Murphy stays in criminal justice system

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Gregory Murphy remains not competent to stand trial but because he is charged with capital murder, he will remain in the criminal justice system.

Until 2004, Murphy would have been transferred from the criminal justice system to Virginias mental health system after five years if he was not restored to competency to stand trial. The Virginia General Assembly changed that law to allow for indefinite court supervision of those charged with capital murder.

Murphy was so charged in October, 2000, for the murder of eight-year-old Kevin Shifflett in April of that year. Kevin was playing in the front yard of his great grandparents home in Del Ray when Murphy approached him and stabbed him to death. At the time of the murder, Murphy had just been released from prison where he had served time for assault. In May, 2001, Murphy was found not competent to stand trial and was sent to Central State Hospital for psychiatric treatment.

Last week, Murphys attorneys argued that the 2004 law was unconstitutional, violating the 14th amendments expose facto and equal protection clauses. Retired Circuit Court Judge Alfred Swersky, who has handled the case since Murphy was charged, disagreed with the first contention and, while agreeing that there was merit to the second, said that the General Assembly had a right to pass such a law for the greater good of the people of Virginia.

They basically argued that the 14th Amendment protects people from having laws changed after they are charged, said Alexandria Commonwealths Attorney S. Randolph Sengel. We argued that this is a very narrow clause and doesnt apply to this case. It only applies if you make something a crime after someone is charged that was not before that individual was charged. That is not what happened in this case. The new law only applies to the manner in which Murphys case is reviewed.

Unless the Virginia Court of Appeals overturns Swerskys ruling on appeal, Murphys case will be reviewed in Alexandria Circuit Court every six months until such time as he is found competent to stand trial or until he is dead.

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