Carmin Ross murder
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- Special section: Murray on Trial
- The murderof Carmen Ross
A Kansas State University professor convicted of murdering his ex-wife in 2003 is seeking a new trial, claiming that the jury made an irrational decision and that his first trial was unfair.
Thomas E. Murray's attorney claims in the appeal to the Kansas Supreme Court that Murray's 2005 conviction for the bludgeoning and stabbing of Carmin D. Ross in her home north of Lawrence is "tainted." Jurors found Murray guilty of first-degree murder, based largely on his suspicious statements and actions after Ross' death, even though there was no physical evidence clearly linking him to the crime.
"The state's case was a house of cards, built on dozens of minor circumstances," appellate defender Sarah Ellen Johnson wrote in her brief to the court. "Remove any one of the minor circumstances and the entire case against Mr. Murray could collapse."
But Assistant District Attorney Angela Wilson, who prosecuted Murray's case, argued in a March 19 written response that there is an "overwhelming mountain of circumstantial evidence" against Murray.
Ross' father, Danny Ross, said he's not interested in Murray's appeal.
"It's totally out of our control," he said by telephone Tuesday. "If we have to sit through another trial, we will sit through another trial."
Johnson's request for a new trial includes the following points:
¢ Drop of Blood: A prosecutor said during closing arguments that a drop of Murray's blood was found in Ross' bathroom, even though DNA analysis of the drop wasn't a conclusive match with Murray's.
"The state needed desperately to find some trace of Mr. Murray at the scene of the crime," Johnson wrote. "When the physical evidence failed to provide that trace, the state made it up."
But Wilson countered that Murray told detectives, "I guarantee you'll find a drop of my blood" in the bathroom. The statement during closing arguments, she wrote, "is an issue of disputed fact."
¢ Right to remain silent: District Court Judge Robert Fairchild allowed prosecutors to put on testimony from Sheriff's Detective Pat Pollock that Pollock couldn't conduct a follow-up interview with Murray because "on advice of counsel he was no longer able to be reinterviewed."
Murray's attorney says that wrongly added to the cloud of suspicion around Murray. "The right to silence is meaningless if the invocation of that right can itself be used against a defendant," she wrote.
But Wilson says the defense opened the door for testimony on that subject by questioning Pollock about why he didn't ask Murray a certain question.
¢ Hearsay evidence: Fairchild allowed witnesses to testify about statements Ross had made to them before her death regarding her turbulent relationship with Murray. Murray's attorneys say that's inadmissible hearsay, but the judge cited an exception when the evidence is used to describe the overall relationship between two people.
Prosecutor Wilson wrote that Murray "waived any hearsay objection by killing" Ross.
¢ Insufficient evidence: Overall, Murray's attorney argues, there was not enough evidence to support the jury's verdict.
"The state's case against Mr. Murray rested not on concrete evidence, but on speculation, inference and hunches," Johnson wrote. "(N)o rational fact finder could find Mr. Murray guilty beyond a reasonable doubt."
Wilson wrote that the jury was justified in its "well-reasoned" guilty verdict.
No date has been set for arguments in the appeal.