Trial by Jury Held at Murphy Municipal Court
By Karen Chaney
March 29 – Forty potential jurors, all Murphy residents, appeared in the Murphy Municipal Court room upon receiving a jury summons. There were jury trials on the docket – one case was for speeding, the other was for assault. Questions voiced during voir dire included (but not limited to): Does anyone recognize attorneys or witnesses? Anyone related to, or work in, law enforcement or legal field? Is anyone a victim of a crime? Anyone taken a traffic ticket to court? Anyone believe you can’t prove a crime unless there is a video recording? Could you listen to a spoken testimony and let that be evidence? Anyone have negative opinions towards police officers? Anyone have a problem assessing a fine up to $200? Anyone have a radar detector or experience with radars? Anyone feel the defendant is wasting our time and she should just pay the fine? Anyone have a problem with holding the state accountable? Anyone have a problem with the defendant saying there were problems with road signs on N. Murphy Rd.? Anyone know what assault means? Simple assault is often one person’s testimony against another. There is not always physical evidence or video – would you have a problem assessing guilt? Does anyone exercise in a public gym? Do you go at regular times and see the same people? Anyone have a young daughter?
Jury selection was made for each case. (Jurors were seated in the jury box – two females and six males.) The first trial for the speeding ticket began with opening statements by the state and defense lawyers. Murphy Police Officer Marion Neale (thirty year veteran police officer, ten of which were with MPD) was called to the stand. Neale issued the citation to the defendant for going 39 mph in a 30 mph school zone on N. Murphy Road. Neal drew a diagram illustrating N. Murphy Road from the Middle School to First Baptist Murphy. She included cross roads, location of school zone signs and her location the morning in question. She described the hand held radar she used that morning and its reliability. Neale reports that her attention was drawn to the defendant when the defendant was pulling away from surrounding traffic. When questioned if the speed the defendant was travelling was ‘reasonable and prudent’, Neale replies, “No, it was an active school zone. Children were going to school.” The car dash video and officer’s body cam video were admitted as exhibits.
Defendant was brought to the stand. She reports that she has lived in Murphy for ten years, she has four children. Several of her children have attended Murphy Middle School and McMillen High School She explains on the day in question, she did not travel on the portion of N. Murphy Rd that Ofc. Neale reports that she was speeding. She said she exited onto N. Murphy Road between McMillen and First Baptist Murphy. The first speed limit sign she saw was a 45 mph sign. She said she was not going 39 mph when pulling onto N. Murphy Rd. and had never gone 39 mph that morning due to the good amount of traffic on that road that morning.
Viewing the officer’s body cam video one hears Officer Neale ask if the defendant has an emergency and if they are coming from dropping someone off at the high school. The defendant remarks she didn’t realize she was in a school zone, that she usually didn’t go that way and didn’t see the school zone sign.
State closing arguments included: You cannot reach the high school without seeing school zones. You just know when you’re dropping a kid off (at school) you are around a school zone. Officer Neal was solely doing her job – patrolling traffic. I’m not saying the defendant is a bad person for speeding in a school zone. I think she just wasn’t paying attention.
Defendant closing arguments included: This is a technical matter. The state hasn’t proven she was speeding in the 700 block of N. Murphy Rd. There was a lot of traffic. Three and a half months later, Officer Neale can remember a Honda Odyssey speeding? I don’t know if Officer Neale tagged the wrong car, but she (the defendant) sure wasn’t speeding.
Exhibits were given to the bailiff to give to the jury during deliberation. Less than an hour later the verdict was read: We find the defendant guilty as charged. Fine is $200. 10 days to appeal.
A few minutes before the verdict of the first trial was announced, the defendant for the second case (assault) changed his plea from “not guilty” to “no contest” and was placed on Deferred Disposition. This trial did not take place and the jurors were dismissed.