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Murphy v. Florida

421 U.S. 794 (1975)

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Murphy v. Florida

United States Supreme Court

421 U.S. 794 (1975)

Facts

Jack Murphy (also known as Murph the Surf) (defendant) was charged with several crimes that received extensive news coverage. In 1964, Murphy participated in a jewel heist at a New York City museum. In 1968, Murphy was arrested for breaking into a Florida home. In 1969, Murphy was convicted of one of two counts of murder in Florida state court and pleaded guilty in federal court to conspiring to transport stolen securities. News coverage for Murphy’s cases almost entirely stopped by January 1969. Jury selection in Murphy’s breaking-and-entering case began in August 1970. Of the 78 total venirepersons questioned, the court excused 20 venirepersons for prejudice against Murphy. One sitting juror learned of Murphy’s prior criminal record through other venirepersons and the defense counsel. The defense counsel asked the juror whether Murphy’s criminal history might influence the juror’s verdict if the juror sat through a two-to-three-week trial and Murphy presented no defense evidence or testimony; the juror responded that he imagined those factors would influence his verdict. The trial court denied Murphy’s motions for a change of venue based on prejudicial pretrial publicity and Murphy’s motions to dismiss selected jurors based on the jurors’ knowledge of his prior crimes. At trial, Murphy protested the selected jury by refusing to cross-examine any state witnesses or present his own evidence. The jury convicted Murphy of armed breaking and entering and assault with intent to commit a robbery. After exhausting state appeals, Murphy filed a habeas petition in federal district court. The district court denied relief, the appellate court affirmed, and the United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Marshall, J.)

Dissent (Brennan, J.)

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