RIVERHEAD, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — It was a packed courtroom on Tuesday and a jury heard two opposite narratives during opening statements in the trial of a driver who admits he killed a Long Island Boy Scout, but says it wasn’t a crime.
The only thing agreed upon was that it was an unimaginable tragedy, CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported.
The agonizing moments were relived through 911 calls played for a Suffolk County jury. So began the trial of 60-year-old Thomas Murphy, of Holbrook, who was charged with aggravated vehicular homicide in a crash on Sept. 30, 2018, that killed 12-year-old Andrew McMorris, of Wading River.
“Today begins this awful, awful journey into reliving this nightmare over and over again,” said Alisa McMorris, the victim’s mother.
It’s a nightmare prosecutors called “a completely unnecessary and avoidable horror show.”
They warned jurors they’d be taking a long, dark and difficult journey back to September 2018, when Murphy, after drinking vodka on the golf course and then refusing to give up his car keys to friends who knew he was too drunk to drive, mowed down a group of Boy Scouts on a hike.
“Shockingly reckless,” the prosecutor said of Murphy’s alleged actions.
“A little boy doesn’t stand a chance against a drunk driver in an SUV,” the prosecutor added.
According to prosecutors, Murphy’s first words after the crash were an expletive and then, “I’m in trouble.”
Jurors were nearly in tears before the defense had its say.
“I’m saying 100 percent my client was not intoxicated, 1 million percent,” attorney Steven Politi said.
According to the defense, the Boy Scouts were walking in the roadway, not in single file, and that Murphy’s view was obstructed by an SUV in front of him. Politi said the shoulder was not marked with a white line at the point of impact.
“They weren’t even supervised. The adults were all the way in the back over 100 feet away and the young boys were walking ahead of them acting as young boys act,” Politi said.
He urged jurors, “Don’t compound the tragedy by convicting an innocent man,” adding it was nothing more than “an unfortunate car accident” and insisting Murphy was “not the cause.”
Needless to say, there was a lot of sorrow in the courtroom. The defense cautioned the jury not to let sympathy decide their verdict.
The trial expected to take three to six weeks. Everyone is hoping it’s over by Christmas.
Murphy faces 8 1/3 to 25 years in prison if convicted.