A Westmoreland County judge’s order allocating taxpayer funds so defense lawyers can hire a ballistics expert to help build an appeal of a death row inmate’s conviction has come under fire from county prosecutors.
District Attorney John Peck and Assistant District Attorney Jim Lazar on Monday challenged a court order signed last week by Westmoreland County Court of Common Pleas Judge Meagan Bilik-DeFazio allocating $2,500 in taxpayer funds for Kevin Murphy’s defense lawyers to hire a private ballistics expert to review evidence used against Murphy in his 2013 triple-murder trial.
Murphy, 58, of Loyalhanna Township was convicted of three counts of first-degree murder for the 2009 shooting deaths of his mother, sister and aunt at a family-owned auto glass repair business in Loyalhanna Township.
Murphy’s mother, Doris Murphy, 69, sister Kris Murphy, 43, and aunt Edith Tietge, 81, were each shot in the back of the head with a .22-caliber revolver linked to Murphy, police said.
According to prosecutors in the case, the women were killed because they didn’t approve of Murphy’s romantic relationship with a married woman and didn’t want her to live at the family home near Saltsburg.
Murphy was represented during his 2013 trial by private attorneys, who retained their own ballistics expert prior to the trial.
Court-appointed attorneys Brian Aston and Ken Noga claimed a new ballistics expert is needed to review evidence used against Murphy in his trial to craft a yet-to-be-filed appeal.
Two bullet fragments from one of the victims could not be linked to a weapon owned by Murphy and recovered at the scene, Aston and Noga contended, and DNA evidence used in Murphy’s trial indicated an unknown person had contact with the gun.
Prosecutors weren’t notified of the court order allocating taxpayer funds for Aston and Noga to hire a ballistics expert, and should have been allowed to challenge the need for one, Peck and Lazar said, since Murphy’s previous defense attorneys had already hired an expert in the field.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court in 2016 denied Murphy’s initial appeal, ruling the evidence presented was sufficient to support the convictions.