By LYDIA BERGLAR
During this fall’s jury trials, Terry Labron Mitchell was tried for murder and feticide after providing fentanyl that resulted in the death of Erin Elizabeth Phillips and her unborn child. The trial is a significant one as the Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit works to establish protocol for such cases and minimize future deaths from fentanyl.
The jury found Mitchell guilty on two counts (Violation of Georgia Controlled Substances Act and Tampering With Evidence) but not guilty on the other two counts (Felony Murder and Feticide).
According to the court disposition, Mitchell distributed fentanyl to Erin Elizabeth Phillips on October 15th, 2022. Phillips was pregnant, and she “introduce[d] said controlled substance into her body.” According to the disposition, Mitchell also “did, with the intent to prevent the apprehension of himself, knowingly conceal a quantity of fentanyl and a coaster previously used as a base to cut fentanyl.”
Mitchell was sentenced to six years: the first four in confinement and the last two with the possibility of probation.
Clayton M. Fuller, the prosecutor, told the Sentinel, “I’ve been involved in national security for well over a decade and at the highest levels of our government, and people need to understand that the fentanyl epidemic is the greatest domestic national security threat that we face as a nation. The components for fentanyl are sent to Mexico by the Chinese Communist Party and come through our porous southern border via the Mexican cartels. We lose 100,000 Americans a year, and I’m sick and tired of seeing lives lost in our own community.”
Fuller was not familiar with how often fentanyl distributors in Georgia have been tried for murder, but he said, “We are working on building strong cases against fentanyl distributors in the Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit and to ensure there is a protocol for law enforcement to follow in these cases. Unfortunately, we cannot always charge someone in a fentanyl overdose death because these cases can be difficult to prove, and those are tough and heartbreaking conversations with parents and family. Frankly, it is the most difficult and painful part of this job.”
Of the verdict, he said, “I respect the jury’s decision in this case and appreciate their service to the community in a difficult trial. But me and my team will continue to stand in the arena, and do everything we can to end the fentanyl epidemic and save lives.”