GREENVILLE, SC (WSPA) – A former Greenville prosecutor was fired from his job for communicating with a juror during a criminal court case. That local attorney is now suspended indefinitely from practicing law in South Carolina.
The State Supreme Court issued an order Tuesday suspending attorney Jeffrey Phillips’ license to practice law.
According to Phillips, it stemmed from a Facebook comment and text messages with a juror regarding a recent court case. They are messages, Phillip said, he self-reported.
On Wednesday, Phillips shared the text messages and the Facebook interaction with 7NEWS.
He said it began back in April on social media with a friends’ post on Facebook asking for advice on how to avoid jury duty. Some people offered suggestions, however, Phillips encouraged her and the others to serve their time.
On the Facebook post, he replied “Y’all, stop! We need good jurors! We don’t want to be left with those ‘not smart enough’ to get out of jury duty! I don’t want to hear anyone complain about unfair jury verdicts or the system when you try to subvert it. Sorry, but not really. Love ya mean it!”
Phillips said, shortly after the social media interaction, the juror texted him, kindly asking how he was doing on his road to recovery after recently suffering from a stroke. She went on to jokingly share that he “jinxed her,” as she was selected for jury duty.
During the text exchange, Phillips asked questions such as: What’s the case about? Is it criminal or civil? Do you remember the prosecutor? Etc.
The juror’s response to some of the messages, while in a friendly manner, was somewhat hesitant at times. She stated “I can’t talk about it.” Also asking Phillips if “she could get in trouble (for sharing certain information).”
Throughout the messages, Phillips told 7NEWS, he did not sway the juror regarding the case nor did he ask about the specifics.
In the texts, Phillips went on to respond for the juror to respectfully, “All of the information is available to me. I’ll find out tomorrow.” He added, “Don’t worry about it. I don’t want you to violate your conscious.”
“I just tried to be friendly. I knew nothing about nothing, which is clear,” Phillips told 7NEWS.
Later on in the messages, the juror mentioned it had been an “interesting process.”
In the later part of their conversation, Phillips added, “Don’t say anything so you don’t have to answer the question tomorrow and get us both in a lot of trouble.”
“Clearly I was talking about the case because immediately after I said so, she could answer the judges question honestly that’s always asked, ‘Has anyone talked to you about the case?’ I wanted to make sure she could say ‘no,’” Phillips explained to 7NEWS.
The State Supreme Court’s order stated that the court “received sufficient evidence demonstrating that Phillips poses a substantial threat of serious harm to the public or administration of justice” because of the communication.
As a result, Phillips cannot practice law in the state of South Carolina until the court orders otherwise.
When asked about the order, Phillips responded that he, “…had a casual, friendly relationship. She contacted me. I self-reported the second someone said there could be an issue. I was 100% truthful with the court. I turned over all text messages. There were no phone calls and we didn’t talk about the case. I was fired.”
7NEWS reached out to the Thirteenth Circuit Solicitor’s Office on Wednesday regarding Phillips’ recent suspension and how they believe it may have altered the ruling in the case the juror was on. They were unavailable for comment.
Phillips said he met with someone who plans to represent him in this case. For now, he said, they will wait until the state decides if he will face any disciplinary action.