Murder defendant in Curt Cochran death claims police detective deceived him during questioning

Three days before he is scheduled to go to trial in the killing of Curt Cochran in a downtown warehouse, Calvin S. Phillips Jr., pictured, said Friday on the witness stand in a pre-trial hearing that he thought a detective had “deceived” him into saying that Phillips’ co-defendant, Michael Timothy Lamar Hall, had committed the murder. (Shawnee County Jail)

Just three days before he is scheduled to go to trial in the killing of a Topeka businessman in a downtown warehouse, defendant Calvin S. Phillips Jr. took the witness stand Friday to say he thought a detective had deceived him into stating that his co-defendant committed the murder.


The jury trial of Phillips before Shawnee County District Judge Nancy Parrish will begin Monday.

Phillips, 24, testified Friday during a pre-trial hearing for a motion to suppress his statement to Topeka police tied to the slaying of Curt Cochran. He is charged with alternative counts of first-degree murder, aggravated robbery, burglary, felony theft of firearms, and misdemeanor counts of criminal damage to property and theft.

Co-defendant Michael Timothy Lamar Hall, 36, is charged with alternative counts of first-degree murder, aggravated kidnapping, aggravated robbery, burglary, felony theft, two counts of criminal possession of a firearm and misdemeanor counts of criminal damage to property and interference with a law enforcement officer.

Topeka police Detective Brian Hill testified he read the Miranda warning to Phillips, who waived his rights and spoke with Hill. Hill said he twice reminded Phillips of the Miranda warning during his police interview, and Phillips waived it.

Before the Cochran murder case, no one had ever read the Miranda warning to Phillips, he said in response to questions from his defense attorney, Gary Conwell.

“I didn’t know (Miranda rights) were the real thing,” Phillips said. He said he thought the Miranda rights were just something portrayed in movies.

Police are required by law to read a person in custody a Miranda warning, which tells a person about to undergo questioning that he has the right to remain silent; that anything he says can and will be used against him in court; that he has a right to an attorney; and that if he can’t afford an attorney, one will be provided for him. The person being questioned then is asked whether he understands the rights that have been read to him, and with those rights in mind, whether he still wishes to speak with the officer.

Phillips said Hill told him he had the freedom of speech, the right to due process, and the right to have an appointed attorney, he twice testified.

During the interview, Hill told Phillips that Hall blamed him for Cochran’s slaying, then told Phillips he could throw him a “lifeline” and Phillips wouldn’t be charged with Cochran’s slaying if he told the truth.

If Phillips didn’t tell Hill “his truth,” meaning Hill’s version of the slaying, then Phillips would “go down” for Cochran’s slaying, Phillips testified.

Phillips said he gave a statement under false promises.

“I feel like I was railroaded,” Phillips said. “If I didn’t tell them that Hall did it, they would use Hall to take me down.”

On cross examination by Deputy District Attorney Dan Dunbar, Phillips testified that before police took him into custody Sept. 9 at his job at a south Topeka warehouse, he drank a pint of vodka within a few minutes because he was working a 12-hour shift.

“I can’t say I was intoxicated to the point of not knowing what I was doing, but I was tipsy,” Phillips said.

“I told (Hill) what he wanted to hear, that Hall did it,” Phillips said, referring to the killing of Cochran.

How did you know Hall did it? Dunbar asked.

“Hall told me he did it,” Phillips said.

Before Friday, Hill testified that Phillips said Hall gave him Cochran’s stolen credit card, that Phillips used it to withdraw $600 from an ATM, and that he kept $300 of the cash.

Charles Glenn, Shawnee County coroner and forensic pathologist, said Cochran’s attackers encircled his head with plastic wrap, which smothered him. Cochran also was slashed and clubbed.

Contact reporter Steve Fry at (785) 295-1206 or @TCJCourtsNCrime on Twitter.