ST. TAMMANY PARISH, La. ― If you’re an inmate in prison for more than 16 years, you should be proud of yourself if you’ve never been cited for a disciplinary violation.
However, lawyers for McKinley Phipps Jr., a hip-hop artist better known to rap fans as “Mac,” told “Crime Watch Daily with Chris Hansen” that their client’s clean record nearly sidelined a clemency petition to free him. Phipps’ manslaughter conviction has been called into question after a series of investigative reports by The Huffington Post.
The Louisiana Board of Pardons and Parole, according to Phipps’ attorneys, “kicked the application back” because his prison conduct record was omitted in the petition.
However, that record, according to Phipps’ lead attorney, Doyle “Buddy” Spell, was not included because it does not exist.
“Mac has no conduct record because he has never had an infraction during the entire 16 years in which he has been locked up,” Spell told HuffPost.
Spell and his partners, Annie Spell and Tara Zeller, filed Phipps’ 32-page application for clemency in September. It asserts Phipps’ conviction is flawed and requests commutation of his prison sentence.
Doyle Spell said “pristine conduct” for long-term inmates is a seemingly foreign concept.
“Apparently, this is an anomaly not faced before, because there existed no procedure to cure the ‘defect’ in our filing,” the attorney said.
Spell & Spell took on Phipps’ case last year after a series of HuffPost articles investigated his 2001 conviction. “Crime Watch Daily with Chris Hansen” looked into the latest developments in Phipps’ story on Wednesday.
Andrea Isom, a correspondent for the show, spent several weeks this fall interviewing numerous people and probing the details of Phipps’ case.
“Phipps is a compelling figure whose story deserves to be told,” the show’s executive producers told HuffPost. “We are eager for our audience to see all the facts.”
Phipps, once a rising star at No Limit record label, has been sitting in prison for nearly 17 years for a crime he says he did not commit ― the Feb. 21, 2000 shooting of Barron Victor Jr. inside a nightclub in Slidell, Louisiana.
The investigation was cursory at best, and HuffPost and Spell & Spell have raised questions about the case. The prosecution had no forensic evidence. It ignored another man who confessed, and multiple witnesses told HuffPost that authorities bullied them into lying.
When Phipps’ case went to trial the week of the 9/11 terror attacks, jurors never heard the testimony of witness Jerry Price, who recently told Phipps’ legal team that a key witness in the case was outside the nightclub at the time of the shooting, and therefore couldn’t have witnessed it. Phipps’ original defense attorneys were unaware of Price’s existence, according to Phipps’ legal team.
Phipps’ lawyers asked St. Tammany Parish District Attorney Warren Montgomery to review the new evidence last year. Montgomery subsequently said the developments were “investigated and found without merit.”
However, Price said that Montgomery’s chief of trials, Colin Sims, had not bothered to interview him before deciding not to intervene in Phipps’ case. Other witnesses also said they weren’t interviewed.
That inaction is what prompted Phipps’ legal team to call on the Louisiana Board of Pardons and Parole to grant their client clemency — an order that would reduce his punishment to the time he has already served.
The board may send the plea to the desk of Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) or reject it. There is no immediate timeline available for the decision.
“We remain optimistic that we will get our hearing before the board and that, once we get a chance to present our case, we firmly believe that Mac will prevail,” Buddy Spell told HuffPost.