Prosecutors in the case of Thomas Murphy, the Holbrook man accused of driving drunk in a crash that killed a local Boy Scout and injured four others last September, will be permitted at trial to use statements he made while in police custody.
Suffolk County Supreme Court Justice Fernando Camacho denied a motion made by Mr. Murphy’s attorney, Steven McCarthy Jr., to suppress statements his client made as well as police evidence that he refused to take a chemical blood test three times.
Justice Camacho made the ruling Tuesday morning during what’s known as a pretrial Huntley Hearing, where the court reviews the manner in which police obtained statements from a defendant.
“[Mr. Murphy’s statements] were not obtained by coercion,” Justice Camacho said in his ruling. He also set a trial date for Sept. 18, when jury selection is expected to begin.
Mr. Murphy was allegedly driving his Mercedes-Benz drunk on David Terry Road in Manorville Sept. 30 when he struck and killed 12-year-old Andrew McMorris of Wading River, who was hiking with fellow Boy Scouts. Four others were injured during the crash.
At Tuesday’s hearing, two officers from the Suffolk County Police Department Seventh Precinct were called to testify about their procedure and interactions with Mr. Murphy both at the scene and at the precinct in Shirley.
Police officer Daniel Brecht testified that Mr. Murphy refused a preliminary breath test after admitting he had three drinks at the Swan Lake Golf Course in Manorville.
Mr. Brecht testified that Mr. Murphy refused a chemical test three times after being taken into custody and read his rights.
A warrant was later issued to obtain Mr. Murphy’s blood, showed a blood alcohol content of .13% more than three hours after the crash, prosecutors have said.
Mr. Brecht and Sergeant Thomas Kennedy both said Mr. Murphy made voluntary statements to officers, including that he had driven that road “a million times” and “never expected anyone to be walking there.” They said he also repeatedly asked about the condition of the scouts.
Mr. Murphy is facing a top charge of aggravated vehicular homicide, which carries a maximum sentence of 8 1/3 to 25 years in prison.
Justice Camacho had urged Mr. Murphy to plead guilty to spare Andrew’s family from additional pain and suffering by recounting the events at trial. And Mr. Murphy had said in several statements following his arrest that he planned to accept responsibility for the tragedy. Last month, he decided not to plead guilty to the full indictment and opted for trial.
Andrew’s mother, Alisa McMorris, said after the hearing that it was painful to relive the events of Sept. 30.
“I want justice served,” she said. “I’ve made friends with lots of other moms who belong to a club that none of us want to belong to and the recurring theme is we need to make this stop.”
Dozens of supporters, dressed in red and scouting uniforms, again filled the courtroom and stood with the family in support.
“My son can no longer walk,” Ms. McMorris told reporters outside of the courtroom. “Our family, friends and supporters here will now walk for him. When that day comes, we will be here strong and in force and en masse.”
Caption: Thomas Murphy at an earlier hearing. (Credit: Cyndi Zaweski)