By Mackenzie Nichols
Jurors were set to continue deliberating Tuesday morning in the murder trial of Phillip Carrington. During closing statements to the jury on Friday morning, both the prosecution and defense revisited witness testimonies to support their arguments either for or against Carrington’s innocence in the murder of 47-year-old Celestine Walker.
On the night of May 11, 2013, Carrington allegedly went home with Walker despite the restraining order she held against him, and that was the last time she was seen alive. At the time, Walker was involved in two physically abusive relationships, said Suffolk Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Hickman during her closing statement on Friday, but the police maintained that Walker’s boyfriend Philip Carrington was the only viable suspect in Walker’s homicide.
“Walker went from one abusive relationship to another, and she brought Carrington into her home despite the restraining order,” Hickman said. “Carrington has motive.”
According to Hickman, whoever killed Walker left her on the floor covered in a white sheet and locked her inside the apartment with their own set of keys. The next day was Mother’s Day, and Walker’s daughter Ashley Lee allegedly tried calling her, but could not reach her.
Later on, Hickman said, Lee received a phone call informing her that her mother was dead, so she and two other siblings went to Carrington’s Columbus Avenue apartment to confront him about the rumor.
According to Lee’s testimony, Carrington said “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, it was an accident.” The children allegedly became violent with Carrington, but they did not tell police about the incident. Walker’s body was discovered a few days later, on May 16, when a neighbor reported an odor coming from her apartment and officials responded to the scene.
Carrington’s defense attorney Martin Murphy urged jurors to rethink some aspects of the witness testimonies during the trial. The woman who allegedly dropped Carrington and Walker off at Walker’s 34 Heath St. apartment on the night of the May 11, 2013 testified that she saw the couple walk into the building, but the door to the apartment is “physically impossible” to see from where the witness’s car was parked.
“Don’t judge a book by its cover,” Murphy said. “You can’t always say the person on the stand is telling the truth.”
Murphy also revisited testimonies from George Santana and Ashley Lee to identify holes in the prosecution’s arguments. Santana, the maintenance supervisor for 34 Heath St., told the jury that the door to the apartment building was always locked when in fact there had been reported incidents of the building door being unlocked on multiple occasions.
As for Ashley Lee, Murphy said she and her other siblings harbored hostility toward Carrington which emerged throughout their testimonies and slanted their stories.
“They didn’t like Carrington and they imposed street justice in the courtroom where it has no place,” Murphy said.
Murphy also revisited jail tapes which were played during the trial. In the tapes, Walker tells Carrington that “someone was trying to choke her,” but wouldn’t tell Carrington who the person was. Carrington was in jail at the time, and the conversation took place a month before Walker’s death.
The defense argued that there is evidence missing from the trial. For instance, Carrington’s attorneys said there is no confession, no physical evidence tying him to Walker’s homicide, no witnesses to Walker’s death, and no evidence of who came in and out of the apartment building the night of the murder. Fingerprints placing Carrington at the scene were found on beer bottles and soda cans, but not on any weapons. The defense said that the fingerprints found on Walker’s body may have been from natural contact.
“The DNA proves nothing,” Murphy said. “It only proves that they were two people who came in contact with each other.”
After each side presented their closing arguments, Judge Gaziano told the jury to revisit every piece of hard evidence related to the Philip Carrington trial while they deliberate.
The jury left and began deliberations on Friday afternoon.