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Stacey Phillips

Other Child Sex Abuse Exonerations
In May 1990, 29-year-old Stacey Phillips was charged with sexually assaulting his three-year-old stepdaughter in Salem, Oregon.

Phillips was charged with one count each of rape, sodomy, and sexual abuse of A.L. between September 1989 and March 1990.

On February 19, 1991, Phillips went to trial in Marion County Circuit Court and chose to have his case heard by Judge Gregory West without a jury. Before any evidence was presented, the prosecution dismissed the sodomy count.

Prior to the trial, Judge West had ruled that A.L. would not testify. The judge found that she was not a competent witness because of her age. Judge West also ruled that some of A.L.’s statements to others would be admissible under the medical diagnosis and child hearsay exceptions to the rule barring hearsay testimony.

Emergency room physician Debbie Marks testified that on March 31, 1990, A.L.’s father brought the girl in for an examination. Marks testified that he reported that A.L. claimed Phillips had sexually abused her. Marks also said that he said that A.L. had been “acting out,” although he did not specify what that entailed.

Marks testified that during a physical examination, she found lesions on the girl’s vagina that were “consistent” with sexual abuse.

A.L.’s father testified that he and A.L.’s mother divorced when A.L. was two years old. Although they had joint custody, A.L.’s mother was the primary custodial parent. He said that in the summer of 1989, he learned that A.L.’s mother and Phillips were living together. He said that in November 1989, A.L. told him that Phillips “touches her peepee.” He said that at first he did nothing, but later told A.L.’s mother of the comment.

Phillips and A.L.’s mother were married in December 1989.

A.L.’s father said that in March 1990, A.L. spent three or four days with him and his current wife. At the conclusion of the visit, he said that A.L. told him that Phillips was sexually abusing her and she did not want to go home. He said he called police on March 31 and took A.L. to the hospital. Not long after, he went to court to seek full custody of A.L.

A.L.’s step-grandmother, B.W., (the mother of A.L.’s father’s second wife), testified that she babysat A.L. at various times from October 1989 to March 1990. B.W. testified that on October 31 and November 1, 1989, A.L. said that Phillips sexually abused her. A.L. later screamed, yelled, and cried about having to return to her mother and Phillips’s home.

B.W. said that A.L. again brought up the subject of sexual abuse on November 7, and asked B.W. to help her. B.W. said she finally passed on A.L.’s statements to A.L.’s father in November. B.W. also testified that at least once a day from January to March 1990, A.L. talked about being abused.

Salem police detective Donald Stoelck testified that he interviewed Phillips, who denied abusing A.L. and said he believed the false allegations were part of a scheme by A.L’s father to get full custody of the girl.

Stoelck testified that during an interview with A.L., she described various acts of sexual abuse and said they occurred in her bedroom while her mother was asleep.

At the conclusion of the prosecution’s presentation of evidence, Judge West granted a defense motion to acquit Phillips on the rape count, leaving only the sexual abuse charge at issue.

Phillips’s brother-in-law testified for the defense that he lived with Phillips and A.L.’s mother for two weeks between October 1989 and March 1990. He said he slept on the couch in the living room and never saw Phillips go into A.L.’s bedroom.

A.L.’s mother testified that she believed the lesions on A.L.’s vagina were caused by A.L.’s scratching of recurrent rashes. She said sometimes A.L. scratched until she bled and that when A.L. was 14 months old, she sought medical treatment for the rashes and abrasions from her scratching. A.L.’s mother said the condition had never gone away, and that A.L. had such rashes as recently as two weeks before the time Dr. Marks saw her.

She also testified that she would have wakened if Phillips had gotten out of bed. She told the judge that A.L. never told her that Phillips sexually abused her and that she believed Phillips and A.L. had a “fine” relationship.

Phillips’s defense attorney also sought to have A.L.’s mother testify that after A.L. first implicated Phillips, she recanted her claims and said she had lied because her father told her to. Judge West, however, refused to allow that testimony, ruling that it was inadmissible hearsay.

On March 6, 1991, Judge West convicted Phillips of sexual abuse of A.L. and sentenced him to three years in prison.

Deputy state public defender Jesse Barton appealed the conviction, arguing that the decision to bar the testimony of A.L.’s pretrial recantation was erroneous. The Oregon Court of Appeals affirmed the conviction with an order, but did not issue an opinion.

On June 12, 1992, Phillips was released from prison.

Barton was granted permission to appeal by the Oregon Supreme Court and in October 1992, the conviction was reversed.

The court held that Judge West was wrong to exclude the testimony from A.L.’s mother about the girl’s recantation and her statement that her father told her to lie. “The excluded evidence was not hearsay,” the court said. “Rather, it was a recognized type of impeachment evidence offered…for the sole purpose of casting doubt on the reliability of …the unavailable child witness.”

On April 28, 1995, the prosecution dismissed the charge. Phillips filed a claim for state compensation in 2022.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 9/6/2018
Last Updated: 10/27/2022
Most Serious Crime:Child Sex Abuse
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:1990
Sentence:3 years
Age at the date of reported crime:29
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, False or Misleading Forensic Evidence
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No