Archive for Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Convicted murderer appeals verdict

April 4, 2007


Convicted murderer wants case re-tried

A Kansas State University professor convicted of murdering his ex-wife seeks a new trial. Enlarge video

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.


prioress 8 years ago

This was an interesting trial, with less than compelling evidence. It will be something to watch closely if they continue the case.

dozer 8 years ago

Looks like Johnson is grasping at straws. I'm sure she claimed prosecutorial misconduct as well.

Not much to hang your hat on Murray.

samsnewplace 8 years ago

The man was really a saint, those that knew him said he was a s.o.b. to his wife, do we really have to see it to know it happened? This was how friends knew him.....

Wilbur_Nether 8 years ago

plumber, one of the elements of due process is trial before a jury of peers--you've got that part perfectly. One of the elements of due process you've missed, however, is that when the government has acted improperly in prosecuting the defendant, due process has actually not occurred. In other words, the government can affirmatively invalidate the conviction by peers through irregularities. The appeals process prevents a government from abusing its authority and privilege by holding it accountable. It actually makes the judicial process more fair, not less fair, because the government must present a solid case...not just something they know will win.

minko224 8 years ago

I fell the only appeal this guy should have is having his skin uh peeled off his body or something like that.

Dani Davey 8 years ago

plumber, you should rent the movie "After Innocence" at Liberty Hall.

MerryPresent 8 years ago

Yay. I believe Tom's NOT GUILTY. I'm in his corner.

That was a crazy trial. THey have no real proof. Just guesses.

FreetoBe47 8 years ago

Come on MerryPresent are you on crack or something? Did you keep up with the news and the trial? I suppose you think pedophiles should be roaming the streets too............

minko224 8 years ago

Hmmm, what other jealous guy that she was previously Married to who was controlling and abusive could it be then?

FreetoBe47 8 years ago

What is wrong with you people? The man brutally murdered his ex-wife and he is where he should be. He thought he was too smart for everyone could murder her have his daughter and get off scot free. Well thank goodness enough intelligent people did not let that happen. The only irrational decision that was made was when he murdered his ex-wife, end of story.

minko224 8 years ago

I disagree that he's where he should be. I dont believe he should be anywhere right now, well 6ft under the ground maybe.

FreetoBe47 8 years ago

I think it is sometimes worse to have to sit and stew about what you have done. If he is trying to appeal the decision then apparently it is no picnic in there for him. Bubba must be callin.............

july241983 8 years ago

wilbur has it right. nice to know that you stephenson hall boys know a little about the constitution. As for minko, just because someone is a bad person, doesn' t mean that they are a murderer. The State has the burden to prove a defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. In this case, there was nothing, other than he was a bad guy. A man is in prison for the rest of his life, and the evidence that put him there is " he was a bad guy to his wife." I hope that's not the standard all juries use. And, btw, the prosecutor lied to the jury in this case. Murray's blood was not in the bathroom, despite what she said during closing argument.

compmd 8 years ago

I'm not surprised how many ignorant people in here are ready to pick up torches and pitchforks because they have no concept of the law. A little part of me is sickened to think that there might have been negative influence in the jurors' heads simply because he's from K-State.

Murray certainly has grounds for appeal, and I certainly would like to see this case retried. I have always felt that his conviction was a joke; the result of jurors who did not understand their responsibilities, and a prosecutor that managed to convince jurors that you should just decide a man's fate based on how you feel, regardless of what facts and evidence are (or arent) staring you in the face.

I'm glad there are at least a couple people here who get it, but they re sadly the minority.

Kontum1972 8 years ago

LoL....i was wondering when this clown was gonna resurface....and just a few days shy of the Fool's Day...LoL...

dozer 8 years ago

july and comp: Your insight on the trial is amazing. The prosecutor was able to fool 12 people into believing they should convict because he was a bad guy to his wife, but more importantly, he was a "Cat Backer". OOOOH! Give me a break.

It was a circumstantial case, but that doesn't mean the evidence doesn't support a conviction. In addition, he had not one, but two well respected defense attorneys to aid in his defense.

Centrist 8 years ago

compmd ... you can't be serious. The jury might have showed bias because he's not a Jayhawk, or because he's from K-State? (I thought Mizzou were the enemy?)

Come on! What makes you think that 100% of the jury were KU fans, and what makes you think that everyone around here gives a crap about college sport?

What makes you think that jury members could be so shallow? And dumb too, apparently. You say they didn't know their responsibilities. How could you know, or even state such a thing?

And laughable is the idea that the prosecutor would try to convince a jury based on 'feelings' .. oh that's a good 'un!

Gimme a break!

I'm just upset they didn't find better evidence, because I am 100% convinced he did it. And here you are, some of you defending 'the system' while a creep like Murray tries to work the system and get out.

I'm sure you're not thinking about the little girl in the middle of all this either. He bludgeoned her mother, for gawds sake ...

Nice guy.

prioress 8 years ago

"I'm just upset they didn't find better evidence, because I am 100% convinced he did it."

Centrist: Being 'convinced' and having proof beyond a reasonable doubt with good, noncircumstantial evidence are not the same thing. And, press coverage is not "evidence."

Redzilla 8 years ago

As someone who has known Tom for more than 15 years, I hope this appeal will produce a new trial. If one of your friends was facing life in prison, you'd want to know he received every benefit of our legal system, too.

MerryPresent 8 years ago

Nope, I'm not on crack (grin) and yes I did follow the trial very closely.

I read every word written about the trial by the J-W, and I did attend the trial several times, just to "get the vibes."

I just don't think he did it. I don't know who did do it, but I don't think it was Thomas Murray.

dozer 8 years ago

Prioress, what does "noncircumstantial evidence" a.k.a. "direct evidence" have to do with the case?

Centrist 8 years ago

Sure, due process, I know.

I am convinced by all of the facts of the case that this guy did the awful crime they've convicted him of.

porkchop 8 years ago

Well I, for one, am against murder. I just think it's wrong! Who's with me!?!

samsnewplace 8 years ago

Who in their right mind, by choice, would be friends with a man that beat up his wife? What a wonderful way for the child to be raised watching daddy beat up mommy. I never thought those type of bums had friends....

bevy 8 years ago

There is a long-standing misconception in this country that circumstantial evidence is invalid as a means of convicting someone. Mostly from watching too many episodes of Matlock and suchlike. Saw an article on this the other day. Here's a bit from Wikipedia that gives similar info: "A popular misconception is that circumstantial evidence is less valid or less important than direct evidence. This is only partly true: direct evidence is generally considered more powerful, but successful criminal prosecutions often rely largely on circumstantial evidence, and civil charges are frequently based on circumstantial or indirect evidence. In practice, circumstantial evidence often has an advantage over direct evidence in that it is more difficult to suppress or fabricate."

dozer 8 years ago

Geewhiz Logrithmic, are you telling us that the evidence presented at the Miller trial was different than the evidence presented at the Murray trial.

Who would have thought that two totally seperate trials would have two totally different amounts of evidence.

Following your logic...a busload of nuns witnessed a man shoot his wife in broad daylight, police also witness the shooting, they arrest the man while the gun is still smoking. That evidence would be far more convincing that Murray or Miller.

Does that make them any less valid?

dthroat 8 years ago

Log - I don't get your first statement about providing ANY circumstantial evidence to prove Murray did it. Did you attend ANY of the trial or are you just going by media blurbs??? The trial last for FOUR WEEKS - do you think the DA just sat there and chatted with the jury??? Of course they put on evidence (granted it was circumstantial), but that is how cases are proved sometimes.

I attended a lot of the proceedings and can tell you the man was/is guilty.

There are a couple of thoughts I have:

He really was convicted by a jury of his peers, as several of the jurors were as highly educated as Murray. I think that helped them follow a difficult path.

He also had TWO of the highest paid/profile attorneys as his defense team. Obviously, they didn't find any glaring problems with the case. (I don't think Pedro would miss grandstanding and making a huge deal of something, if he found it.)

By the Way - Isn't it interesting that his defense team IS NOT the ones appealling???? I guess money really talks, and when you are out - so is the "A Team". (I guess I thought hundreds of thousands of dollars paid up front just might be good for the appeal process too- silly me.)

compmd 8 years ago

Is reading comprehension affected by "hot topics" in the news or something? I NEVER said that his affiliation with K-State had ANYTHING to do with his conviction. Read my words again. I said I was sickened to think it MIGHT have been an influence. Heck, with the way people are talking here, that is less reasonable that "OMG he killed his wife I KNOW IT!!!"

"I'm sure you're not thinking about the little girl in the middle of all this either. "

Centrist, good "think of the children" ploy. This is exactly what the prosecution did. The prosecutor appealed to the emotions of the jury rather than present them with actual facts and proof that he committed the crime he was charged with. Yes, its terrible that this little girl lost her mother, but has NOTHING to do with what is necessary to convict a man of murder.

Dozer, what you fail to realize is that a prosecutor doesn't want to lose cases. The job of the prosecutor is to win them. And yes, if that involves bending (or breaking) rules to convince a jury to convict, they'll do it. How many ciminal proceedings have you been a part of? I'd be willing to bet I've in more...

What people don't seem to get is that in our justice system, you can be the worst scumbag to walk the earth and everyone can hate you, but you cannot be convicted of a crime unless the prosecution can prove it beyond a reasonable doubt using the facts of the case.

"I'm just upset they didn't find better evidence, because I am 100% convinced he did it. And here you are, some of you defending 'the system' while a creep like Murray tries to work the system and get out."

You're damn right I'm defending the system. One of the interesting things about our country is that you can be a total creep so long as you don't break the law. We have fundamental freedom to be whoever or whatever we want to be while staying within the law, which is more flexible and free than anywhere else. You can sit there and suggest that we do away with "the system" for the simple reason you don't like the guy? Working the system is how we ensure justice is carried out. If you think its wrong, write your congressman. If you want to circumvent the justice system, you become the criminal. And if you think he's guilty because you don't like him, then you have just convicted him because of your emotions.

"I attended a lot of the proceedings and can tell you the man was/is guilty."

Tell me dthroat, what evidence made you believe that?

Fair trial my foot.

MerryPresent 8 years ago

Wasn't the search/seize of his computer illegal?

dozer 8 years ago

compmd - go forth and claim to know the law.

But first, let me explain a few things. If a prosecutor appeals to the passions of the jury, that is a major issue on appeal. You are prohibited from appealing to the passions of the jury.

Second, I don't buy off on the argument that prosecutors constantly bend or break the rules to convict. Again, that creates issues on appeal.

Third, the standard of proof is "beyond a reasonable doubt". Not "beyond all doubt". And FYI: Don't attempt to assign a % value to the definition, as that is also an issue on appeal.

So while you may not agree with the verdict, the fact of the matter is that the 12 persons seated to decide this case DID make that finding, and in the end, it doesn't matter what you or I think, but what those 12 jurors thought.

MerryPresent 8 years ago

I know there was probably a search warrant issued...probably two, since they searched at least twice.

But I heard that in September 2006, the so-called "evidence" taken off his computer (including the bizarre internet searches he did) was gathered with an illegal search warrant. That would mean the evidence was invalid at trial (and in fact shouuld have been suppressed by his very well-paid attorneys) and the resulting conviction unconstitutional.

Maybe this will come out in the appeal?

july241983 8 years ago

The suppression issue was not raised on appeal.

Also, dozer said:

"So while you may not agree with the verdict, the fact of the matter is that the 12 persons seated to decide this case DID make that finding, and in the end, it doesn't matter what you or I think, but what those 12 jurors thought."

Actually that's not true. If an appellate court finds that no rational factfinder could have found Murray guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, then the conviciton will be reversed. It does not happen often, but it can. So, the jury is not the end-all-be-all. The Kansas Supreme Court can say that there was not sufficient evidence for the conviction, and this was one issue raised on appeal.

And dthroat,

"By the Way - Isn't it interesting that his defense team IS NOT the ones appealling???? I guess money really talks, and when you are out - so is the "A Team". (I guess I thought hundreds of thousands of dollars paid up front just might be good for the appeal process too- silly me.)"

Fyi- usually, a defendant has a different attorney on appeal than for trial. Appellate practice is totally different from trial law.

july241983 8 years ago

To add, the suppression issue could not have been raised on appeal, because it was not raised at trial.

compmd 8 years ago

don't believe the prosecutor bent the rules and made an outright appeal to the jurors' emotion? I am well aware that a prosecutor can't do that. it is black and white in this article. One of the points in the appeal is the use of hearsay evidence. This "evidence" was used to paint a picture of Murray's relationship with his wife. The judge ruled it admissible, but read the prosecutor's statement:

"Prosecutor Wilson wrote that Murray "waived any hearsay objection by killing" Ross."

Excuse me? That fact was not determined, it was the fact for determination by the trial. This is a major point of appeal. A prosecutor cannot read minds or tell the future; if her written rationale regarding a hearsay exception is what she used at trial, she was wrong and the testimony should not have been permitted. A defendant cannot waive his right to object (in this case) to the hearsay evidence simply because the prosecutor THINKS he is guilty.

Nowhere did I cite or imply a percentage of anything. I'm not sure where that is coming from.

I'm sorry you don't believe me about the state bending the rules to convict. Its done all the time, every day, to countless people. For the most part it doesn't matter and actually helps the wheels turn faster. However, sometimes a line is crossed. When that happens, the only remedy a defendant has is to continue to use the system.

You're right that what we think doesn't matter. Its what the jurors think. But if those jurors were manipulated by the prosecution (which many people seem to believe) in order to obtain a conviction, were back to the beginning.

Wilbur_Nether 8 years ago

july241983 wrote: "wilbur has it right. nice to know that you stephenson hall boys know a little about the constitution."

Yeah, well, when you're one of Lyle's [unclaimed] sons, it's kinda important to have an understanding of due process. You're likely to experience its practice--either because of stupid things you do or because of stupid thing your hallmates do....

dozer 8 years ago

july241983 - you are correct, an appellate court can overturn the conviction for lack of evidence. And yes, those instances are extremely rare. Sorry for the generalization, but you get bogged down if you dive into every possible detail.

compmd - A defendant does waive their right to a hearsay objection when they are the one that secured the absence of the witness. In this case, that was done by killing her. And while that is the ultimate fact to be determined by the fact finder, the court can make a ruling prior to determine whether or not such hearsay evidence is admissible.

And you can introduce evidence of "discordant relationship". It is done all the time. It goes to motive.

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