The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on Monday stayed the execution of Julius Murphy, 36, which was set for Nov. 3, after his legal team presented claims of prosecutorial misconduct in his 1998 Bowie County capital murder trial. Murphy was convicted of killing a stranded motorist.
His attorneys, seeking access to the district attorney's files in the case, claimed in court filings Friday in Bowie County that prosecutors threatened and coerced witnesses to testify against Murphy. They filed similar claims in late September in a petition to the Court of Criminal Appeals, citing a new statement from a witness who testified against Murphy at his trial.
“Mr. Murphy’s conviction and death sentence were procured through prosecutorial misconduct. Jurors considered evidence from two key witnesses while the prosecution unlawfully concealed the fact that those witnesses were pressured into testifying with threats of prosecution and promised leniency if they testified," Cate Stetson, one of Murphy's attorneys, said in a statement. "And one of the witnesses has now identified Mr. Murphy’s co-defendant as the true shooter. We look forward to continuing to raise the constitutional infirmities underlying Mr. Murphy’s conviction and death sentence before the courts.”
Murphy was convicted 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.
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Others present that day testified against Murphy, 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.