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Archive for Thursday, September 6, 2007

Kansas Supreme Court hears Murray appeal

September 6, 2007

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Thomas E. Murray, center, is cuffed by court security officers Ken Fangohr, left, and Dale Flory at the end of Murray's sentencing at the Douglas County District Court. Murray, a former English professor at Kansas State University, is serving a life sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years for the murder of his ex-wife, Carmin D. Ross.

Thomas E. Murray, center, is cuffed by court security officers Ken Fangohr, left, and Dale Flory at the end of Murray's sentencing at the Douglas County District Court. Murray, a former English professor at Kansas State University, is serving a life sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years for the murder of his ex-wife, Carmin D. Ross.

— A former Kansas State University English professor convicted of killing his ex-wife in rural Douglas County was denied a fair trial because of inappropriate statements made by prosecutors, a defense attorney argued Thursday before the Kansas Supreme Court.

The statements were "far outside the latitude given to prosecutors in closing arguments," said attorney Sarah Ellen Johnson, who represents Thomas Murray as he appeals his conviction for killing Carmin Ross.

Johnson also argued that Douglas County District Court Judge Robert Fairchild inappropriately allowed testimony of statements Ross had made to others before her death, and testimony that showed the jury that Murray had at one point refused to talk with investigators.

Douglas County Assistant District Attorney Angela Wilson conceded that one of the statements by prosecutors during closing arguments "may not have been the most well-turned phrase." But she said the statement didn't rise to the level of flagrant misconduct and shouldn't be used to grant Murray a new trial.

The case

Murray has been sentenced to life in prison for the stabbing death of Ross. He has denied killing her.

Ross' body was discovered Nov. 14, 2003, in her home north of Lawrence.

Murray and Ross, who had divorced in 2003, had been involved in a custody dispute over their 4-year-old daughter.

Police arrested Murray after nearly a yearlong investigation.

Justices peppered Wilson with numerous questions about the trial.

During the trial's closing arguments, Tom Bath, a private prosecutor hired by the Ross family, stated to the jury, "His best friend thinks he is a murderer."

Bath was referring to testimony by Murray's friend Gay Lynn Crossley-Brubaker.

Johnson said Crossley-Brubaker never said that. She also argued the personal opinion of a witness should not be allowed to be repeated in closing arguments.

Justices also questioned Wilson about testimony from Ross' mother and friend about conversations they had had with Ross about her deteriorating relationship with Murray.

Wilson argued that all the rules were followed to allow such hearsay evidence.

A decision in the case is expected Oct. 28.

One justice, Robert Davis, was absent from the proceeding because of a family emergency. But Davis will listen to the recorded arguments and participate in a decision in the case, according to court spokesman Ron Keefover.

Comments

somebodynew 6 years, 7 months ago

Logr -

Something I forget to address in you last post - You use the term "trail by innuendo". Please keep in mind that it was not innuendo - it was a series of separate events that were proven to have occurred. It was up to the prosecutor to show how they all related and for the jury to believe that they were related. Taken one event at a time and not connecting them you would not get this verdict, but did the prosecutor show the connection. The jury thought so (and so do I)

Goddnight.

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somebodynew 6 years, 7 months ago

Logr- Good points - and that is why it is "Circumstantial Evidence". Not one thing that shouts out "I am guilty", but items worth thinking about. No there is no time stamp on blood or fingerprints. And he freely admits his blood should be found there as he was at the house several times, so maybe why the fingerprint was there also (although at a strange place he never mentions in the interview).

No, she was not murdered in the bathroom, but her blood was there, along with his. Circumstancial - yes. Enough to make you go hmmmm???? And she was not "impaled" on a table. The pictures show a table overturned, but she was not on it.

What set him off??? Well, only he knows the real reason, but it could have to do with boyfriend moving in with the intention of moving to Calif. later, taking the daughter (which is the ONLY control he still had over her. From the testimony, it seems like this is the first time she had really stood up to him and was willing to fight him.

Why grant an interview??? Good question, but it seems a lot of people do in all kinds of crime (they really should listen to their rights). And Murray appears to be so arrogant that he just thinks he is smarter than the cops. Pay particular attention to the part of the tape where after not having an explanation for marks on his wrists, he practices some moves while the cops are out of the room to come up with an explanation. (And yes he did have cuts on him - it is in the interview.)

And I completely agree that some (most) Ph.D's couldn't reason their head out of paper bags - I was just pointing out that as an educated man, he had an educated jury, and not a bunch of people who weren't smart enough to get out of jury duty.

As I said before - there is no smoking gun and not a single piece of evidence that shouts GUILTY. But juries are allowed to use common sense to make decisions. Sometimes you have to connect the dots or figure out what 2 + 2 equals.

Hope you have lots of popcorn to watch the interview, it is LONG and at time really boring. (feel free to e-mail if you have any questions you don't want to post - I don't mind. Just might take a minute to respond.)

Thank you, somebodynew

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logrithmic 6 years, 7 months ago

Somebody,

Here is my rebuttal to your points:

1) She was not murdered in the bathroom. I don't know where the bottle was but neither the drop of blood or the fingerprint have a time stamp on them. They are not proof that he was there at the scene of the crime. How did the blood get there? Were there visible cuts on his body? Did she put up a fight? Did she scratch him? Was there evidence under her nails? Anything? Not that I'm aware of....

2) The timing on when he did searches on his computer? After each mediation session? Come on. That's a reach. Are you saying you can't use your computer to research a topic of interest if you're coming out of a mediation session with your ex-wife? How does that provide any proof at all that he had motive and was at the scene of the crime? This is what I'm talking about - trial by innuendo. Only a guilty man could've done that, right?

3) There is a huge gap between mental and controlling abuse and violence. Huge. That brings us to motive. What set him off? That has never been answered with any clarity. And even if there had been something to set him off, murder??? Not a slap, not a shove, murder. 13 stab wounds I believe. She was left impaled on a dining room table, for heaven's sake. No way it was premeditated. But if it wasn't premeditated, then the computer searches are bogus and do nothing for the prosecution.

4) Your point that the plan somehow went awry. I still have not heard why he planned to kill her. Nothing suggests a motive. His ex moving to California and taking the daughter? Come on....

5) What circustantial evidence? Computer searches, one drop of blood on a bottle and one in the bathroom sink. That's enough to be convicted of first degree murder???

Anser me this. Why would he grant a 10 hour interview to the cops without legal representation if he were guilty? That does not make any sense to me.

And the jury pool of PH. Ds? That is irrelevant. Some with the degree couldn't reason their heads out of paper bag.

Please note I am making these comments before watching the interviews. I will watch them when I get home this evening and will repost based upon what I hear.

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logrithmic 6 years, 7 months ago

Thanks Joel. I'll watch them this evening.

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Joel 6 years, 7 months ago

I don't post this to take sides, but to offer clarification.

It's easy to watch the interview and draw your own conclusions. Just look at the right-hand column on this page:

http://www.ljworld.com/specials/murray_trial/

Thanks, Joel Mathis Managing Editor for Convergence

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somebodynew 6 years, 7 months ago

Logr - OK, now that I am not at work I can reply to you and try to answer some of your questions. I can understand why you might feel the way you do if you are basing your opinions on just what the LJW reported (or even the tv show). They did NOT show all the details.

I was able to sit through probably 90% o9f the trial, and I listened to the oral arguments to the Appeals Court this morning.

You bring some valid points up, but here is what I saw and heard at the trial. There was evidence at the scene from Murray. A fingerprint from a bottle and a drop of his blood in the bathroom. The lead DNA guy testified that while the blood was a mixture, the main contributor was Murray. (But Murray had already tried to explain that away in the interview.)

It is not just the searches he did on the computer, but the TIMING of all of them. (Immediately after each mediation sessiion where he did get his way.) And he provided no witnesses to the idea he was researching a screen play.

There is no evidence of past history of violence with Murray, but that does not mean there was no abuse. Abuse can often be mental/contolling.

Did you ever hear about the best plans going out the window with the first blow??? There could have been a plan, but something "snapped" and then he lost it while already committing the act (hence the numerous wounds).

Is there any "smoking gun" in all this or an "eye witness"?? No, there were only two people there and one of them is dead, the other not talking. Can/should you accept circumstantial evidence - by all means, as long as it makes sense. Obviously, a jury of his peers thought this did make sense. Keep in mind - there were several PhD's on the jury (so is Murray) so he did have peers on the jury.

Also, keep in mind he hired two of the most well-known (and expensive) attorneys for his defense. It is not like he didn't have proper representation.

There is more to this, but I must go for now. I hope I have provided some decent information for you, that the paper didn't write about. And, if you could have watched the interview, I don't think you would have many doubts, but that would have been hard to write about.

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monkeyspunk 6 years, 7 months ago

Even if it is circumstantial evidence, that doesn't discount the fact that it is EVIDENCE. And when there is an abundance of circumstantial evidence, coupled with the fact that he lied about his whereabouts more than once, it is easy to see why he was convicted. It is a common misconception that circumstantial evidence doesn't count in court. It does count.

And remember, REASONABLE doubt. There has to be reasonable doubt. The computer forensic evidence that was presented apparently was enough to overcome reasonable doubt to the jury. http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2005/mar...

I agree that our system is flawed, and that in the absence of DNA and other "cool" evidence, it can be difficult for a normal joe like myself and others here to accept a guilty verdict. From what I have heard about his internet searches and email correspondence, he had motive. And police interviews and his own lies, shows he had the time and no alibi.

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thomgreen 6 years, 7 months ago

I have to admit, I somewhat agree with logrithmic. I watched the 48 hours special regarding the trial and it seemed like there was reasonable doubt and that there seemed to be a lot of circumstantial evidence. I'm not saying the guy is innocent, but I'd like to see a new trial. But I also recognize, that I am making these judgments from what I have learned in the media, and we know how flawed that can be.

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logrithmic 6 years, 7 months ago

Could've Fatty. But I'm still waiting for someone to tell me what it is they left out. Please, do tell....

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Fatty_McButterpants 6 years, 7 months ago

I'm certainly glad that you are the only one basing legal decisions off of the reporting in a newspaper. Don't you think it possible that the Journal-World left out a few things in their articles? Hmm?

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logrithmic 6 years, 7 months ago

I hope this guy gets a new trial. He may be guilty but the state has to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt. I do not believe this happened.

Three key issues were not established (and as evidenced above, even the prosecution had to back down from some of their courtroom tactics):

What motivated Murray to kill his wife? Not established by the evidence discussed in the Journal World.

Was Murray at the scene of the crime? Not established by the evidence discussed in the Journal World.

Did Murray have a pattern of abuse and threats against his ex-wife? Not established by the evidence discussed in the Journal World.

Some have posted in response to my opinion that because the jury found him guilty, he's guilty. But as I pointed out, half of those on death row in Illinois were determined to be innocent after their conviction. This was done by submitting the "evidence" presented in their trials to DNA evidence. Illinois said no to the death penalty because of these wrong convictions. All of these "murderers" that were not murderers were convicted by jurys. And on the other side of things, OJ probably got away with murder, found not guilty by a jury. Juries make mistakes. This is nothing new.

Some have posted in response to my opinion that it was a murder of passion and therefore no pattern of abuse was necessary. However the prosecution suggested that Murray's computer searches on murders, allegedly to write a movie script, were "proof" that he planned to kill his ex-wife. Well if it was planned, it was not a murder of passion.

Although I'm not privy to the details of the murder, I would have to say that the murder, based on its details in the Journal World, would've been a murder of passion. Therefore the computer research actually works against the prosecutions theory at worst, and at best was irrelevant. Again, no pattern of abuse was ever suggested in the trial. Nor was there any testimony I was aware of that the man was quick tempered.

Just my two cents:

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