Fire Death Mother ‘Was Ill, Not Evil’


Tribune Staff Reporter


THE lawyer for Philippa Marshall, the woman accused of murdering her daughter by setting her on fire in December 2017, yesterday submitted that the accused was “not in her right frame of mind” when the offence took place and therefore called for the nine-woman jury to find her not guilty by reason of insanity.

Dr Kirk Christie, a psychiatrist, previously took the witness stand before Justice Bernard Turner and testified that Marshall had told him and others the reason she set her daughter Philicia afire was because a demon told her to ignite both herself and her child.

Attorney Bjorn Ferguson, who represents Marshall, yesterday underscored Dr Christie was the only expert who spoke to the court and, therefore, called on the jury to listen to his testimony.

Marshall, who is said to be schizophrenic, was charged in April 2018 with a single count of manslaughter for allegedly causing the death of Philicia Marshall by means of unlawful harm stemming from the December 2017 incident. The charge was later upgraded to murder.

In his remarks, Mr Ferguson highlighted the prevalence of mental health problems in the country and questioned whether the jury would decide to “punish” or “help” a person suffering from a genuine mental disorder.

He also said Marshall is “ill”, not “evil”, adding no healthy woman would hurt her child.

According to an earlier testimony given by Sergeant Tamika Gibson, who responded to Marshall’s Faith Gardens residence on the morning in question, the one-year-old child was lying next to her father and two siblings when Marshall took her away to another room, poured gasoline on her and set her ablaze while her husband Isaac Marshall and two sons slept soundly.

Sgt Gibson said when she arrived at the house, she noticed Philicia had no skin on her arms, hands and legs and that Marshall was getting the baby dressed to take her to the hospital.

The child died in the hospital in February 2018.

Mr Ferguson noted medical personnel said the they expected the baby to live, but she later died of pneumonia.

“Did the burns kill her or pneumonia?” Mr Ferguson asked.

Mr Ferguson also said Marshall has been compliant in her treatment and can be a productive member of society.

Prosecutor Cephia Pinder-Moss delivered closing arguments on behalf of the Crown yesterday, calling for the jury to deliver justice for Philicia.

She maintained that at every stage that night, Marshall had the presence of mind to commit murder and was “methodical” with her actions — noting Marshall waited until her family was asleep to grab the child, took her to a bedroom and locked the door, and doused the child with gasoline.

The prosecutor also said it does not matter that the child died months later, adding doctors noted the baby was at high risk because of the extent of her burns, coupled with the fact that her youth hampered her ability to fight infections.

The prosecutor also questioned Dr Christie’s evidence. She said Dr Christie said he diagnosed Marshall based on her history, as Marshall claimed she had been hearing “demons” since 2014 and had seen two psychiatrists.

However, three times Dr Christie asked her for the names of these physicians and she refused to give this information.

The prosecutor said Dr Christie therefore was unable to verify or confirm Marshall’s medical history. Consequently, the prosecutor argued Marshall did not give the names of doctors because they did not “exist”.

She reiterated Marshall was consistent with a “lie” and a “recent fabrication”.

The prosecutor also argued that Marshall’s family had no prior knowledge of her mental illness or struggles with “demons”, adding this is because there was “nothing to know”.

The case has been adjourned to July 16.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.