Juror falls ill in Murphy trial
Defense attorneys lost a bid Monday to save Kevin Murphy from a possible death penalty, arguing he was convicted of a triple homicide last week on circumstantial evidence.
The penalty phase trial for Murphy, 52, of Conemaugh Township, Indiana County, was delayed in Westmoreland County Court Monday when a juror fell ill with the flu. The case will resume on Tuesday. The jury convicted Murphy on Friday on three counts of first-degree murder for the April 23, 2009, shootings of his mother, 69-year-old Doris Murphy; his sister, 43-year-old Kris Murphy; and his aunt, 81-year-old Edith Tietge.
Their bodies were discovered in the shop area of Ferguson Glass, Murphy's business in Loyalhanna Township.
Defense attorneys Bob Bell and Mark Bolkovac said there is insufficient evidence against Murphy. They claim an unknown shooter executed the victims, firing bullets into the back of their heads.
“There is exceptionally little physical evidence in this case,” the defense lawyers wrote in an appeal filed Monday. “Cases made up of completely circumstantial evidence are particularly susceptible to inaccurate verdicts.”
During a 10-day trial, the prosecution contended Murphy killed the victims because he wanted to get his mother and sister out of his home near Saltsburg, Indiana County, to share it with a girlfriend, who had just been served divorce papers, according to trial testimony.
His aunt entered the shop of Ferguson Glass, where they all worked, after Murphy killed the other two women, according to District Attorney John Peck.
Jurors heard evidence that Murphy's DNA was on the murder weapon, a .22-caliber revolver, and gunshot residue was found on Murphy's hands.
A former inmate, who testified he spoke to Murphy in the county jail, said Murphy claimed his girlfriend put him up to the murders and instructed him on how to cover them up by shooting at a bird with the revolver just hours before the victims were shot.
Jurors deliberated for less than four hours before returning the guilty verdicts.
Judge Al Bell said he dismissed the defense request to bar the death penalty during a closed-door hearing with lawyers on Monday.
A similar motion previously had been ruled upon in Murphy's case by Judge John Blahovec, Bell said.
Jurors will next hear evidence as to whether Murphy should be sentenced to death by lethal injection or to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
All three alternate jurors were dismissed last week as deliberations began in the guilt phase of the trial.
Bell postponed the penalty phase until the sick juror recuperates and indicated late Monday that the trial will resume Tuesday.
Duquesne University School of Law professor Wes Oliver said it is unlikely the juror's illness will derail the trial.
“This is not something that can't be solved. One way is to wait like the judge is doing. The judge can also proceed with 11 jurors,” Oliver said.
Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Rossi: It’s past time for NFL to protect players
- Steelers players say they support Tomlin’s attempts at deception
- Steelers’ Roethlisberger reported symptoms that led to his exit vs. Seahawks
- Steelers stalled by Seahawks, on outside of AFC wild-card picture
- Week 12 — Steelers-Seahawks gameday grades
- Steelers notebook: Seahawks’ Sherman gets better of WR Brown
- Family of man accused of shooting St. Clair officer say allegations don’t fit his character
- Muslim civil rights group seeks investigation into shooting of Pittsburgh taxi driver
- Community comes together to mourn death of St. Clair police officer
- Pennsylvania Game Commission reaps revenue from shale gas under game lands
- Sports Deli is latest tenant to say goodbye to Parkway Center Mall