Case # 07NF2178
Date: January 25, 2016
WHO: Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District, Division Three
WHAT: Affirmed a judgment of the Superior Court of Orange County by the Honorable Thomas M. Goethals, judge. Charles Anthony Murphy Jr. who was found guilty by a jury on Dec. 12, 2012,of two felony counts of special circumstances murder, one felony count of attempted murder, and one felony count of conspiracy to commit murder. The sentencing enhancements for multiple murders, murder during the commission of kidnapping, and murder for financial gain were found true. He was sentenced to life in state prison without the possibility of parole.
To read the full press release about this case, please visit our website at www.orangecountyda.org and select the Press Releases and Media Advisories tab underneath the Media Center pull-down menu to search for, “Man Sentenced to Death for Murdering Ex-Girlfriend’s Father and Sister Before Setting their Bodies and Home on Fire and Attempting to Kill her Mother.”
This case was originally prosecuted by Assistant Head of Court Howard Gundy of the Homicide Unit. The California Attorney General’s Office handled the appeal for this case.
WHEN: Today, Jan. 25, 2016
WHERE: To read the court’s opinion, please visit https://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/nonpub/G049716.PDF or visit our website and select, “The People v. Charles Murphy Court of Appeal affirms judgment,” in Reports under the Reports pull-down menu.
The following is an excerpt from the opinion:
Murphy challenges the sufficiency of the evidence to prove his identity as one of the perpetrators of the murders. He also argues the prosecutor committed prejudicial misconduct during closing argument. We find neither argument persuasive and affirm the judgment.
Prosecutors are given wide latitude to present vigorous arguments so long as they are a fair comment on the evidence, including reasonable inferences and deductions from it. (People v. Hill (1998) 17 Cal.4th 800, 819.) While a prosecutor can commit misconduct by making an inappropriate analogy to recent events (see Zurinaga, supra, 148 Cal.App.4th at pp. 1254-1260), that is not what happened here.
After briefly discussing the facts of “a very famous case about a college back east where the coach or assistant coach or something in this college program was doing very inappropriate things for years and years,” the prosecutor said, “Now I’m not drawing a comparison between Mr. Murphy and what that individual did. That’s not the point here at all. The point here is to say that when people talk about character evidence about what they see, what they’re doing is they’re really reflecting back what they are, not what the defendant is.”
There was no misconduct in making this apt analogy. The record does not support defendant’s interpretation of Gundy’s argument. Defendant produced character witnesses to testify he is not violent and of good character. Gundy simply argued that character witnesses can be wrong in their assessments of a defendant’s character. Gundy used facts drawn from an infamous case to make these points, but he made no direct reference to Sandusky. Nor did Gundy impugn the veracity of defendant’s character 21 witnesses, he merely asked the jury to carefully consider the weight to be given to their testimony. Gundy’s analogy was general, brief, and appropriate. (Compare Zurinaga, supra, 148 Cal.App.4th 1258-1259 [court found misconduct because prosecutor’s reference to September 11, 2001 was not brief, referred to facts not in evidence, and the analogy had been inapt].)