After 20 years behind bars, Michelle Murphy got her first taste of freedom since she was a teenager. The Oklahoma woman’s sentence was overturned based upon new DNA evidence obtained by the Innocence Project. She may face retrial.
The now 37-year-old told Tulsa World, “I’m just ecstatic. I’ve been waiting for this day for 20 years. I’m thankful for everybody that’s always been there for me. I want to learn to have a life I’ve been denied for 20 years.”
She added that prison was “like hell.”
Murphy’s ordeal began on September 12, 1994, when police discovered her 3-month-old son Travis nearly decapitated on her kitchen floor. District Attorney Tim Harris prosecuted the case in 1995. Prosecutors at the time argued that the blood at the scene was Murphy’s. The defense argued that the killer was her neighbor, William Lee, whom she did not get along with. Lee died as the result of accidental asphyxiation not long after the murder. Lee was a witness for the state. The two had a fight before Travis’ death.
Murphy, who was 17 at the time, was convicted and sentenced to life in prison without parole. Her case later came to the attention of the Innocence Project. Forensic testing was ordered two months ago on several items of evidence. The new DNA test showed that the blood at the scene was not Murphy’s.
Murphy has been released on $10,000 bond and has to wear an ankle monitor. She cannot leave the home of one of her supporters, her GED instructor Susan Jones, who has taken her in. She is not allowed to have contact with any children that are not part of her immediate family.
Judge William Kellough vacated the conviction after the prosecution joined the motion for reversal, Harris said, “I have to make tough decisions. When I realized that the DNA evidence proved that my argument…was incorrect; I’m making an argument to the jury that I find out on science was not…accurate…My heart of hearts says I’ve got to make that right and that’s what I did.” “I came forward as a minister of justice and as the lead prosecutor…there was an allegation that I made in closing argument that…[was] not an accurate statement.” At trial, prosecutors told the jury that Murphy’s blood was present at the scene and it proved that she killed her son. The new testing shows that this is not the case. Reports indicate that all the blood at the scene was Travis’.
Murphy’s defense team blames her conviction on bad police work and on Harris for failing to act when the blood evidence was first put in doubt in 2005. Murphy’s attorney Sharisse O’Carroll said that there is exculpatory evidence proving Murphy is innocent.
Murphy’s next court hearing is June 24th. The District Attorney’s Office is reviewing all the evidence.