Two more Suffolk County police officers testified Tuesday that they believe Thomas Murphy was intoxicated on the day he struck a pack of Boy Scouts in Manorville last year, killing one and severely injuring another.
Sgt. Thomas Kennedy, who was working desk duties and processed the Holbrook man following his arrest, and Officer Andrew Spina, a drug recognition expert who was asked to evaluate Mr. Murphy, both said they concluded that he was drunk when they met with him more than an hour after the crash.
“The defendant Mr. Murphy was intoxicated,” Sgt. Kennedy told the jury, adding that the defendant in the case had glassy, bloodshot eyes and was unsteady on his feet. He also said Mr. Murphy had the smell of alcohol on his breath and flush, red skin.
Upon cross examination from defense attorney Steven Politi, however, Sgt. Kennedy said he did not hear Mr. Murphy slur his speech, even as he pronounced complicated prescriptions he was taking like Diltiazem and Promeprazole.
But Mr. Spina, who was called to the Seventh Precinct because of his training detecting drug use, said he did hear Mr. Murphy slur his speech and mumble certain words, which is part of the reason why he believed he was intoxicated. Because there was no evidence of drug use, Mr. Spina told jurors he did not ultimately perform the drug recognition evaluation he was sent to the precinct to do.
While many of the statements from the three police officers who took the stand Tuesday — arresting officer Daniel Brecht also concluded his testimony from Monday — centered on the reasons they believed Mr. Murphy was drunk, the defense attempted to shift attention to deficiencies in the officers’ reports in a line of questioning that suggested they were neglectful in their duties that afternoon.
Mr. Brecht, who joined the department about four years ago, was painted by Mr. Politi as a novice who frequently failed to log the times of his activities that day and went hours without offering Mr. Murphy water or allowing him to use the rest room. The attorney also pressed Mr. Spina on what he characterized as a small amount of work the officer completed in the nearly five hours he spent at the precinct that day. And Sgt. Kennedy, for whom Mr. Politi examined with particular vehemence, was accused of failing to follow up on Mr. Murphy receiving his necessary medicine.
“[At] 3:52 [p.m.] you told the detectives investigating the case that it was your assessment that Mr. Murphy needed to go to the hospital … for medication and they brought him to the hospital at 12:07 [a.m.]?” Mr. Politi asked. “What’s that about 8 1/2 hours later?”
“Approximately,” Sgt. Kennedy responded.
“Sounds like they took your request very seriously,” Mr. Politi remarked.
MORE TRIAL COVERAGE
Upon redirect from Assistant District Attorney Raymond Varuolo, Sgt. Kennedy, a 17-year veteran of the department who previously worked as a special agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, noted that he has a pharmacology degree from St. John’s University and has worked as pharmacist while deployed overseas with the Navy and currently as a reservist with the Air National Guard. He also testified that Mr. Murphy never complained of any medical issues while in custody the day of the crash.
Nine days into the trial of Mr. Murphy, 60, who is facing a 16-count indictment that includes a top charge of aggravated vehicular homicide, for the death of 12-year-old Andrew McMorris of Wading River, jurors have yet to hear testimony regarding his blood alcohol content. During opening arguments, Mr. Varuolo said a blood test of Mr. Murphy, who faces a maximum sentence of 8 1/3 to 25 years in prison, showed a BAC of .13 nearly four hours after the crash. A toxicologist is expected to testify that Mr. Murphy’s likely BAC was .19, more than twice the legal limit, at the moment of impact.
Mr. Brecht testified Monday that the blood warrant was secured after Mr. Murphy refused to submit to a breath test. On Tuesday, Mr. Politi questioned why he did not personally drive the blood sample to the crime laboratory, pointing to procedures that outline the arresting officer’s responsibility to ensure that the evidence is properly delivered. The officer, who said this was the first time in his career he had to oversee a blood test, told jurors he entrusted the sample’s delivery to a seasoned officer.
Both Mr. Brecht and Sgt. Kennedy testified that Mr. Murphy asked about Andrew’s condition that afternoon.
“I’ve driven that road a million times,” Mr. Murphy told the officer as he was driven to the precinct. “I never expected anybody to be walking there.”
Judge Fernando Camacho lectured Mr. Politi on his tone at several points Tuesday, even telling him not to “raise his voice” during one particularly heated moment as he questioned Sgt. Kennedy. After the jury was dismissed for the day, the judge began to publicly rebuke Mr. Politi for the way he queried the witnesses Tuesday, saying the attorney often phrased questions in such a way that it may have suggested to the witnesses that certain meant something else must be true when that might not necessarily be the case. In particular, he pointed to questions regarding Mr. Murphy only exhibiting two clues of intoxication on a Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus eye test, which the judge said “doesn’t necessarily mean you aren’t intoxicated.”
At Mr. Politi’s request, the judge continued that conversation with both sides present in his chambers. They returned to the courtroom more than 20 minutes later, calling it quits for the day.
More witnesses are expected to be called Wednesday before the trial breaks for the long holiday weekend. Prosecutors indicated Monday that they could conclude calling witnesses by the end of next week.
Caption: Mr. Murphy exits the courtroom at the conclusion of Tuesday’s session. (Credit: Grant Parpan)