After more than three hours of deliberations Tuesday, the jury in the aggravated vehicular manslaughter case against Thomas Murphy did not deliver a verdict.
The jury of seven men and five women is expected to continue deliberations at the courthouse in Riverside Wednesday morning.
The jury began to deliberate after it spent two hours receiving instructions on the charges from Judge Fernando Camacho. On two occasions during deliberations they returned to the courtroom with notes requesting specific photographs, to view a video from the crime scene and to hear a reading of testimony related to when Mr. Murphy might have begun drinking on the day of the crash that claimed the life of 12-year-old Andrew McMorris of Wading River and also the injuries sustained by two other boys.
The charges include two counts of aggravated vehicular homicide, second-degree manslaughter, second-degree assault, two counts of second-degree vehicular assault and two counts of third-degree assault and reckless driving. Four of the charges include lesser offenses the jury might consider if they believe the prosecution failed to prove the elements of the more serious charge,
Andrew was among of group of Boy Scouts and scout leaders on a hike shortly before 2 p.m. on David Terry Road in Manorville on Sept. 30, 2018, when they were struck by an SUV driven by Mr. Murphy.
The 60-year-old Holbrook man was headed home from a round of golf with friends at the nearby Swan Lake Golf Club when he left the southbound lane of travel and struck the Scouts as they hiked in the shoulder, witnesses testified at trial.
Friends of Mr. Murphy told jurors he had three mixed vodka drinks as they played golf that morning and early afternoon. Only one of the three friends who spent the day with Mr. Murphy said he believed he was too intoxicated to drive that afternoon. Mr. Murphy was arrested at the scene of the crash and after he refused a breath test, police secured a warrant to obtain a sample of his blood, which showed a blood alcohol content of 0.13% four hours after the crash.
Defense attorney Steven Politi argued at trial that Mr. Murphy, who weighs 350 pounds, did not consume enough alcohol to have been intoxicated at the time of the crash and he said during closing arguments that Mr. Murphy drove with an obstructed view from a larger SUV ahead of him. He also suggested the Scouts might have been walking in the roadway.
In the final days of the five-week trial, Mr. Politi called a pair of defense witnesses — among 25 total people who testified — who shared with jurors ways the blood alcohol level could have been distorted.
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
Day 17: Another delay in Murphy trial as jury sent home early Thursday
Day 18: Testimony concludes in Murphy trial as exchange between judge and attorney gets heated
Day 19: Jury expected to begin deliberations Tuesday in Scout’s death case
On Tuesday, Mr. Politi said he was optimistic that the jury, which he said was among the most attentive he’d witnessed in his career, will not convict his client.
“I don’t think [prosecutors] proved their case beyond a reasonable doubt … on any of the elements,” he said.
During closing arguments Monday, Assistant District Attorney Brendan Ahern called the defense “twisted,” saying it “aggressively” laid blame on everyone but Mr. Murphy during the trial and if he had simply accepted a ride home offered by a friend that day, the accident could have been avoided.
“Mr. Murphy decided to gamble,” Mr. Ahern told jurors of the Holbrook man’s decision to get behind the wheel after drinking with friends at the nearby Swan Lake Golf Club. “He selfishly rolled the dice and the children lost everything.”
Mr. Ahern was not present in court Tuesday. Prior to receiving instructions, the jury was told not to speculate on the absence of the lead prosecutor, who has been suffering an undisclosed illness.
“The fact that he’s not here has absolutely nothing to do with the case,” Judge Camacho told the jury.
Speaking outside of the courtroom following jury instructions, Andrew’s mother, Alisa McMorris, said she was feeling “a lot of nervous energy” as the jury began deliberations.
“We trust in the process and we trust in the jury and believe that justice will be served,” she said.