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State v. Murphy

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Second Division

November 28, 2017

STATE OF MISSOURI, Respondent,
v.
PAUL J. MURPHY, Appellant.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of St. Charles County Honorable Jon A. Cunningham

          Philip M. Hess, Judge.

         Introduction

         Paul Murphy ("Defendant") was found guilty by a St. Charles County jury of three counts of second-degree assault and one count of involuntary manslaughter. Defendant received seven-year sentences on each second-degree assault conviction, and a twelve-year sentence on his involuntary manslaughter charge, with all sentences to run concurrently. On appeal, Defendant argues: (1) there was insufficient evidence from which a reasonable juror could have found him guilty of second-degree assault or criminal negligence, and (2) the trial court erred in granting the State's motion in limine barring Defendant's expert witness from opining on whether Defendant was involuntarily intoxicated, criminally negligent, and unaware of his mental and physical impairments. Finding no error, we affirm.

         Factual Background

         The facts, viewed in the light most favorable to the jury's verdict, are as follows.[1]Around noon on March 16, 2013, Andrea Ledbetter was driving behind Defendant on the highway. Ms. Ledbetter observed Defendant swerving in and out of the traffic lane. Ms. Ledbetter honked her horn at Defendant, who then momentarily returned to his lane but began swerving again. Ms. Ledbetter stayed behind Defendant as he exited the highway. Amanda Macias, who had also been behind Defendant as he exited, honked her horn at Defendant after he failed to move when a traffic light turned green. Defendant eventually moved, and Ms. Ledbetter and Ms. Macias continued to follow Defendant. Defendant again failed to move when another traffic light turned green until Ms. Macias honked at him. Defendant continued to swerve between the right and left lanes, and crossed the centerline into oncoming-traffic. Ms. Macias passed Defendant's car by driving on the right shoulder to avoid being hit by Defendant. As Ms. Macias passed Defendant, she noticed he was looking down and not paying attention.

         Defendant then crossed the centerline again and collided with a car driven by Renee Ferrier ("Victims' Car"). In the car with Ms. Ferrier were her daughter, N.F., and fiancé Nathan Hart. Ms. Ferrier was five months pregnant.

         Diana Amann, who had been driving behind the Victims prior to the collision, hit the Victims' car as it spun backwards after the impact. Ms. Amann got out of her car and went to the Victims' car. She spoke with Ms. Ferrier, who was trapped inside the car. Ms. Ferrier appeared dazed but asked about N.F. Ms. Amann noticed that N.F. was in the backseat slumped over and unconscious. Mr. Hart was in obvious pain, and he was removed from the car by other people present at the scene. Ms. Amann went over to Defendant's car to check on his condition. Defendant was still sitting in his car, and although he was awake, he appeared dazed. He did not verbally respond when Ms. Amann asked him if he was OK.

         Chelsea Mortimer had been driving behind the Victims when they were hit by Defendant. Ms. Mortimer did not believe there was anything the Victims could have done to avoid being hit by Defendant. Ms. Mortimer pulled over after the accident, and she removed N.F. from the vehicle. Ms. Mortimer observed that N.F. was unconscious and not breathing. Ms. Mortimer performed CPR on her, after which N.F. began breathing again, but remained unconscious.

         Police arrived on the scene and interviewed Defendant. Officer Dean Meyer, who spoke with Defendant while he was still inside his vehicle, noticed that Defendant seemed incoherent and had a lethargic demeanor. Defendant was transported to a hospital, where Officer Penberthy spoke with Defendant shortly after he arrived. During his interaction with Defendant, Officer Penberthy observed that Defendant seemed to awaken when asked a question, but would gradually become incoherent as he tried to answer the question. Defendant denied taking any legal or illegal drug within 72 hours of the crash. He told Officer Penberthy he was taking Xanax and Antrypol as medication. Officer Penberthy asked Defendant when he had last taken his medication, and Defendant replied "3:00 in the morning." When asked how much he took, Defendant replied "half." Officer Penberthy requested Defendant's consent for a blood test, which Defendant gave.

         Mr. Hart and Ms. Ferrier were taken to St. Joseph's Hospital and were later transferred to St. John's Hospital. Ms. Ferrier suffered multiple bone fractures in her foot, pelvic bone, neck and arm. The day after the collision, doctors induced Ms. Ferrier to deliver her unborn child ("Unborn Victim") after discovering that Unborn Victim had no heartbeat. Ms. Ferrier delivered Unborn Victim, who did not survive. It was established that prior to the accident Ms. Ferrier had a normal and healthy pregnancy, and that Unborn Victim's death had resulted from the car accident.

         N.F. was taken to Cardinal Glennon and was later transferred to Ranken Jordan for physical therapy, where she remained until June 28, 2013. Due to brain injuries sustained in the car accident, N.F. initially could not eat, talk, or see, although she regained the ability to do so after therapy. She attended kindergarten after finishing therapy, but had to retake it because she was not as mentally developed as her peers.

         The results of Defendant's blood test demonstrated that he had both Temazepam, which is a sleeping pill, and Alprazolam ("Xanax") in his blood. Results indicated that he had .26 micrograms per milliliter of Temazepam and .22 micrograms per milliliter of Xanax. Dr. Christopher Long, a forensic toxicologist, testified that the blood test results indicated Defendant took Temazepam less than 10 hours, and possibly less than 5 hours, before the accident. Dr. Long testified that a person who takes 20 milligrams of Temazepam at night will be impaired to operate a vehicle the next morning, and that Defendant's blood tests indicated he took over 20 milligrams the evening prior to the accident. Dr. Long testified the Temazepam alone could have caused Defendant to fall asleep at the wheel.

         Dr. Long testified that Xanax can be fatal starting a .1 micrograms per milliliter of blood. Defendant had .22 micrograms of Xanax per millileter in his blood. Dr. Long testified that Defendant had been prescribed six milligrams per day of Xanax, which he considered a high dosage, and that Defendant's blood test results indicated Defendant had taken at least twice his prescribed dose prior to the accident. Dr. Long testified that although Defendant would have developed a tolerance to Xanax, the level of Xanax in his blood could still have caused him to lose consciousness, and that taking Temazepam with Xanax increased the risk of losing consciousness.

         The jury convicted Defendant of involuntary manslaughter, [2] and three counts of second-degree assault. This appeal follows. Further testimony and evidence will be provided when necessary in our analysis.

         I.Point One: Sufficiency of ...


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