TOPEKA, Kan. The Kansas Supreme Court today upheld the murder conviction of Thomas Murray, who was sentenced to life in prison for the 2003 slaying of his ex-wife in rural Douglas County.
Murray, a former Kansas State University English professor, was convicted after a five-week trial in 2005 in the stabbing death of Carmin Ross. He has denied killing her.
On appeal, Murray contended he was denied a fair trial based on prosecutorial misconduct during closing arguments, and the admission of inappropriate testimony. The Kansas Supreme Court in a unanimous decision disagreed.
In a 53-page opinion, Justice Robert Davis said the evidence in the case was circumstantial.
But Davis added it is "not the place of an appellate court to reassess the weight and credibility of the evidence presented at trial; that assessment is the onus of the jury.
"Rather, we need only determine whether the evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to the prosecution, was sufficient to support the conviction."
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. Ross had planned to remarry and possibly move.
Police arrested Murray after nearly a yearlong investigation.
In his appeal, Murray's attorney argued that Douglas County District Judge Robert Fairchild inappropriately allowed testimony of statements that 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.
And Murray argued that during closing arguments, prosecutors made statements that should not have been allowed.
Tom Bath, a private prosecutor hired by the Ross family, had 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.
But Crossley-Brubaker never said that. When asked on the witness stand whether she thought Murray could have killed Ross, Crossley-Brubaker said she didn't know.