Moral Low Ground


After 20 Years Behind Bars, DNA Test Frees Michelle Murphy, Sentenced to Life for Murdering Infant Son

An Oklahoma woman who spent 20 years behind bars after being convicted of murdering her infant son has been released from prison after DNA evidence invalidated the prosecution’s case against her.

Michelle Murphy, 37, walked out of Tulsa County Jail a free woman on Friday after Tulsa County District Judge William Kellough vacated her murder conviction. She was serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole after being convicted in 1995 of murdering her 3-month-old son Travis.

The infant was found nearly decapitated on Murphy’s kitchen floor in Tulsa in 1994. Her defense team unsuccessfully argued that a teenage neighbor, William Lee, who died later that year, was the killer. Prosecutors alleged that some of the blood found at the crime scene was not the baby’s.

DNA testing was not available at the time but later, such tests were conducted after The Innocence Project, an organization dedicated to exonerating innocent prisoners through DNA testing, took up Murphy’s case.

Tests confirmed that the “other” blood found at the murder scene was indeed the slain baby’s.

Tulsa County District Attorney Tim Harris, who prosecuted Murphy, said he had no choice but to request that the court vacate her sentence based on the new information.

“I have to make tough decisions,” Harris told reporters. “When I realized that the DNA evidence proved that my argument, that it was not the child’s blood, was incorrect; I’m making an argument to the jury that I find out on science was not an accurate statement.”

“My heart of hearts says I’ve got to make that right and that’s what I did,” added Harris.

Murphy’s defense team blamed her conviction on bad police work and blamed Harris, accusing him of lying to the jury during her trial and failing to act when doubts were cast on the blood evidence in 2005.

“He’s the reason Michelle spent 20 years in the penitentiary,” attorney Sharisse O’Carroll told NewsOn6.

Murphy, who was released on $10,000 bond, still faces the possibility of a new murder trial since her release was not an exoneration. She must wear an ankle bracelet monitor and reside in the home of former teacher and longtime supporter Susan Jones, among other restrictions. But she was still thrilled to be free again after so many harrowing years behind bars.

“I’m just ecstatic,” she told the Tulsa World after her release. “I’ve been waiting for this day for 20 years.”

“I’m thankful for everybody that’s always been there for me,” she said. “I want to learn to have a life I’ve been denied for 20 years,” she added, telling reporters that her life in prison had been “like hell.”

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