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Long IslandCrime

Judge won't allow driver's prior apologies, statements in Scout death as trial evidence

A Suffolk County judge won't allow prosecutors to use at trial prior public apologies from the accused drunken driver charged with fatally striking 12-year-old Boy Scout Andrew McMorris in Manorville. Thomas Murphy, 60, of Holbrook, has pleaded not guilty to charges including aggravated vehicular homicide, assault and driving while intoxicated in the Sept. 30 crash, which also left another Scout seriously injured. Murphy's trial is slated to begin Oct. 8 and statements were made at court on Tuesday. (Credit: Newsday / Nicole Fuller; Photo Credit: Family of Andrew McMorris)

A Suffolk County judge won't allow prosecutors to use at trial prior public apologies from the accused drunken driver charged with fatally striking 12-year-old Boy Scout Andrew McMorris in Manorville.

Thomas Murphy, 60, of Holbrook, has pleaded not guilty to charges including aggravated vehicular homicide, assault and driving while intoxicated in the Sept. 30 crash, which also left another Scout seriously injured. Murphy's trial is slated to begin Oct. 8.

Murphy, while represented by another defense attorney, had issued statements saying he was sorry and intended to "accept responsibility" for his actions. Prosecutors wanted to use those statements as evidence at trial but Murphy's defense attorney Steven Politi of Central Islip had argued they were the words of the previous attorney — not his client.

"Those were not the words of the defendant," said Politi after the proceeding Tuesday. "The court evidently agrees with that."

Judge Fernando Camacho did not spell out his reasoning for denying the admission of the statements during the brief conference Tuesday afternoon in Central Islip. 

Alisa McMorris, the mother of the victim, was surrounded by about a dozen supporters in the courtroom. She spoke briefly to reporters following Murphy's court appearance. 

"Something that's unimaginable is made a lot worse," McMorris said of the ruling. "Right now, this week, I'm focusing on the anniversary of my baby's entrance into heaven."

Murphy, who attended the proceeding with his wife, did not comment to reporters. 

Murphy began drinking vodka almost as soon as he arrived at the nearby Swan Lake Golf Club in Manorville about 9 a.m. on Sept. 30, according to prosecutors citing witness statements. 

Murphy had a .13% blood alcohol content hours after the crash, according to prosecutors, who obtained his sample through a warrant. But forensic toxicologists have estimated it was closer to .19% at the time of the crash — more than twice the legal limit of .08%.

Politi said Tuesday that his client passed a field sobriety test administered by a Suffolk police officer prior to his arrest.

"That information was never conveyed to the judge that signed the warrant, the media, or the court," said Politi. 

Murphy is due back in court next Tuesday for a probable cause hearing in the case. 

The most serious charge Murphy faces carries a maximum sentence of 8 1/3 to 25 years in prison.

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