Murphy prosecution seeking to use 'Billy beat me up' claim

January 29, 1994|By Jay Apperson | Jay Apperson,Staff Writer

The wife of prominent Baltimore lawyer William H. Murphy Jr. supposedly told a city police officer that "Billy beat me up" -- a claim that prosecutors want to present before a jury in the upcoming trial.

"I said, 'Kimberly! My God! What happened to you?'" Officer Steven Stuart testified during a pretrial hearing yesterday in Baltimore Circuit Court. "She said, 'Billy beat me up.' "

Judge Donald J. Gilmore must decide whether to allow the statement and other evidence gathered by police outside the Murphy home on July 12, the day police contend Mr. Murphy assaulted his wife.

The decision could be crucial to the prosecution's case because Kimberly Murphy has invoked her privilege under a section of state law that says one spouse can't be forced to testify against the other.

Later, under cross-examination by one of Mr. Murphy's three lawyers, Officer Stuart varied his story slightly. He said he asked the woman, who he said appeared to have a broken nose, "Did Billy do this to you?"

Mr. Murphy's lawyers are arguing that the evidence should be barred from trial because it was gathered after Mr. Murphy ordered the officers -- who did not have a warrant -- off his property.

That defense argument seemed to get a boost when one of two officers who initially entered the Murphy home in response to a phoned-in assault complaint testified yesterday that Mr. Murphy ordered them out of his house before other officers arrived.

"You stayed after [Mr. Murphy] insisted you leave his house?" defense lawyer Raymond M. Brown asked Officer Amanda Linthicum. The officer said an officer remained in the house. Testimony showed at least three other police officers -- including Officer Stuart -- arrived after Mr. Murphy requested police to leave.

Officer Stuart said Sgt. Craig Meier at one point used his foot to prevent Mr. Murphy from closing the front door to the house. Under questioning by defense lawyer William B. Moffitt, Officer Stuart said, "I don't think it was placed there purposely." Mr. Moffitt seemed stunned by that statement.

Also at issue during the pretrial hearing is whether police will be allowed to describe statements they say were made by Mrs. Murphy's brother and sister. Defense lawyers say the testimony should not be allowed at trial because it is hearsay and thus unreliable.

Police testified yesterday that the sister, Annoncia Roberts, told them that Mrs. Murphy needed medical assistance because she had been beaten by Mr. Murphy. The brother, Lyle Roberts, also told police Mr. Murphy had beaten his sister, police testified.

Mr. Roberts also is said to have told police he was in Burtonsville when he called 911 to report the assault. He is said to have learned of the incident in a phone call from Mrs. Murphy's son.

Judge Gilmore agreed to issue a "body attachment" to ensure Mr. Roberts' appearance at trial after prosecutors complained he had ignored summonses. The prosecutors said they feared Mr. Roberts would not come to court because he is a "career criminal" and is named in an outstanding warrant for assault.

Mr. Murphy, 50, is considered one of Baltimore's most prominent and most aggressive defense lawyers. He is a former Baltimore Circuit Court judge and mayoral candidate. He is charged with battery. The pretrial hearing is to resume Tuesday.

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