‘Death by Cop’ Civil Rights Lawsuit Filed on Family’s Behalf Thursday
By Crescenzo Vellucci
It’s happened again. Another “death by cop” with little or no body cam or dash cam recordings, unexplained and unavailable evidence – and a near-complete lack of information provided even to the family of the victim by law enforcement.
Thursday, well-known civil rights attorney John Burris filed a federal lawsuit in an attempt to find at least some of the answers in the death of Christopher Murphy who was involved in a fiery car accident last Dec. 8, wandered onto the roadway and instead of being provided medical help was stunned repeatedly and hog-tied by the California Highway Patrol. He stopped breathing and died in custody.
“We want to find out exactly what happened,” said Burris at a news conference Thursday at the U.S. courthouse in Sacramento. The civil rights suit claims numerous federal and state causes of action
and the lawsuit was filed on behalf of Murphy’s former wife, Kristina Compher, and their three children.
According to the lawsuit, Murphy was reportedly driving on I-5 in the wrong lane in the rain late at night, and was involved in a collision. His car caught on fire and he apparently escaped. Murphy was discovered by CHP officers “Poole” and “Simpson” on the roadway as Murphy was “wandering and disoriented.”
But they didn’t offer medical help.
“Instead of offering the injured man the obvious necessary medical care he needed, Defendants opted to choke, handcuff, hog-tie and tase Christopher Murphy multiple times, until he became unresponsive. Christopher Murphy died as a result of actions of Defendants’ unwarranted and excessive force,” charged the lawsuit.
“What’s even more unusual about this case is that there’s been a hold on all of this information for nearly a year,” said Burris, who said even the coroner’s report is not available. His legal team just recently found out the names of two of the officers.
Even the little information available seems to conflict, said Burris.
Information gleaned from medical reports and from first responders of Sacramento Fire Dept. at the scene specifically noted taser barbs “all over his body…front and back.” Some taser barbs were still embedded in his body when he was admitted into the hospital, according to official reports, indicative of full “dart” mode.
However, the CHP, in its statement, said that Murphy was only hit with “drive stun” mode, which uses much less electrical current – this is in direct conflict with what first responders reported, said Burris.
The medical reports also reveal Murphy was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
“Mr. Murphy was a good and decent guy. He was a good father. He was disoriented and needed help, not to be treated like some sort of criminal. His family has a right to know what happened. They don’t even know exactly where the incident took place. Unfortunately, they had to hire my office to try to get answers,” Burris said Thursday.
“We are very concerned about the total lack of transparency here, which contributes to the lack of public trust,” added Melissa Nold, an attorney working in the Burris law firm.
Murphy’s former wife Kristina said the lack of information, after a year, is making life even more difficult for her children.
“I need some help. Chris loved his children, he was good to them. Now they are unstable…they want to know what happened to their Dad. If he did something wrong, just tell me. I don’t know why it’s taken so long,” she said, adding that after an initial interview with CHP two weeks after the death, the CHP has not returned any of her calls.