Murphy Trial

Thomas Murphy faces likely sentencing Wednesday, the second anniversary of the crash

On Sept. 30, 2018, Thomas Murphy was driving his car down David Terry Road in Manorville when he crashed into a pack of Boy Scouts, killing 12-year-old Andrew McMorris of Wading River.

On Wednesday, exactly two years from the day of the crash, Mr. Murphy could be sent to prison for it.

Acting Suffolk County Supreme Court Justice Fernando Camacho told Mr. Murphy and the attorneys in the case to be prepared for a possible sentencing Wednesday morning after he reads his decision in a juror misconduct hearing that concluded Tuesday. While the judge did not indicate how he would rule — saying that if he did find jurors acted inappropriately he would explain how to proceed Wednesday — defense attorney Steven Politi conceded outside of the courtroom that it’s unlikely the judge would rule in his client’s favor.

For Andrew’s parents, John and Alisa McMorris, the sentencing would honor their wishes of making Sept. 30 a day of remembrance for their son.

“Maybe it’s meant to be,” Ms. McMorris said.

“We’ve always said ‘Let’s try and make September 30, the worst day of our lives, a positive day, to give back to our community,'” her husband added. “To honor our son, we pray that tomorrow turns out to be a positive one, so that we can begin to heal.”

Mr. Politi speaks with reporters outside the courtroom Tuesday. (Credit: Grant Parpan)

Speaking with reporters, Mr. Politi called into question the timing of the likely sentencing, saying it should not “be lost tomorrow is the two-year anniversary.”

Asked if he thought the timing was in appropriate, Mr. Politi noted a court date that was postponed on the first anniversary last year.

“They asked to not come to court because it was the anniversary,” he said of a 2019 pre-trial hearing date. “Inappropriate? I tend to stay away from inappropriate. It’s coincidental … that on the day that he has to make a big decision, if he is going to disappoint the family, it would come on the anniversary.”

The judge’s announcement came at the conclusion of another tense day in the courtroom, a morning that saw a final alternate juror testify in the misconduct hearing and closing arguments that were delivered at the objection of the defense, which asked for time to review minutes of Tuesday’s testimony.

Mr. Politi called Tuesday’s witness, Alternate Juror No. 5, his “star witness” at the hearing, arguing that the testimony showed how jurors repeatedly discussed the case and how one juror with a science background, referred to as Juror No. 2, loudly questioned the testimony of a defense witness in front of other jurors during the trial.

“My client was denied his right to a fair trial because the scientist on the jury denied it,” Mr. Politi said during his closing arguments, which also came after Judge Camacho denied his request to call Juror No. 2 to testify for a second time.

The McMorris Family, with District Attorney Timothy Sini and prosecutor Brendan Ahern standing behind them, address the media Tuesday. (Credit: Grant Parpan)

Assistant Suffolk County District Attorney Brendan Ahern argued that he believed the defense presented “nothing of any legal significance” at the hearing.

Instead, Mr. Ahern said, the defense relied on “vague, general claims” given to a private investigator he said misrepresented who he was to jurors in an effort to conjure the appearance of misconduct. Mr. Ahern said the private investigator’s actions, which included twice driving to a juror’s vacation home in Virginia, “cast a dark shadow across these proceedings.”

“No trial juror should ever be subjected to this again,” Mr. Ahern told the judge. “The defense counsel called everyone [on the jury] liars. These are good people who stepped up and served.”

Wednesday’s likely sentencing comes more than nine months after Mr. Murphy of Holbrook was convicted on nine counts, including a top charge of aggravated vehicular homicide following the drunken-driving crash that claimed Andrew’s life and injured three other scouts who had been hiking that day. He is facing a maximum sentence of 8 1/3 to 25 years in prison on the top charge.

Asked if he thought Tuesday would be Mr. Murphy’s final night as a free man, Mr. Politi said he believes his client will “spend lots more nights as a free man,” after he successfully appeals his conviction.