Archive for Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Murray trial on hold until afternoon

Prosecutors reviewing videotaped statements to police

February 22, 2005


The murder trial of a Kansas State University professor is on hold this morning because of a new Kansas Supreme Court ruling that says jurors can't watch videotaped evidence of police calling the defendant a liar.

Court has adjourned until 1:30 p.m. today as prosecutors review whether they need to delete more parts of Thomas E. Murray's nine-hour videotaped statement to Riley County police.

Prosecutors planned to begin showing the video to jurors this morning. At some points during the video, detectives tell Murray they think he's lying-- such as when he tells them he got a bruise on his finger by playing with his four-year-old daughter.

But plans to show the video were put on hold following the Kansas Supreme Court's ruling Friday in State v. Elnicki. The ruling, from a 2001 Topeka rape case, found it was an error for jurors to be shown portions of a videotape in which an officer repeatedly says he thinks the defendant is lying.

Under criminal-law rules, witnesses are prohibited from giving opinions about other witnesses' credibility. Only jurors should evaluate who's telling the truth, courts say.

The Supreme Court ordered a new trial for the defendant, Justin Elnicki, and found that the officer's statements that he didn't believe Elnicki should have been struck from the video.

"(S)uch evidence must be disallowed as a matter of law," the court's decision says.

Murray, a 48-year-old linguistics expert, is charged in the November 2003 stabbing and beating of his ex-wife, Carmin D. Ross.

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