State seeks to save case against Murphy

February 24, 1994|By Jay Apperson | Jay Apperson,Sun Staff Writer

Just when the state's case in the wife-beating trial of lawyer William H. Murphy Jr. seemed all but dead, prosecutors vowed yesterday to press on -- with a surprise witness.

No one connected with the case would reveal what the witness, Deidre Williams, might say against the flamboyant defense attorney. Found yesterday in the office of a downtown public relations firm, Ms. Williams suggested she had no idea why she would be summoned to the witness stand in the Murphy trial, set to begin March 16.

Looking to her lawyer for advice, Ms. Williams said, "I really don't have anything to say." She then ushered a reporter from the office.

Ms. Williams' name, which is not on a list of prosecution witnesses in court records, surfaced yesterday in Baltimore Circuit Court when prosecutor Donald Huskey said he had subpoenaed her. Mr. Huskey raised the issue after a judge issued pretrial rulings barring the prosecution's most damaging evidence.

Because Mr. Murphy's wife, Kimberly Murphy, has invoked her spousal privilege to refuse to testify against him, prosecutors had hoped to present a police officer who said she told him, "Billy beat me." Judge Donald J. Gilmore ruled that the remarks attributed to Mrs. Murphy, and accusations against Mr. Murphy that were attributed to her relatives were inadmissible because they are hearsay.

The judge ruled that none of those remarks should be admitted under the "excited utterance doctrine," which allows hearsay evidence on the theory that a person traumatized by an event has his "reflective facilities frozen" and is therefore apt to be truthful. The judge said the statements were allegedly made at least 1 1/2 hours after the alleged assault.

Testimony in pretrial hearings showed that Mrs. Murphy did not "blurt out" any statements, Judge Gilmore said, adding that any remarks she made were in response to Baltimore Police Officer Steven Stuart's questions.

The judge also noted that the police officer's description of Mrs. Murphy's condition -- he said she had a black eye and her nose was pushed to the side -- was contradicted by medical reports, taken within hours, that made no mention of a black eye and showed she had a "nondisplaced fracture" of the nose.

The judge ruled that prosecutors could present those medical records, but ordered that portions that say Mrs. Murphy told doctors she had been punched by her husband should be removed from the documents.

The battery charge facing Mr. Murphy stems from a July 12, 1993, incident, in which police were called to the lawyer's home in the 1000 block of N. Calvert St. to investigate a report that a woman had been beaten by her husband.

According to a police report, Mrs. Murphy told police that Mr. Murphy punched her while she applied makeup in their bathroom, but she later said police reports contained "outright lies."

Court records include a letter written by Mrs. Murphy's lawyer, Phillip G. Dantes, which says: "It is her [Mrs. Murphy's] statement that Mr. Murphy did not strike her on the occasion which led to the charges being brought against him." The letter also says Mrs. Murphy "went along with a false accusation against him [Mr. Murphy] because she believed that her husband was having an affair and was angry with him at the time."

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