Jurors were once again sent home early as the vehicular homicide case against Thomas Murphy faced an additional delay Thursday.
Attorneys met with Suffolk County Judge Fernando Camacho in chambers for over an hour before the judge dismissed the jury, telling them that “unexpected things happen.”
He seemed confident that testimony on both sides would conclude Friday, which would push closing arguments into the sixth week of the trial on Monday.
Defense attorney Steven Politi, who indicated earlier this week that forensic toxicologist Dr. Jimmie Valentine would be the only defense witness called, now plans to call an additional witness Friday.
On Monday, Dr. Valentine told jurors that he believes there are several possibilities that could have caused Mr. Murphy’s blood alcohol content to register at 0.13% nearly four hours after the alleged drunken driving crash on David Terry Road in Manorville that claimed the life of 12-year-old Andrew McMorris and injured several fellow hikers.
Analytical chemist Janine Arvizu, whose testimony appeared on the 2015 Netflix documentary “Making a Murderer,” is expected to testify in Riverside Friday.
Mr. Politi suggested to Judge Camacho that he feels “rushed” in his preparation based on data turned over by prosecutors in the last few days and since Ms. Arvizu is flying in from New Mexico this evening.
“I don’t know how to interpret the numbers on the graphs I’ve been given,” he said, also claiming that data presented on a graph has been “manually manipulated” by the prosecution.
Assistant District Attorney Brendan Ahern maintains that the software used by Dr. Valentine was not consistent with the software used in the county’s forensic lab. Prosecutors are planning on calling Lee Polite, the founder and president of Axion Analytical Labs in Chicago, to offer a rebuttal to defense testimony given by Dr. Valentine. Mr. Ahern said Mr. Polite has reviewed the data using both types of software.
Judge Camacho said he’s been lenient with the defense, who began their case Monday.
“It would have been well within my discretion to [ask you to rest],” he told Mr. Politi.
He also said that instructing the prosecution to obtain raw data from the Suffolk County Medical Examiner’s office and turn it over to the defense is unprecedented in New York.
Mr. Polite’s testimony, Judge Camacho said, should not include any new evidence and be limited to rebutting Dr. Valentine’s opinion that the blood alcohol test was inaccurate.
Prosecutors will not call a counter witness until the defense rests its case.
Outside of the courtroom, Mr. Politi told reporters that Ms. Arvizu will testify specifically about the gas chromatography method of testing for blood alcohol content and Mr. Murphy’s results.
Mr. Politi maintains that Mr. Murphy’s blood was possibly contaminated.
“There was a rush to judgment here. There was a conclusion drawn at 2:25, right after this unfortunate accident,” he said, accusing prosecutors of hiding certain elements in the case. “I understand why they’re doing it. It’s a horribly emotional, terrible event. Their emotions are in the middle of this, but that’s not what the courtroom is about.”
Outside of court Thursday, Andrew’s mother, Alisa McMorris pointed to the judge’s remarks that raw data had never been handed over before. “Our [District Attorney] did that because we have an honest case,” she said. “We know the truth.”
JUROR COULD BE DISMISSED
A female juror could be dismissed after allegedly engaging in a conversation with someone Thursday morning while waiting in line to pass security at the Riverside courthouse.
Mr. Politi raised concerns with the conversation, which he fears could taint her opinion of the case.
“What happened this morning was unfortunate because [the juror] certainly didn’t initiate anything,” he told reporters outside.
The McMorris family denied any knowledge of the incident outside of the courtroom.
“I think it’s just another attempt at the last minute to create emotion that doesn’t need to happen,” Ms. McMorris said as she stood with her husband and their daughter Arianna.
“It’s just agonizing,” Mr. McMorris said. “To see yet another delay … We’re just trying to figure out how to cope and get through this horrible time, especially with Christmas right upon us. That was Andrew’s favorite holiday.”
Judge Camacho did not say for certain if he will dismiss the juror, one of five women on the panel, whom he spoke to in his chambers Thursday morning.
“She did absolutely nothing wrong,” he said, pointing out that she’s made sacrifices to attend each day of the trial.
If needed, there are six alternate jurors that could step in to replace her.
Photo caption: John and Alisa McMorris speak to reporters Thursday. (Credit: Tara Smith)
COMPLETE TRIAL COVERAGE
Day 1: Prosecutors say Murphy turned down ride from sober friend moments before fatal crash
Day 2: Text messages, friend’s testimony tell a story of day of Scout crash
Day 3: Defense calls into question the character of key witness in Murphy trial
Day 4: Friends testify that despite drinking, Murphy did not appear drunk on day of crash
Day 5: Parents of surviving victims take stand
Day 6: Shoreham parent recounts moment of crash during testimony
Day 7: Jury sent home early as defense raises legal issue in Murphy trial
Day 8: Arresting officer testifies that Murphy showed signs of intoxication following crash
Day 9: Two more officers testify that Murphy was intoxicated on day of crash
Day 10: Two detectives take witness stand at Murphy trial
Day 11: Scientist who tested Murphy’s blood testifies it was over legal limit
Day 12: Toxicologist: Murphy’s BAC was twice legal limit; ordered to turn over notes
Day 13: Several charges could be withdrawn in case against Thomas Murphy
Day 14: Scout’s dad says ‘I ran as fast as I could’ to help son following crash
Day 15: Murphy defense begins to make its case as judge officially dismisses four charges
Day 16: Prosecutors to call counter witness as end of Murphy trial nears