Feb 16, 2022

Flores defense attorney predicts trial outcome

Fontaine murder trial: Day 6

Defense attorney Pamela Lipscomb
Don't miss Part 1 of this post: Flores defense names "real killer"

After attorney Pam Lipscomb presented the defense's case arguing that Benito Flores was innocent and Grant Fontaine killed his father in a drug-fueled rage, Ms. Lipscomb spoke exclusively with Crime Beat about the evidence they uncovered and what she expects will happen now.

Crime Beat: Thanks for talking to us. The last couple of days have been very exciting, as you finally unveiled your case to the court and the public. What was your first gave you the idea that Grant Fontaine could have killed his father?

Pamela Lipscomb: In our view, Grant should have been the top suspect from the beginning. In reviewing the police interviews with him, it's clear that he was high the night his father was killed and he was still high when the detectives first talked to him. In subsequent police interviews, he was evasive and untruthful.

CB: Some people have attributed Grant's behavior in those interviews to his drug addiction, which he has struggled with for years. Do you cut him any kind of break for that?

PL: Well, he seems to be fine now, and by all accounts, he has been since his father was killed. We're not convinced that he's the poor little rich boy struggling with a crippling addiction, no matter how the Fontaine family has tried to portray him.

CB: You don't accept the explanation that his father's death caused him to hit rock bottom and inspired him to turn his life around?

PL: It's all in the spin, isn't it, Kemper? If Grant actually has conquered his drug addiction, was it because his father's untimely death made him reevaluate his life? Or was it because, while he was under the influence, he brutally murdered the man who gave him life and now he's afraid what will happen if he uses cocaine again?

CB: In your press conference last month when you announced you'd be implicating another suspect, you implied that the Yoknapatawpha Sheriff's detectives failed in their investigation.

CB: Do you feel the YCSD was influenced by the Fontaine family and other powerful business people in Oxford? Or do you think the detectives simply weren't up to the task of solving such a high profile homicide?

PL: I believe the detectives in the Sheriff's Department do the best they can, but I think sometimes there is more to a case than they realize or than they're empowered to acknowledge.

CB: Meaning?

PL: Meaning that sometimes investigations can be steered in one direction or another from higher up the food chain.

CB: Do you have proof of that?

PL: That kind of thing is the very definition of unprovable. I can only tell you what I believe, based on my experience and instinct.

CB: Let's talk about your case. You admitted that Mr. Flores sold drugs. Isn't that a risk? Are you worried that the jury might think, "Everyone knows drug dealing and violence go hand-in-hand. If he sold drugs, he probably committed murder too."

PL: As we explained to the jury, not everyone who sells drugs is also capable of physical violence. That's a misconception perpetuated by movies and television. While economic circumstance forced Mr. Flores to sell drugs so he could put food on the table and a roof over his head, he acknowledges that he took a wrong path. But as our witnesses testified, Mr. Flores has never hurt anyone.

CB: You don't think the drugs he sold hurt anyone?

PL: Everyone has to take responsibility for their own choices.

CB: On Tuesday, Mr. Flores took the stand and gave his version of what happened the night Philip Fontaine was murdered.

PL: It wasn't "his version." It's what happened.

CB: To some court observers, his story was a little convenient, explaining his bloody fingerprint on the murder weapon by depicting him as simply a Good Samaritan.

PL: First of all, it's no simple thing to be a Good Samaritan. That kind of action requires more bravery than most people realize.

CB: According to his own testimony, Mr. Flores left an elderly man bleeding on the floor to save his own skin. He didn't call 911 or make any effort to get some help for Mr. Fontaine.

PL: As he told the jury, Mr. Flores was concerned that, as a poor minority, he would be blamed for Mr. Fontaine's death, even though he did nothing except try to help the man. As it turned out, Mr. Flores was right.

CB: So in your view, Benito Flores is on trial for killing Philip Fontaine simply because he's a lower income Latino?

PL: Sometimes justice isn't as blind as we like to pretend.

CB: Which you know as an upper middle class Caucasian woman?

PL: Which I know from more than a decade as a criminal defense attorney in Mississippi.

CB: The trial isn't over yet, but given your comments to the press, you think the jury is leaning your way?

PL: I think the prosecution is counting on the jury's sympathy for an elderly murder victim and a weak young man addled by drug addiction. But what they're not considering the the jury's empathy with a man who has to fight for every penny he makes and who never got any breaks but who still tried to do the right thing, even when it could only hurt him.

CB: But Philip Fontaine was an elderly man who was brutally murdered. And Grant Fontaine is struggling with the illness of drug addiction.

PL: The truth is, Philip Fontaine wasn't a kindly old man unfairly set upon by a swarthy menace. He was a ruthless businessman and a callous family man who evoked nothing but contempt and resentment from everyone who knew him. And Grant Fontaine is more of the same. He's just been trying – and failing – to bury it with drugs.

CB: Is there anything else you'd like our readers to know about Benito Flores or the case against him?

PL: Benito Flores is not a perfect man, as he himself has admitted, but he is not guilty of killing Philip Fontaine. He should not have to take the fall simply because he is poorer and less powerful than the real killer. After Mr. Flores is acquitted, we hope the YCSD will fully investigate Grant Fontaine and bring him to account for murdering his own father.

On Wednesday, Benito Flores will return to the stand to be cross-examined by prosecuting attorney Calvin Dollarhide. Come back tomorrow for coverage Day 7 of the Flores trial.

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