by Edmond Geary
Twenty years ago in Tulsa a woman was convicted of the murder of her child. Last year, she filed an application for post conviction relief, challenging the validity of her conviction and was freed last summer based on what was called newly discovered evidence. Now the question has become whether that evidence of innocence was known at the time of the trial and covered up.
The elected district attorney of Tulsa is accused of a cover up. The criminal defense attorney for Michelle Murphy, the woman convicted, says the district attorney knew about evidence at that time of trial that contradicted the evidence the prosecution’s offered at trial.
Michelle Murphy’s lawyers sought an order to produce records from the district attorney and subpoenaed the district himself to appear to testify as a fact witness. Then the district attorney, the day before he was scheduled to produce files and testify, walked into court and confessed of Murphy’s petition for post conviction relief , and got an order that exonerated her and sealed all the records of the case. So, instead of producing records and explaining his knowledge of the claimed discrepancy in evidence, the district attorney terminated the case, and, in effect, told everyone to go home.
Murphy’s attorneys do not accept this attempt at “game over.” Murphy’s attorneys have now filed contempt against the district attorney, alleging he covered up his wrong-doing of years ago by terminating the case and sealing the records rather than appear to give testimony.
At the trial in 1995, the district attorney had argued that blood type AB found at the scene of the murder was not the blood of the child murdered. The district attorney admits now that is not true but says he only recently discovered this fact. But, according to the Murphy’s attorney, the district attorney knew at the time he made that argument that the blood sample was not blood type AB. The district attorney now agrees with that but says he learned this from “subsequent” blood examination. Murphy’s lawyers claim the “subsequent” blood test was performed in 2005, and the district attorney, knowledgeable of this fact, allowed Murphy to languish in prison for an additional 10 years, until pressed now. Moreover, Murphy’s Application for Sanctions against the district attorney alleges the district attorney obtained from the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation analysis of the blood samples taken from the murder scene, and the district attorney reviewed the results 3 days before trial showing Murphy was type A blood. Thus the district attorney knew the type AB blood taken from the scene was not that of Murphy. The district attorney never revealed this report.
Now sanctions also are sought against the district attorney for his continued action as an advocate in the case after the judged ordered him removed as advocate from the case due to his being called as a witness in the case. The district attorney’s presentation of the dismissal of the case and request for sealing of the file are the actions of an advocate.
Trumpted up convictions are deplorable. Wrongful convictions can be proved wrongful now because science can prove the facts, regardless of skillful sleight of hand from police or prosecutors. Some people cannot imagine any prosecutor would falsify evidence to put someone in prison just to further his career, but these are competitive people in an adversary system intent on furthering their ambitions. The district attorney in this case is retiring from office this year, so he will not have to answer to the voters for his actions of 20 years ago when he was an ambitious assistant. And prosecutors are immune from liability for civil rights violations. Maybe the district attorney did nothing wrong at the trial years ago, but his actions now are anything but candid and appear very damning. The public is entitled to an explanation, ordered by the court if necessary.