Phillip Tomlin was convicted of capital murder in Mobile County, Ala., in 1978 and sentenced to death. After 27 years on death row, Tomlin's capital sentence was vacated in 2004 and he was resentenced to life imprisonment without parole (LWOP). For the past 36 years, Tomlin has been challenging the various judicial reinterpretations of the 1975 Alabama Death Penalty Statute.
In June 2014, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta agreed to hear his challenge to the 1975 statute under which he is sentenced to LWOP. Tomlin filed his brief at the 11th Circuit on October 6, 2014, with the assistance of the Center. On July 16, 2015, the Eleventh Circuit vacated the district court's denial of the habeas corpus petition and remanded for further review of the LWOP challenge.
With the assistance of the Center, Tomlin returned to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama and pursued his habeas corpus claim. The district court denied his challenge on April 19, 2018 and denied reconsideration on February 4, 2019. The Center sought certiorari from the United States Supreme Court and was denied on June 1, 2020. Following the publication of an article on Justice Sotomayor's criticisms of the 11th Circuit's review of prisoner appeals in the New York Times, the Center filed a petition for rehearing on June 26, 2020. The petition for rehearing was denied on August 3, 2020. In June 2022, Professor Harcourt, with the assistance of students in the Abolition Practicum, filed a complaint at the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council, arguing that the detention of Mr. Tomlin "violates Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ (UDHR) prohibition against “cruel, inhuman and unusual treatment or punishment”and ensuing right to hope." Mr. Tomlin and his legal team are still awaiting a response to their complaint.