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Prosecutors to call rebuttal witness in Boy Scouts death trial

Thomas Murphy and his wife, arrive at Suffolk

Thomas Murphy and his wife, arrive at Suffolk County Court in Riverhead on Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2019. Credit: James Carbone

Suffolk prosecutors will call a rebuttal witness Thursday in an effort to counter the testimony of a toxicology expert called by the defense Monday.

That expert had argued that the blood sample of a Holbrook man, charged with driving drunk into a group of Boy Scouts last year, killing a 12-year-old, could have been contaminated.

Dr. Lee Polite, president and founder of Axion Analytical Labs in Chicago, is expected to be the final witness in the Riverhead trial of Thomas Murphy.

Axion provides training and services to the Suffolk County Medical Examiner's Office related to gas chromatography — a process used to separate and analyze compounds used by county toxicologists to determine that Murphy's BAC was 0.13% — above the legal limit of 0.08 % — four hours after the crash.

Lee, who has taught chromatography to industry professionals for more than 30 years, would be called to rebut the expert testimony from the defense witness, Dr. Jimmie Valentine, a consultant and former pharmacology professor at the University of Arkansas, College of Medicine.

Valentine testified for the defense Monday that Murphy's BAC test could have spiked above the legal limit due to contamination or improper handling by Suffolk police and a Medical Examiner's Office toxicologist.

Prosecutors contend that Murphy, 60, spent the morning of Sept. 30, 2018, drinking vodka with three friends at the Swan Lake Golf Course before driving his white Mercedes SUV over a white fog line along the shoulder of David Terry Road in Manorville and crashing into a group of Scouts from Troop 161.

The crash killed Andrew McMorris and injured three other youths.

On Tuesday, Judge Fernando Camacho granted a request from Steven Politi, Murphy's defense attorney, for additional time to prepare for his cross-examination of the witness. With the trial already halted on Wednesday, Polite is scheduled to take the stand Thursday morning.

Politi said there is a "high likelihood" that he will not call any additional defense witnesses and that he will rest his case on Thursday.

Both prosecutors and the defense would then present closing arguments Friday.

Camacho said he would instruct the jury next Monday concerning the laws that applies to the facts of the case, with jury deliberations beginning as early as that afternoon.

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