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Judge mulls new trial request by Primecare shooter

Attorney: Jason Murphy didn't receive fair trial and had ineffective counsel
As a defense lawyer you get used to folks saying you did a bad job when you lose
A Houston County judge is considering whether to grant a new trial to a man convicted of going on a shooting spree at a Dothan doctor’s office. That follows a hearing held Wednesday during which attorneys for Jason Murphy claimed their client may have been convicted because of tainted testimony.

Dr. John Goff, a neuropsychologist from Tuscaloosa, testified that a clinical psychologist who practices in Dothan compromised Murphy’s defense when he testified during the trial. Goff contends that Dr. Doug McKeown testimony may have violated patient-doctor privilege.

“One of the most important points we brought out during this case is when the state psychologist is ordered by the court to evaluate the defendant they are asking the person being evaluated to incriminate themselves when that doctor testifies against them at trial,” said Murphy attorney Richard Keith.

Keith also questioned why the attorney for Murphy at the time of the trial didn’t object to McKeown’s testimony. He cites ineffective counsel on the part of Matt Lamere who was swift to refute the allegation.

“As a defense lawyer you get used to folks saying you did a bad job when you lose,” said Lamere. “I think if you asked (District Attorney Doug Valeska) who won this case he would say I did.” Lamere pointed out the trial was infused with publicity, even drawing attention from the national media.

Lamere said Murphy was initially charged with five counts of attempted murder but convicted of only one count. That conviction was later overturned by the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals. With the reversal, Murphy’s sentence was reduced by half---from 70 years to 35 years. A jury found him guilty of burglary, making a terror threat, and criminal mischief.

Murphy was arrested a few hours after the 2007 shooting spree occurred at Primecare’s former location on Westgate Parkway. Employees and patients were able to exit safely via a back door. Murphy surrendered a few hours later after police coaxed him from the building. Nobody was wounded.

Murphy had been a patient at the clinic earlier in the week and appeared upset about his medical care and the military. He was scheduled to participate in a National Guard drill and may have been concerned about his inability to complete a physical fitness examination.

However, Keith contends his client was portrayed unfairly. “He’d been a college type student in the National Guard and got put on five or six different medications and he had a bad day and suffered from delirium and was out of character,” he said.

District Attorney Doug Valeska opposes the motion for a new trial. “Murphy is cry babying,” said the veteran prosecutor. He said Murphy was offered a 20 year prison sentence on all charges had he pleaded guilty. Valeksa said Murphy declined the plea deal. Valeska also said he plans to oppose parole when Murphy is considered.

Circuit Judge Butch Binford, who sentenced Murphy, took the matter under advisement and will rule on the new trial request within a few days.

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