15-year-old suspect of 1997 murder case possibly getting a new sentence


BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) — On November 19th, 1997, Rebecca Falcon and Cliffton Gilchrist murdered 25-year-old taxi driver, Richard Phillips.

At the time of the shooting, Gilchrist was 18 but Falcon was only 15-years-old.

During the jury trial in 1999, Gilchrist testified the two were only planning to rob Phillips but they panicked and shot him. Prosecutors say though, Falcon killed Phillips for ‘the thrill of it.’

Cliffton Gilchrist

The two suspects were both found guilty. Despite her age, Falcon was sentenced to life in prison, along with Gilchrist.

Due to a change by the United States Supreme Court, Falcon was back in court on Monday morning.

“The law changed in 2012 and basically the United States Supreme Court has now said that all juveniles who are serving a life sentence for murder are entitled to a re-sentencing,” said State Prosecutor, Bob Sombathy.

The case determining this decision is Miller v. State of Alabama where a 14-year-old boy was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Rebecca Falcon

“They found that juveniles serving a mandatory life sentence for murder violated the eighth amendment and so they were entitled to re-sentencing.”

The eighth amendment prohibits cruel and unusual punishment.

Sombathy says Falcon could receive a life-sentence again but the judge will have to consider Falcon’s age and other details of the murder.

“Part of what he also has to take into consideration the level of her involvement in the crime. Were they a minor participant, were they under somebody’s influence. They take all those factors into account and then sentence accordingly,” said Sombathy.

Insert of Falcon’s original arrest report, 1997

According to the original arrest reports, Gilchrist gave Falcon the gun and knew what she was going to do with it. The reports say Falcon was the one who pulled the trigger.

Insert of Gilchrist’s original arrest report, 1997

Monday morning’s court appearance was only a status conference. Judge Brantley Clark Jr. will set a date for a new sentencing phase at a later time once schedules between him and the two counsels are worked out.

Gilchrist is currently serving his life sentence at Florida State Prison in Raiford, Florida.

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