La Salle County murder trials will not go until 2024

Trials postponed to after holidays

La Salle County Courthouse

Two men charged with murder in La Salle County have postponed their trials until 2024.

Nicolaus Phillips, 24, of Spring Valley, appeared Friday in La Salle County Circuit Court and asked to strike his trial setting for first-degree murder, previously set for the Monday after Thanksgiving. Phillips could face up to 85 years if a jury finds him guilty of firing the June 5 shot that killed Eric Clements of Ottawa.

Phillips does not yet have new court dates. He was arrested in June and ordered held on $5 million bond. Since then, Illinois has become a no-cash bail state, and Phillips has the right to argue for pre-trial release.

A detention hearing is set for Tuesday, and trial dates cannot be set until detention is resolved.

Additionally, Malcolm Whitfield, 30, of DeKalb (also listed in Streator) made an unscheduled appearance Thursday and asked to move his trial for murder, which was previously set for December.

He will stand trial Feb. 20 on allegations that he shot three people, killing Shaquita Kelly, in a May 6 incident in Streator. He could face up to 145 years.

Unlike Phillips, Whitfield has already tried to argue for pre-trial release since the abolition of cash bail. That request was denied, and he will remain in the La Salle County Jail until trial.

Neither of the trial postponements was unexpected. Murder cases are complicated, and few proceed within a suspect’s right to speedy trial within 120 days. Most murder suspects waive their speedy trial rights to give their lawyers additional time to prepare.

Trying murder cases between Thanksgiving and Christmas is a dicey business for prosecutors and defense attorneys alike. Witness availability is limited, and travel expenses for out-of-state experts are more costly.

Jurors are reluctant to serve under the best of circumstances and are even less disposed as the holidays approach.