Richard McTear Jr., who was convicted last week of murdering his former girlfriend's son by throwing him onto the side of Interstate 275, pleaded with a jury Monday to show mercy for him and reject the death penalty.

    Five years after he killed 3-month-old Emanuel Murray Jr., McTear's future rests in the hands of the same jury that found him guilty of first-degree murder and a series of lesser charges. After hearing testimony from victims and members of McTear's family, jurors will vote later this week on whether to recommend that he pay for the baby's murder with his life or spend the rest of his years in prison. In Florida, a death penalty recommendation requires a simple majority — only seven votes are needed....

    Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Richard McTear, 26, who they say is a violent young man with a history of physically abusing the women in his life. [SKIP O'ROURKE | Times]
  11. McTear guilty of throwing baby to his death on I-275


    TAMPA — A jury convicted Richard McTear Jr. on Thursday of savagely beating his ex-girlfriend and throwing her baby to its death on the side of Interstate 275 five years ago.

    Outside the courtroom, surrounded by a phalanx of friends and relatives, the baby's mother and father held each other in a long embrace. Jasmine Bedwell, 22, a foster child when her baby was conceived, wept on the shoulder of Emanuel Murray Sr., who was in prison on gun charges when his son died. Though neither parent would speak to reporters, the baby's great-uncle, Ike Thompson, offered jurors his thanks and gave them a piece of advice. ...

    Richard McTear Jr enters the courtroom ahead of the jury. [SKIP O'ROURKE  |   Times]
  12. Both sides in McTear case give closing arguments


    TAMPA — As he began his closing arguments to jurors Wednesday in the murder trial of Richard McTear Jr., a state prosecutor played a recording of the 911 call made by McTear's ex-girlfriend.

    Her shrieks and cries of "He took my baby" from five years ago filled the courtroom.

    That is not the voice of a woman scheming to falsely accuse McTear, 26, of murdering her infant son, argued prosecutor Ron Gale....

    Assistant State Attorney Ronald Gale reminds jurors of DNA evidence during closing arguments Wednesday in the Richard McTear Jr. trial.
  13. Defense takes aim at veracity of baby's mother in McTear murder trial


    TAMPA — Jasmine Bedwell says she knows that Richard McTear Jr. killed her infant son five years ago, when she was a teenager living under the watch of Hillsborough County's foster care agency. But that's not what a former caseworker remembers her saying at the time.

    Attorneys representing McTear, 26, worked to dismantle Bedwell's version of events Tuesday, calling on her former placement specialist with Camelot Community Care, a contract foster care agency. Keshia Coffie told jurors that Bedwell called her from the hospital on May 5, 2009, the day her son was killed. She was crying hysterically and screaming into the phone....

    Richard McTear Jr. tells the judge he will not testify during his trial in the death of his ex-girlfriend’s baby.
  14. Prosecution rests in trial of man accused of throwing a baby onto I-275


    TAMPA — The prosecution rested its case Monday in the capital murder trial of Richard McTear Jr., concluding with DNA evidence linking McTear to his ex-girlfriend's baby, who was found dead on the side of Interstate 275.

    Holding up clothing taken from McTear after his arrest, a crime lab analyst explained to jurors how she matched the baby's DNA to blood stains on her alleged killer's jean shorts. Blood found on the console of the car he is alleged to have driven contained the baby's DNA as well, said Florida Department of Law Enforcement analyst Carol Greenwell....

    Richard McTear Jr., 26, left, is accused of throwing a 3-month-old boy onto Interstate 275.
  15. Baby found on I-275 suffered extreme trauma, medical examiner says


    TAMPA — In her 20 years as a medical examiner, Dr. Laura Hair has seen fractures at the base of victims' skulls in only the most severe circumstances. She's found them in people who died in airplane crashes, in falls from multistory buildings, and in horrific car accidents. She's seen them in people who jumped to their death from the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.

    She's never seen them in a baby dropped from a standing position....

     Richard McTear Jr. is led into court after a recess on Friday morning 7/25/14.  First-degree murder trial of Richard McTear, Jr.. McTear, who is now 26, is charged in the death of 3-month-old Emanuel Murray. The baby was found dead in May 2009, along Interstate 275 near Fowler Avenue. Police say McTear threw the baby from a car window.McTear argued with the child's mother, Jasmine Bedwell, earlier that morning, investigators said. During the argument, he allegedly threw the child to the ground, then grabbed the infant and drove off with him.