Witness outburst briefly disrupts Krivak trial. This is what she told jurors
The Putnam County murder retrial of Andrew Krivak was briefly halted Tuesday afternoon when a witness pointedly told jurors details about the case she knew they weren't supposed to hear.
Lisa Murphy, a prosecution witness, shouted out during cross examination about a $12 million settlement that Krivak's co-defendant Anthony DiPippo got from the county following his acquittal at a third trial in 2016 in the 1994 rape and murder of 12-year-old Josette Wright.
"And now if he wins he's going to get $12 million?" she asked while alternately facing jurors and defense lawyer Oscar Michelen in an apparent reference to Krivak. "You want to go there?"
Judge Robert Prisco ordered jurors out and for Murphy to wait in the hall while the stenographer read him back what he eventually referred to as Murphy's "rant." He sent District Attorney Robert Tendy out to remind Murphy what she was not to talk about.
Trial:Krivak retrial begins in 1997 murder of 12-year-old Putnam girl
Tendy returned, saying Murphy was "very sorry" and "will not do it again."
But after Michelen and his co-counsel Karen Newirth conferred, Newirth asked for a mistrial, saying there was no way to "unring the bell." She said Murphy's past volatility was known to the prosecution so that her outburst was foreseeable. And jurors likely wouldn't think that most of the county settlement was paid by insurance, she said, so as county taxpayers they might fear that acquitting Krivak would cost them.
Prisco denied the motion and Michelen asked that, in the alternative, Murphy's entire testimony be stricken. "The message to send is: 'This person is ghosted. She was never here,'" he said. The judge denied that as well, telling jurors when they returned that Murphy's rant was unresponsive to any question, that he was striking it from the record and they shouldn't consider it all.
Why was Murphy called to testify?
Murphy was not an eyewitness to the killing and knew nothing about it when Putnam County Sheriff's investigators went to question her at the Orange County jail in the late summer of 1996, two months after Krivak and DiPippo were arrested.
But she was called to testify, as she was at Krivak's first trial in 1997, to detail a night in early October 1994 when she claimed to see Krivak, DiPippo, Josette, Denise Rose and two other teenage boys standing next to Krivak's brown van at a Citgo station on Route 52.
That was to bolster the testimony of Rose, who claims she and the two other teenagers were in the van when Krivak and DiPippo raped a tied-up and gagged Josette before dumping her lifeless body in the woods off Fields Lane in Patterson. Josette's skeletal remains were found there in November 1995.
The defense has long challenged Rose's account as the product of details fed her by investigators and their threats to charge her as an accessory to murder. The defense also contends that the brown van was inoperable in the fall of 1994 and that Rose and Murphy only identified the van after investigators showed them pictures of it.
Newirth in her argument for a mistrial said there was a reason those two women were the only ones testifying against Krivak, who spent nearly a quarter of a century in prison before his 1997 conviction was overturned: They were vulnerable drug addicts in the 1990s who were taken advantage of by the investigators.
What question did the outburst interrupt?
At the time of the outburst, Michelen was asking Murphy whether she had sought anything from the investigators when they urged her to be a "moral citizen."
But he quickly pivoted afterwards to a line of questioning meant to show that she wouldn't have been at the Citgo station with the boyfriend she named in October 1994.
Murphy had broken up with another boyfriend on her 18th birthday that July and the same night began dating DiPippo. They stayed together at motels, a trailer in Connecticut and eventually at an apartment in Brewster that DiPippo rented in November.
Murphy recounts relationship details
Despite previous testimony in a deposition in DiPippo's civil lawsuit that she had an exclusive relationship with DiPippo during that time and they spent every night together, Murphy claimed Tuesday that it was an "off and on" relationship and she wasn't certain about specific dates during that time.
When Michelen showed her receipts from motels and the November lease, she claimed DiPippo could have gone to the motels with someone else and that her name wasn't on the lease.
"All I know is I wasn't in a relationship with Anthony DiPippo the night I saw them," she said.
Her big outburst wasn't the only sign of tension during her testimony. She complained about Michelen badgering her about her extensive drug use, which started in the early 1990s and included cocaine, crack cocaine, LSD and eventually heroin. "I think we get the point. I am a drug addict. Can we move on?" she said.
Michelen and Newirth insisted they wouldn't have pressed the point if Tendy hadn't elicited from her that her drug use was only related to pain medication and didn't start until the late 1990s.
This article originally appeared on Rockland/Westchester Journal News: Judge denies call for mistrial after witness outburst in Krivak trial