tv 2020 ABC September 30, 2016 10:01pm-10:54pm EDT
tonight on tonight on "20/20" -- the breaking verdict in a murder trial, just two days ago. a single mom, a hometown heartbreaker. her 12-year-old son. and the college soccer coach, nick hillary, who dated her and some say would do anything to keep her -- even commit murder. why would he go and do this to garrett? police say it was rage, taking out the son who stood in the way. >> they're breaking up because of garrett. >> he says it was race. targeted as one of the few black men in town, dating a white woman. interrogated, forced to strip,
"20/20." >> i have crossed the line of being a black man. >> you think it's all about race? >> it is. >> we're insid >> we're inside the crime scene. the killer's leap from window 18 feet down. nobody in any of those three houses saw a man jump out a window? police springing into action. you were already prime suspect number one. >> i'm 100% innocent. >> but what he can't remember. >> i cannot recall -- >> and what the prosecution won't let anyone forget -- this surveillance tape. garrett on a skateboard, nick's car pulling out right after. >> this guy was hunting the kid. >> or is this the tape that says it all? >> he's not the type of person that would kill a child.
stupidly that stupidly that he can now finally be brought to justice. >> reporter: tonight a man and maybe a town on trial. st. lawrence county in the adirondacks, at the top of new york state. so far up, if you take a wrong turn, you could wind up in canada. the raquette river runs through it. tractors, silos, and dwindling herds of black and white dairy cows punctuate the endless green acres. amisbu the small town of potsdam. four local colleges bring a pinch of diversity to this predominantly white area. this is the north country. but on a rainy october afternoon in 2011, the rural routine is about to be rocked by a terrible crime. >> the unexplained death of 12-year-old garrett phillips. >> reporter: it is 4:53 in the afternoon. surveillance cameras capture
on his two-whe on his two-wheeled ripstik skateboard, heading home after school. garrett is a garrett is a popular sixth-grader, adventurous and outdoorsy, with a ready smile and streak of mischief. he and younger brother aaron are being raised by their mother, tandy cyrus. tell me about his personality. >> just seemed like he was 100 miles an hour all the time. soccer, lacrosse, basketball, hockey, football. >> reporter: wow, an all-around athlete. >> yes. >> reporter: and this isn't just a proud mom talking. with the kind of good looks that stand out in a small town, tandy can be a heartbreaker. a buttoned down bank manager by day, by night, she's fending off admirers while tending bar. which is where she meets soccer coach nick hillary. what attracted you to her? >> she showed a lot of interest in what i was doing, and, you
beautiful? >> she was very good-looking. >> reporter: nick hillary immigrated at 16. you can still hear the jamaica in his voice, but he embraces his adopted country. he served three years in the army, and then he went to st. lawrence college, where he led the soccer team to the national championship. he then had a career helping kids. first as a math teacher in florida, then returning to the potsdam area, becoming head coach at clarkson university. >> so at this point in time where we are in the season, i'm pretty pleased and really looking forward to what lies ahead. >> reporter: the former standout soccer star and his kids stand out for another reason as well -- they are one of the few black families in town. do you feel like you stuck out? >> oh, yeah. most definitely. sometimes you're the only one of color in the grocery store. >> reporter: and then in 2010, the jamaican-american soccer coach and the local beauty tandy cyrus become involved.
the attractive couple attracting attention in this small town which is nearly 95% white. what was the reaction in town? >> there was a little bit of mixed opinions, i guess you gossip, small gossip, small town, "oh, i can't believe they're dating," or "that's weird." >> it was just a very hostile environment for myself trying to have a relationship with tandy. >> reporter: the relationship lasts about a year, until tandy all happening just weeks before that dreary monday in potsdam. garrett heading home to their new apartment on market street on his ripstik, the last ride of his life. he has just eight minutes to live. >> we heard running next door in the hallway. and then we heard a loud crash. >> reporter: across the hall from tandy's place, college students sean hall and marissa vogel are watching
the show about a serial killer is interrupted by something that they say sounds like a body hitting the floor next door. >> i said, "did you hear that?" either "no," or "ow," and then definitely a "help." so i knew it was one of the children right away. it just sounded urgent. >> reporter: marissa knocks, listens, and hears on the other side of the door, a distinct sound. >> it was completely quiet until i heard a click of a lock. >> reporter: that's all, just click. >> it was instant goos there is somebody on the other side of this door who does not want me being here right now. >> potsdam police. >> my name is marissa vogel. i thought i heard some screaming, like "no" and "help" a couple of times. >> reporter: minutes later, an officer arrives, and he sees garrett's backpack, garrett's ripstik. and then garrett himself, lying on the floor of his mother's bedroom.
you're thinking dislocated shoulder or sprained ankle? >> exactly. and then he's telling me that my son is in full cardiac arrest. >> reporter: how did he look to you? >> at one point in time, they had to use the aed machine. >> reporter: i can't even imagine what that was like for you. >> i felt like i was watching it happen to somebody else. >> reporter: did they let you touch him, hold him? >> i stayed in there, i don't even know how long i was in there. i told him i loved him.orter: h >> reporter: heartbreak turns to horror when an autopsy finds rug burns on garrett's legs and suspicious marks on his face and neck. the cause of death -- suffocation and strangulation. 12-year-old garrett phillips had been murdered. i can't even fathom at what
>> the next day i had gone down to the police station, and that was when i had found out it wasn't an accident and someone had been in my apartment. >> potsdam police told the public they'd work the case as best they could. >> reporter: the killer was in her apartment, but how did he get out? lead investigator mark murray takes me inside the crime scene. and what did you notice about this window at that point? >> the screen forced out. it was a big set of metal blinds, and the window was slightly up -- about a foot and a half. >> reporter: police say the killer made an acrobatic escape from the rear window of garrett's apartment. >> it's around 20 feet from the windowsill down to the ground. >> reporter: wow. a picture of the killer begins to emerge. athletic and, judging by the drop and this gouge in the ground, possibly injured. did anybody see anybody come in this apartment? >> we did several neighborhood canvases. really came up without anyone
come -- anyone at all coming out that window. >> reporter: when we continue, police try to imagine who would want to kill a 12-year-old. did police ask you who would want to harm your son? >> yes. >> reporter: what did you say? >> and what tandy says next will divide the small town, and push it into the national headlines about police and race. >> and so, as you see both of the case develop, let us know what you think. join us live on facebook and twitter. and elizabeth will be back with more reporting in just a moment. neutrogena? rapid wrinkle repair works... ...in one week. with the... fastest retinol formula available. it's clinically proven to work on fine lines and... ...even deep wrinkles. "one week? that definitely works!" rapid wrinkle repair.
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potsdam potsdam police are now calling the death of 12-year-old garrett phillips a homicide. >> the kille potsdam boy continues to walk free. police say they have no suspects. >> reporter: by the time 12-year-old garrett phillips is buried in the family plot, his ripstik skateboard by his side, the people of potsdam, new york, are up in arms. they're demanding a suspect, an arrest, justice for garrett.uil on a suspect. the morning after garrett's
with the d.a.'s office. >> we got some strong feelings about certain people. or one person. there's one person in particular that we want to talk to. >> reporter: did police ask you who would want to harm your son? >> yes. i kind of was like, everybody liked garrett and no one ever had a problem with garrett, and then i said, garrett. >> reporter: just one? >> just one. >> reporter: who was it? >> nick. >> reporter: nick hillary? >> yes. >> r just a month before her son was murdered. first of all, who, whose idea was the break-up? >> and i mean, the idea was both of us. >> reporter: she says she was the one who broke up. think it >> i think it was the two of us. we made a decision. >> he made a lot of attempts to get me to change my mind. >> reporter: tandy says she broke up with nick because of
two sons. >> a lot of nick's rules started getting enforced as far as there was no tv during the week for the kids. >> reporter: at all? >> >> no. >> reporter: how did that rule go over? >> not very well. >> reporter: did you ever see nick lose his temper with your children? >> he never really disciplined my children. >> reporter: so you'd never saw him strike any child? >> no. >> reporter: or threaten any child? >> no. >> reporter: but tandy s to be around nick, so she decided to move out. >> i told him that my kids weren't happy and i wasn't going to stay in a relationship where my kids were miserable. >> reporter: what was his reaction? >> he thought that i was letting them make my decisions for me. >> reporter: there are people who say now that the reason you and tandy broke up was because garrett wanted you out of the house. >> not true. >> reporter: you're saying there wasn't tension between you and garrett? >> no. no. >> reporter: that you didn't argue. >> no, we didn't. no, we didn't.
the text messages tandy sent nick. "i've been waiting for almost a year for the feeling and situation between you and my kids to get better and it's not. this is not easy for me either yes, it is ao put my kids first. yes, it is about the boys." >> he blamed my son for our relationship ending. >> reporter: for losing you, and he didn't want to lose you. >> no. >> reporter: tandy's suspicion of her ex-boyfriend is shared by the police. the night after the murder, lieutenant murray hides in a crowd of soccer fans, secretly shooting this video of nick. were you aware that police officers were at the game, videotaping you? >> absolutely no clue. >> reporter: you know that if they were videotaping you 24 hours later, you were already prime suspect number one. >> yes. >> reporter: the next morning, it's the police again. >> they told me, "hey, you have
>> they says, "well, you know, we, we would like for you to assist us with the garrett's case." and i says, "okay, no problem." >> reporter: nick says he voluntarily goes to the police station. "20/20" has obtained this video of potsdam detectives interviewing nick two days after the murder. prosecutors say some of his behavior is suspicious. not exactly a smoking gun. just smoking. >> he is a chain smoker, and they gave him opportunity to smoke three different cigarettes. >> reporter: you smoked some cigarettes while you were in the police station. >> yes, i did. >> reporter: what did you do with the butts of those cigarettes? >> some of the butts put down the sink. >> he doesn' >> he doesn't want them to get his dna. >> reporter: are you sure that's
maybe he's really neat, or something. >> maybe he's just a neat freak. elizabeth, whatever you say. but pretty obvious to me what he was doing. >> reporter: nick says he doesn't realize anything is wrong for about an hour, until he tries to leave. >> at that point in time, they barred the door. >> reporter: they physically blocked it? >> physically stood in the doorway and tell me, "look, you are not going anywhere." i was read my miranda rights and that's when i knew. >> reporter: nick says polic held him against his will all day long. armed with a search warrant from a judge, they take his pants, his sweatshirt, and he says in a final humiliation, even his underwear. >> they pretty much stripped me naked as the day i was born. >> reporter: they took all of your clothes? >> everything was taken.
a hazmat suit. a hazmat suit. >> reporter: a hazmat suit? >> a hazmat suit. that's what i was released from the station in. >> reporter: nick is released, not arrested. and for good reason, actually two good reasons. two alibi witnesses. at the time of the killing his then 15-year-old daughter shanna says he was home with her and right after, assistant coach ian fairlie says nick stopped by his place. how did he look to you? >> he looked like he was, always did, kind of athletic clothes, getting ready for practice. >> reporter: normal. >> yeah. >> reporter: not sweaty, not disheveled. >> no, yeah, i mean, absolutely not. >> reporter: was he limping? >> no. police scour the crime scene for three days. >> we didn't get any evidence from the items that were tested by the forensic center in albany. >> reporter: no hairs, no fibers. really nothing? >> right. >> reporter: a smidgen of dna under garrett's fingernail is too little to be useful, the lab
but then a "csi" moment, crime scene techs find one, two, three, four fingerprints. of all places, right on that window through which the killer escaped. but the prints do not belong to nick hillary. whoever had their hands on that rear window, police are never able to identify them. we interviewed nick hillary earlier this year. why do you think there is this depth of fervor to get you? >> that because i think i have crossed the line of being a black man, honestly. >> reporter: you think it's all about race? >> it is. i sincerely think it's all about race. >> reporter: one unsettling year passes here in the north country, and then another. nick hillary is not arrested,
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>> reporter: t >> reporter: the signs are everywhere in potsdam, new yorkg "justice for garrett." t-shirts, too. the 12-year-old killed in his own home, a village angry that but it's not for lack of trying. within days of the crime police gather video from many of the security cameras in this small town, discovering one at the school captured some of the last moments of garrett's short life. mark murray with the potsdam police department shows me where the boy rode his ripstik skateboard that day. where does garret come from? >> he comes from the path right back here behind us. >> reporter: that's leading to
>> correct, from the middle school side of the campus. >> reporter: so the middle school's up there straight ahead, and garrett comes on his ripstik down this path. but look closely, because there's something else caught on these cameras, this baby blue honda. as garrett rolls toward the parking lot exit, watch. ten seconds la ten seconds later, see the backup lights? >> as soon as garrett passes, he pulls out and does a "k" turn. >> reporter: that honda backs out and heads for the exit. are we talking immediately? like, immediately, as soon as garrett passes on that sidewalk on his skateboard or ripstik? >> yes. >> reporter: what does that tell you? >> he knew that that was garrett. >> reporter: is that driver garrett's killer, stalking the little boy just minutes away from his death? the police think so, but the surveillance video is grainy and they can't make out the license
a break from an unlikely source, nick hillary himself. hillary decides to sue the potsdam police over what they did to him at the police station two days after the murder. that strip search, that humiliation. why did you do that? >> how could i have experienced such treatment and to know what they have done to me is totally against the law. >> reporter: the lawsuit alleges false arrest, false imprisonment unreasonable search and seizure, defamation and emotional distress. nick's lawyers in the case are old friends, a former college soccer teammate, mani tafari, and his wife lisa marcoccia. both are attorneys in new york city. >> there was no probable cause to hold mr. hillary and there was no arrest warrant. >> what they did to nick that day was, was really horrendous. they had him leave the station in a -- in a hazmat suit. how embarrassing is that?
satisfying for nick to get payback against the police who humiliated him two years earlier. but he's about to find out that sword lady justice holds, cuts both ways. >> do you know if garrett liked you? >> he never said he disliked me. >> reporter: the lawsuit also requires nick himself to submit to questioning under oath in a deposition, all while still a prime suspect in the murder of a little boy. his attorneys say that deposition proves nick has nothing to hide, and he willingly answers questions for hours. >> why were you going to potsdam high school that day? >> objection, relevance. >> to watch a soccer game. >> and was the game in progress when you arrived? >> yes, it was. >> reporter: but detectives believe nick makes important admissions. for one, he reveals the day garrett was killed, the driver of that blue honda in the parking lot. >> what vehicle were you driving, sir? >> objection, relevance.
>> what vehicle is that? >> a honda. >> light blue? >> that is correct. >> reporter: finally, the driver of that baby blue honda is identified, and it is nick hillary. his own deposi his own deposition work against him. >> we both fully believe that the civil suit actually ended up really protecting nick, because -- >> reporter: how? >> nick had to disclose this information, but so did they. the civil suit goes to showing that he's an innocent man. you know, no guilty person would've, would've done something like that. >> reporter: but as nick proceeds with his civil suit he now has another problem, there's a new district attorney in town, mary rain, who won the election promising justice for garrett phillips. there she is campaigning with garrett's mom tandy by her side. >> garrett's murderer should be behind bars at this point, but he is not. >> reporter: why w that important to have y standing
community doesn't forget this crime. >> reporter: this was a notorious murder of child. this didn't seem to have any danger of fading into the woodwork anytime soon. >> i can almost guarantee you that if i hadn't been elected, it would've just gone away. >> i knew exactly what it meant. >> reporter: which was? >> which was, "you elect me, and i will go after who i think the individual is." >> reporter: nick hillary? >> nick hillary. >> st. lawrence county d.a. mary rain. >> reporter: in potsdam, election promises are kept. on the first day in office. >> that file, i picked it up, there was dust on it. i blew off the dust. the file was about this thick. it is now about 20 boxes. >> indicted an >> indicted and arrested, a suspect in that murder of a little boy in potsdam two and a half years ago. >> reporter: and four months after giving his civil deposition, nick hillas indicted for the murder of garrett ilnd arrested.
of you that said, "okay, it's a murder trial, but at least i finally get to get up in front of the world, this town, and tell my side." >> no, there was no part of me that was saying that, because i was pissed. >> reporter: nick does get one lucky break. instead of sitting in jail awaiting trial, he gets bailed out by an unex out by an unexpected benefactor -- sarah johnson, a wealthy film producer. >> the oscar goes to "birdman." >> reporter: best known for financing the oscar winning film "birdman." she also graduated from the same college as nick. how much are you willing to spend? >> as much as it takes. >> reporter: nick hillary's lucky to have you as a friend. >> he's a good person. >> reporter: and sarah isn't the ly college connection taki nick's side.
soccer teammates, lifelong friends from that championship season, have been standing by their former captain. >> we believe that he is 100% innocent. >> we've stood together and we continue to stand together. >> our unwavering support will be there for nick always. >> reporter: did you kill garrett? >> no, i did not. >> reporter: did you hurt him in any way? >> i have absolutely nothing to do with what has happened to garrett. >> reporter: nick's declarations of innocence do not dissuade the prosecutors. they are coming for him. >> so here's our most important witnesses, a bunch of cameras. >> reporter: still ahead, rare access beyond the courtroom and behind closed doors with the prosecution as they build a case they hope will send nick hillary to prison. >> i can't picture 12 people from this county looking at that
just yet, but he is a bald-faced liar." >> reporter: stay with us. ou need is love" plays? my friends know me so well. they can tell what i'm thinking, just by looking in my eyes. but what they didn't know was that i had dry, itchy eyes. i used artificial tears from the moment i woke up... ...to the moment i went to bed. so i finally decided to show my eyes some love,... ...some eyelove. eyelove means having a chat with your eye doctor about your dry eyes because if you're using artificial tears often and still have symptoms, it could be chronic dry eye.
you got cottage street. >> reporter: "20/20" gains rare access as st. lawrence county prosecutor mary rain maps out her case against nick hillary. >> this is where garrett was, and this is where the defendant was, in a parking lot right in this area. >> reporter: drawing up battle plans, consulting boxes of evidence, pouring over crime scene photos. >> this is tandy's bedroom, this is where garrett retreated to. this is the window where the defendant climbed out. probably jumped right on to this area. that tile was broken. prosecutor. but she has a secret weapon -- that prosecutor we've been hearing from, veteran district attorney bill fitzpatrick. why did you turn to bill fitzpatrick? >> bill fitzpatrick has over 75 homicides under his belt. i have one. so if you're looking at that and if you're a college team and you ask lebron james to come play for you, you let him play. >> this is a circumstantial case. basically, we will prove that hillary did it and we'll also prove who the hell else could
>> reporter: fitzpatrick has a fearsome reputation for winning. he says the devil in is the details. >> as usual, it's little things that convict people. where were you? which way did you turn? i turned left, i turned right, i can't remember. >> reporter: with no direct evidence connecting nick hillary to the murder of garrett phillips, they are left to build a case out of circumstances, working on the theory that there are no innocent coincidences in crime. their star witness? cameras and two videos. one is that deposition nick gave when he sued the potsdam police. these prosecutors are eager to turn nick's own words against him. >> the deposition that was the gift that keeps on giving. i can't picture 12 people from this county looking at that deposition and not saying, "okay, we're not 100% sure he's the killer just yet, but he is a bald-faced liar." >> reporter: security cameras
lot in his honda at 4:47 p.m. he says he's there to scout a soccer game. so you are looking for players to recruit? >> i was looking for players to recruit. >> reporter: and then he parks where? >> he drives up and parks approximately right -- right here, double-parked. >> reporter: lead investigator mark murray shows me the parking lot. where was the soccer game taking place? >> it was taking place on the turf field to our left. >> reporter: so over there? >> correct. >> reporter: he can't see the game from here? >> that's exactly our point. why would you park where you couldn't see the game, and move to a spot where you can't -- it's even worse from behind a school bus, then to behind a 40-foot pine tree. >> reporter: police say oddly nick stays in his car the entire time, but he has an explanation. did you get out of your car once you parked? >> no, i didn't. >> reporter: why not? >> because it was raining. i was waiting for the rain to break. i think it was probably about halftime in the game at the an waiting and it just didn't break. and i decide, "okay, i will just
>> reporter: he leaves after six minutes in the parking l. he says he went home. prosecutors say he went to garrett's apartment and killed him. you don't believe that it was a coincidence that nick hillary was in that parking lot, that school parking lot. >> i don't believe in the tooth fairy. i don't believe in mother goose. and i don't believe that nick hillary was in that parking lot by coincidence. he was hunting garrett. >> reporter: did you go to that apartment that day? >> no, i did not. >> reporter: you didn't follow th apartment? >> no, i did not. >> reporter: you didn't jump out a window and injure your ankle? trying to escape? >> no, i did not. with the death of garrett phillips.>> reporter: n suspicion in this small town. he is unemployed after losing his coaching twins, awaiting his day in court.
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check one, check one, two. check one, two. yeah, can we yeah, can we close that door? >> reporter: this murder trial, any murder trial, is big news in st. lawrence county, new york. a team of north country public radio reporters covering every angle with a daily podcast. >> you're listening to >> you're listening to day by day, the ni by day, the nick hillary trial podcast. nick hillary is charged with second degree murder in the 2011 death of 12-year-old garrett phillips in potsdam. >> reporter: most of the jurors for the murder trial have been selected when suddenly nick hillary waives his right to a jury trial, putting his fate solely in the hands of judge felix catena. >> we had ten jurors. eight women, two men, and they were all white. and that got us concerned. >> reporter: the attorneys gather to do battle at the historic st. lawrence county ur. ni
powered new york civil rights defense attorneys norman siegel and earl ward. versus prosecutors mary rain and william fitzpatrick. >> many names that have been labeled on this defendant are the innocent man, the wrongfully accused. i want you to label him for exactly what he is, the murderer of a helpless 12-year-old boy. >> nick hillary did not kill garrett phillips. >> reporter: opening arguments seem to describe two different cases. >> there is no fingerprint evidence. no hair or fiber evidence connecting nick hillary to this crime. >> reporter: but there is the question of nick's ankle. remember, the murderer, whoever it was, jumped out the second story rear window. police discover nick's right ankle is scraped and swollen. >> how did you hurt it? >> i have acquired new furnitures, and in the process
>> reporter: you never said you didn't have a sprained ankle or a hurt ankle of any kind? >> no, i didn't. >> reporter: you never denied that injury? >> no. >> reporter: but when police interview nick two days after garret was killed, listen to what he says. >> could you pull up your right pant leg for me? like this. show me your, your leg like that. that would speak volumes for me and then i would be all set. i'd be done. >> no, i won't. >> why not? do you have, do you have a injury to your right leg? >> no, i don't. >> reporter: that video evidence in the trial because nick had already asked for a lawyer. although he does not take the stand at his trial, the video of nick testifying for his civil case is played in court. >> after your daughter arrived home at approximately 4:30, did you leave your apartment? >> yes. >> and where did you go? >> to the high school. >> reporter: a critical issue in the trial. how very near nick was to that little boy in the minutes right
there's nick, parked. and there goes garrett scooting behind on his skateboard. did you see garrett skateboard by? >> no, i didn't. >> reporter: because obviously, surveillance tapes shows that he did, to go home. >> exactly, exactly. >> reporter: and that's a pretty extraordinary coincidence. >> very much so. >> reporter: in his deposition, nick says after sitting in his car at the high school parking lot, he goes home. >> i went home. >> reporter: but if nick was gohog , the most direct route is to turn right. but that's not what nick does. the security camera video shows nick turns left out of the parking lot. >> where were you going? >> i mean, i could make either a left or a right and still go home. >> well, mr. hillary, you told me under oath, you didn't stop anywhere on your way going home, correct? >> that is correct. >> and your home would be in the opposite direction of where you turned, correct? >> objection, again. >> like i said before, i cannot recall turning left or right. >> reporter: prosecutors say he's not going home, he's going
to murder garrett. but defense attorney earl ward has an innocent explanation for the wrong turn -- assistant direction.from nick maki from nick making a left turn is that he was going to ian fairley's house. >> reporter: still in our interview, before the trial, nick gave a different explanation. >> when i made a left, my intentions were to get to the office, and i quickly realized i need to make daughter at home. >> reporter: prosecutors say nick and his daughter are orchestrating his alibi that he was home with her at 5:00 and not a 5:00 and not at garrett's apartment. >> reporter: and what time did you get home? >> i got back home around 5:00, shortly thereafter. we spoke for a little bit. talked about dinner arrangements.
who suggested the confli between the rambunctious 12-year-old and the defendant was exaggerated. >> he testified that garret never complained, at least to m, investigation inconsistencies. like the fact that the first policeman on the scene says he heard noises coming from inside garrett's apartment after k was already at his house. >> nick cannot be the
apartment, nick is at ian fairley's house. >> reporter: with not a hair, a fiber, or a fingerprint tying d garrett phillips. >> lack of evidence is reasonable doubt, and this case is riddled and replete and rife with lack of evidence. >> earl ward repeats the phrase reasonable doubt 25 times. doubt. >> reporter: and he dismisses the motive. >> you killed the poor kid with the hope that the mother would come running back into your arms? it makes absolutely no sense. >> reporter: he asks the judge to acquit. >> he' that would wal that would walk into a room, put his hands around a child's neck and kill a child. >> reporter: prosecutor william fitzpatrick gets the last word, making an impassioned plea.
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? ?thunder? ? ? ?thunder? listerine? kills 99% of bad breath germs. this is 100% useful for a 100% fresh mouth. just ask listerine? users. the very people we studied in the study of bold. people who are statistically more likely to stand up to a bully. do a yoga handstand. and be in a magician's act. listerine? kills 99% so you can feel 100% in life. bring out the bold?. go to boldpercent.com to join the bold percent for the chance to win a trip of a lifetime. >> reporter: a >> reporter: at the majestic st. lawrence county courthouse, it is time for justice. nick hillary, nick hillary, on trial for second degree murder in the death of 12-year-old garrett phillips. if convicted he could get a life
jury trial, allowing one man, judge felix catena, to decide his fate. >> we will recess to await the court's verdict. >> reporter: a decision has been made. wednesday, just this week, media and families on both side pack the large courtroom to capacity. >> the defendant oral nicholas hillary is found not guilty. >> thank you, jesus. >> reporter: shouts break out in the courtroom, one side offering praise and thanks, the other bitter disappointment. it's vindication for nick hillary. he weeps in celebration. but across the aisle, a different kind of tears. garrett's family -- mother tandy, brother aaron. devastated. outside the courthouse, the media swirl around nick. at a press conference, his
>> do not ignore the racial overtones of this case. whether it's charleston, whether it's tulsa, whether it's ferguson, whether it's staten island there's a serious problem especially police vis a vis men of color. >> reporter: nick hillary's civil lawsuit against the village of potsdam and the police is still pending.i catchw i catch up with nick an hour after the verdict in his criminal case. >> it's certainly a burden that has been taken off my shoulder. >> reporter: what would you say to tandy? >> i am extremely, extremely sorry for their loss, and i wish i could have been of more comfort to them. >> reporter: whoever really murdered garrett phillips, his mother, tandy, says the killer took everything. >> never got to go to sixth grade graduation. never got to have his driver's license. no girlfriend, no marriage.
>> reporter: as the fifth anniversary of garrett phillips' murder approaches, there is a haunting question lingering in the autumn air of the north country. someone squeezed the life out of a 12-year-old boy here. whoever that was, the killer remains free. >> a deeply controversial case. let us know, what do you tell us on facebook and twitter. >> watch the vice presidential debate on abc tuesday night, 9:00 p.m. eastern, right after dancing with the stars. i'm david muir. >> and i'm elizabeth vargas. thank you so much for watching. have a good night, and a great weekend. the new advisory on hurricane matthew is out.