Man accused of killing Charleston police officer appears in court

CHARLESTON, W. Va. — A preliminary hearing was held Tuesday in Kanawha County Circuit Court for the man charged with the murder of Charleston Police Officer Cassie Johnson.

Joshua Phillips, 38, appeared in person before Judge Jennifer Bailey before Bailey denied a motion by Phillips’ attorneys to have certain evidence in the case suppressed and pursue a motion for a change of venue. Phillips faces a first-degree murder charge in Johnson’s shooting death in December 2020.

John Sullivan, representing Phillips with Ronni Sheets, argued evidence such as the pills found in Phillip’s pants were inadmissible because they were obtained while the suspect was in hospital. Phillips had been shot in a fight with Johnson.

Joshua Phillips

“The subsequent search which resulted in the discovery of the pills should have been accompanied by a search warrant. There was no reason for an urgent circumstance at the time this search was carried out,” he said.

Bailey replied: “Based on the totality of the circumstances here, this was a warrantless search based on probable cause to take the accused into custody. The seizure of evidence was an incident that I consider a lawful arrest.

Pills found in Phillips’ pants on the day of the incident resulted in a drug charge in the indictment. Phillips was indicted last April by a grand jury for first-degree murder, conspiracy, prohibition of possession of a concealed firearm and violation of the Uniform Controlled Substances Act.

One of the Charleston police officers who testified Tuesday was Sgt. Hedrick Miller. Miller told the stand that he went to the hospital with Phillips and collected his clothes from the ambulance. Miller told the defense he did not search the pockets of Phillips’ clothes. Phillips’ clothing was later searched by the CPD.

“As he was in custody and not free to leave, we followed the ambulance to make sure he wouldn’t escape from the back of the ambulance and then went to the hospital,” Miller said on the stand.

Charleston Police Corporal. Jarl Taylor, who said he now works for the Kanawha County Commission, also spoke on Tuesday. Taylor was moved as he recalled that day as he heard on his radio a fight between Johnson and Phillips.

“I heard her say stop, then you heard the microphone jamming,” Taylor said.

“What did you do at that time,” asked Michele Drummond, representing the state.

“At that time, that’s when I…I drove lights and sirens through that area,” Taylor replied emotionally.

During the hearing, Bailey also pursued a request for a change of venue until Tuesday, March 22 at 1 p.m. The defense continues to claim that the pre-trial publicity made it impossible to find an impartial jury in Charleston. The defense said it had a witness who conducted a location change study to testify.

The defense pleaded for a change of venue during preliminary hearings in December and January.

The trial in this case is scheduled for March 28.

Phillips is accused of shooting Johnson on December 1, 2020 while the office was responding to a parking complaint on Garrison Avenue. Johnson died a few days after the incident.

Phillips remains at South Central Regional Jail.

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