Philip E. Thornton
Philip E. Thornton has been representing persons accused of crime since November 1990. He was raised in Tucson, Arizona and moved to the northwest after law school in May of 1990. Philip’s primary area of practice is criminal defense. For the first seven years of his practice, Philip was employed as an associate for a smaller firm in Tacoma where he practiced personal injury, employment discrimination, criminal and family law. This experience gave him a broad range of experiences in handling different types of problems facing persons in need of assistance in the law. He was afforded the opportunity to assist in various trials under the watchful eye of the firms seasoned and experienced attorneys. Philip realized he loved being in the courtroom trying cases to a jury. He also realized his passion was in representing persons being investigated or accused of committing crimes.
Philip received his undergraduate degree in Speech Communication from Northern Arizona University, School of Communication in 1987. He received his juris doctorate degree from Creighton University School of Law in 1990. During law school, Philip was a member of the moot court team which competed regionally. He developed a taste for competition and a desire to better his skills in the courtroom. He would often visit the criminal courthouse during law school to watch lawyers practice their trade in the courtroom. Philip was admitted to the Washington State Bar in November 1990. Once he began practicing law as an associate, Philip would volunteer for any assignment which would allow him to get into the courtroom. He would try any case assigned to him. The experiences and lessons he learned from trying cases in family law, personal injury and employment discrimination afforded him the opportunity to learn how juries react to certain facts and circumstances. These lessons he still uses today in representing his clients before the criminal courts and juries.
While working for the firm, Philip was afforded the opportunity to take cases from the Department of Assigned Counsel (the public defender’s office). Philip was supervised by the older attorneys at the firm during his earlier years which enabled him to try more serious felonies sooner than most young attorneys. Philip obtained a “Not Guilty” verdict in his first serious felony trial – a soldier wrongfully accused of sexual assault. As his trial experience increased so did the types of cases case he was able to try. Philip tried his first murder case 1996. Philip has tried cases involving assault, robbery, kidnapping, felony murder, manslaughter, vehicular assault, vehicular homicide, child rape and molestation, unlawful possession of a controlled substance, delivery of controlled substances, domestic violence and driving under the influence.
In 1998, Philip was appointed to represent his first client charged with aggravated murder in the first degree wherein the State sought the death penalty against the Defendant. Although, the jury found the Defendant guilty of the murder, due to the hard work and determination of the team assembled for the Defense, Philip and his co-counsel obtained a “life verdict” from the same jury. In 2001, the Supreme Court adopted a rule requiring persons accused of Aggravated Murder in the First Degree where the State seeks the imposition of the death penalty be represented by attorneys “who meet the requirements of proficiency and experience, and who have demonstrated that they are learned in the law of capital punishment by virtue of training and experience . . .”. Since 2003, Philip has been deemed as qualified counsel to represent capital defendants in trials by a committee of the Washington Supreme Court. Since then Philip has handled 10 defendants charged with capital murder in the State of Washington.
As a result of his experience, Philip has twice attended the prestigious “Bryan R. Shechmeister Death Penalty College” at Santa Clara University School of Law. This a week long training college for attorneys who handle death penalty cases and is attended by and taught by some of the most distinguished and respected death penalty attorneys from across the nation. Philip attends yearly conferences on capital punishment and criminal defense seminars to stay abreast of the issues in Washington and across the nation.
Philip is a member of the Washington State Bar Association and is an active member in several professional associations. He is currently on the board of directors for the Washington Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. He is on the Advisory Board of the Department of Assigned Counsel. He is a member of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Washington Death Penalty Assistance Center, California Attorneys for Criminal Justice, and Tacoma-Pierce County Bar Association. He is a former member of the Robert J. Bryan Chapter of the American Inns of Court. He is also currently admitted to practice before the United States Federal District Courts for the Western District of Washington, and the Eastern District of Washington.
Philip will personally handle your case. His reputation as an outstanding criminal trial lawyer has led to his representing clients in highly publicized matters. He obtained an acquittal for the brother of Maurice Clemons, the man who shot four police officers, after the State had wrongfully accused the brother of assisting Mr. Clemons after the murders. Philip has worked diligently in hundreds of other cases to convince the prosecution to dismiss charges against his clients or reduce the charges against his client. Often other attorneys refer their family and friends to Philip to handle matters. Several times even prosecutors have referred friends and family members to Philip which he considers one of the highest complements he could receive from a prosecutor.
Philip is married with two active teenage boys. He enjoys coaching youth sports and spending time with his family outdoors.