The Innocence Project, a national organization that assists convicted prisoners claiming innocence, whose cases have DNA evidence, has joined the post-conviction appeals of a 20-year-old Oklahoma murder case.  Michelle Murphy (left), a teen mother, was convicted of killing her infant son.  Barry Scheck, co-director of the New York City-based Innocence Project, and staff attorney Karen Thompson filed official entries of appearance in the case last week.

Richard O’Carroll, who is also representing Murphy, said that a fresh look at biological and blood evidence could prompt the defense to pursue judicial rulings to vacate her conviction.

In 1995, Murphy was found guilty of first-degree murder in the fatal slashing death of her son and was sentenced to life without parole.  Travis Wood, was 15 weeks old at the time.  He suffered a deep slashing neck injury, according to the medical examiner at trial.  Police and EMTs found the baby on the kitchen floor, surrounded by blood, already deceased, after they were called to Murphy’s apartment on September 12, 1994.  Murphy, who was 17 at the time, was arrested after she told police she accidentally knifed her son when she knelt down to pick him up following a confrontation with a neighbor.

At the original trial, Murphy’s defense said that she was coerced by police pressure.  Murphy took the stand in her own defense and told the jury that an intruder murdered her son as he slept.  The defense believed it was William Lee, the neighbor that she had the confrontation with.  He testified at a 1994 preliminary hearing that after the confrontation, Murphy went back inside her home and picked up her crying son.  He couldn’t see into the kitchen, where she had gone, through the front door, so he walked around her home and looked through the holes in the blinds.  There he said he saw Travis in a pool of blood.  Lee, who was 15 at the time, died in 1995 of what the medical examiner determined was accidental asphyxiation.  Jurors at the original trial heard Murphy’s taped statements.   Police said that Murphy was “crying and visibly upset” at the scene.  In 1997, the Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed Murphy’s conviction and sentence.  Murphy, now 37, is serving her life without parole sentence at Mabel Bassett Correctional Center.  Her post-conviction relief application says that her son, Travis, and herself were excluded during a blood typing test recently completed on evidence.  A court order has directed the state Medical Examiner’s Office to produce any and all biological samples it has of Lee to compare to the unknown blood found at the scene. A hearing is set for March 25th before Tulsa County Judge William Kellough.


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