Attorneys for East Texas inmate Julius Jerome Murphy, scheduled for execution in early November for killing a stranded motorist, claimed in court papers filed Friday that prosecutors threatened and coerced witnesses to in an unjust conviction.
Citing a new statement from a witness who testified against Murphy at his trial, his attorneys are asking Bowie County courts for access to prosecutor files, and appealing to the state Court of Criminal Appeals to throw out Murphy's conviction.
Murphy was convicted in 1998 of fatally shooting Jason Erie, a man who was stranded on the side of a road in Texarkana. In fall 1997, after helping Erie with his stalled vehicle, the 18-year-old Murphy robbed, shot and killed Erie, prosecutors argued at his trial.
Others present that day testified against Murphy at his trial, including his then-girlfriend and a friend from whom he supposedly borrowed the gun used in the killing.
But Murphy's trial lawyers were not told that two of those witnesses had been threatened with prosecution for murder or conspiracy if they did not testify to Murphy's guilt, his lawyers now claim. One has since recanted his testimony, saying Murphy was not the killer.
"When it came time for Julius's trial, the prosecutor threatened me with a murder charge and said they had enough evidence on me if I did not testify for them against Julius," Javarrow Young said in a two-page affidavit. "They told me again that if I did not testify against Julius, I would lose my daughter. I believed them."
Young says in the sworn statement given to Murphy investigators that he lied on the stand, and that another man — Chris Solomon — shot and killed Erie. Solomon, who was a co-defendant with Murphy, was sentenced to life in prison because he was a minor at the time of the crime.
"The police put pressure on me. They questioned me for hours," Young said. "I never told them Chris pulled the trigger because I knew they were after Julius and did not want that information. I was afraid."
Bowie County District Attorney Jerry D. Rochelle did not respond to requests for comment Friday afternoon.
Cate Stetson, one of Murphy's attorneys said Young and Davis "finally felt that they were able to come forward without that looming over them" and "tell the truth."
In the petition filed Friday in the 102nd Judicial District Court in Bowie County, Murphy's legal team accuses the district attorney's office of misconduct and asks the court to compel the DA to turn over all documents related to Murphy's case.
Murphy's legal team also has a petition before the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, asking that his conviction and death sentence be thrown out, or the case sent back for a new trial. Their brief cites the evidence they have uncovered, and challenges the constitutionality of the death penalty.