Wife-beating case against Murphy placed on inactive docket

March 05, 1994|By Jay Apperson | Jay Apperson,Sun Staff Writer

A wife-beating charge against prominent Baltimore attorney William H. Murphy Jr. was put aside yesterday when a judge agreed to place the case on an inactive docket.

In a brief hearing in Baltimore Circuit Court, prosecutor Donald Huskey said: "By the agreement of the parties, the state and Mr. Murphy have requested that the court place this case on the stet docket for a period of six months in their mutual belief that such a resolution is in the best interest of justice and in the best interest of all the parties.

"There will be no further discussion of this matter. The parties intend this to finally resolve this matter," Mr. Huskey said.

Judge Donald J. Gilmore then granted the motion to place the case on the court's inactive docket.

Normally, cases placed on that docket are reactivated only under unusual circumstances, such as a defendant being accused later of commiting a similar crime.

Asked whether there are any circumstances under which the case could be reactivated, Baltimore State's Attorney Stuart O. Simms said, "The litigation is ended and, by agreement of the parties, we indicated there [would] be no further discussion."

Leaving the downtown courthouse after the hearing, Mr. Murphy was subdued, allowing himself only a brief, small smile.

He did not respond to a request to explain what happened the day his wife sustained a broken nose. "I'm not going to have any comment," he said.

His wife, Kimberly Murphy, 29, said only, "I'm very happy."

The battery charge stemmed from a July 12, 1993, incident in which police were called to the 50-year-old 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 in a letter subsequently written by her lawyer, she said her husband did not hit her.

It was Mrs. Murphy's refusal to testify against her husband that turned State vs. Murphy into an unusual legal battle -- and raised the question of why prosecutors were pursuing the case at all.

In court papers filed before the case went to court, Mr. Murphy, a leading criminal defense lawyer, argued that police were out to humiliate him.

Later, one of his lawyers suggested the case was a waste of taxpayer dollars.

Mr. Simms defended pursuing the matter, saying his office routinely prosecutes cases in which the victim does not cooperate, as long as other evidence is available.

In the Murphy case, a defense team of five lawyers successfully argued that prosecutors should not be allowed to present much of their evidence at trial.

Because Mrs. Murphy invoked her spousal privilege to refuse to testify against her husband, prosecutors had hoped to present a police officer who said she told him, "Billy beat me."

Judge Gilmore ruled Feb. 23 that the remarks attributed to Mrs. Murphy and accusations against Mr. Murphy that were attributed to her relatives were inadmissible because they are hearsay.

He also ruled that the evidence had been illegally obtained by police, who were found to have violated Mr. Murphy's Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable search by remaining outside the lawyer's home after he had ordered them to leave.

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