Apologetic statements issued by the previous attorney for Thomas Murphy, the Holbrook man accused of killing a Wading River boy in an alleged drunken driving crash last year, will not be allowed into evidence at trial, according to his newly hired lawyer.
Speaking outside the courtroom after a hearing in Central Islip Tuesday, attorney Steven Politi of Central Islip said Judge Fernando Camacho has determined that the prosecution cannot present to the jury comments made to the media by Mr. Murphy’s former attorney, Stephen McCarthy, after previous court appearances in the case. While the judge has not yet submitted his written rulings on that issue and a series of other motions filed by the defense, he said Tuesday that he will have completed those decisions before Mr. Murphy’s next court appearance Tuesday, Oct. 1.
“There’s this belief [by the prosecution] that somehow the statements by Mr. McCarthy indicated that Thomas [accepted] criminal responsibility,” Mr. Politi told reporters Tuesday. “The fact is, he never did.”
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. He is facing a top charge of aggravated vehicular homicide, which carries a maximum sentence of 8 1/3 to 25 years in prison.
Prosecutors had been seeking to use public apology statements made on behalf of Mr. Murphy as evidence during the trial.
One of the statements, read by Mr. McCarthy after a court appearance in October, said:
“I, Thomas Murphy, want to offer my deepest sympathy and condolences to the family and loved ones of Andrew McMorris. I take responsibility for my role in the tragic accident that occurred on Sept. 30, 2018, which resulted in the death of a wonderful boy, and the injury of four other boys. I also want to offer my sympathy to the families of the other injured boys: Thomas Lane, Denis Lane, Kaden Lynch and Matthew Yakaboski.
“I will cooperate fully with the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office during their investigation of this tragic accident. Again, I am deeply sorry. Myself, and my family, offer our prayers to the McMorris family in this extraordinarily painful and difficult time.”
Mr. Politi said that although his client, whom he called a “good man,” is saddened by the facts of his case, he has not accepted criminal responsibility.
“The reality is that Thomas wishes an accident didn’t happen,” Mr. Politi said. “We’ve all been in car accidents. We feel bad when we’re in car accidents, but that doesn’t equate to criminal responsibility.”
Mr. Murphy is scheduled to appear before Judge Camacho twice on Oct. 1 — exactly one year from his initial arraignment — first to hear the judge’s final rulings on the motions and then later in the day for what is known as a Dunaway Hearing. A Dunaway Hearing is used to determine whether evidence has been seized from a defendant as a result of a search conducted without probable cause.
Mr. Politi said Tuesday that his client passed a pair of field sobriety tests the afternoon of the crash and that he’s concerned prosecutors are not disclosing that and other relevant facts in the case.
“There’s a request the defense has made for a bill of particulars,” he said. “They [have to] tell us specifically what my client did which was reckless. They refuse to answer that. They refuse to tell the defense exactly what it is that my client did, which is statutorily their obligation. And the court has not, as of today, forced them to follow the statute.”
A warrant issued to obtain Mr. Murphy’s blood showed a blood alcohol content of .13% more than three hours after the crash, prosecutors have said.
The DA’s office declined to comment on Mr. Politi’s statements.
The trial could begin in November, but might also be delayed until January, Mr. Politi said.
Andrew’s mother, Alisa McMorris, said after the hearing that her thoughts are with her son this week.
“I’m focusing on the anniversary of my baby’s entrance into heaven,” Ms. McMorris said. “That’s what I plan to focus on for the rest of this week.”
On Monday, the one-year anniversary of the crash, Andrew’s family and friends are expected to “finish the hike” he was on when he was killed. A fundraiser is also planned for that evening at the Suffolk Theater in Riverhead. Proceeds will benefit scholarships in Andrew’s name.
Caption: Thomas Murphy at a court appearance last October. (Credit: File photo)