Frank W. Murphy, who has admitted killing four Buffalo residents, including his estranged girlfriend and half brother, today was allowed to withdraw his guilty pleas and seek separate trials in each case.
State Supreme Court Justice Penny M. Wolfgang allowed Murphy, 42, to withdraw his Sept. 17 guilty pleas in the May 2001 shootings.
Deputy District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III told the judge that prosecutors will vigorously oppose any attempt to grant Murphy separate trials, contending Wolfgang correctly barred them before Murphy's unexpected plea.
Wolfgang appointed veteran defense attorney Robert N. Convissar to represent Murphy solely for a hearing on his contention that even after he pleaded guilty to five counts of murder he still could appeal Wolfgang's rulings that preceded the guilty plea. Wolfgang scheduled a Dec. 18 hearing on arguments on that issue.
During the brief court session, John R. Nuchereno and Joseph Terranova, Murphy's court-assigned trial attorneys, made it clear they would represent him in any further murder trials in the case.
Sedita told the judge that the Erie County district attorney's office is not opposed to having the judge name an independent counsel, as favored by Nuchereno and Terranova, to handle the issue of separate trials, since both defense attorneys have to testify on that matter.
Afterward, Murphy's lawyers confirmed that he is seeking to wed a Buffalo woman before his criminal cases are resolved.
They said that they obtained a marriage license on Murphy's behalf from the Buffalo city clerk's office.
Nuchereno said Erie County Holding Center officials currently are checking procedural issues on the marriage arrangements, but he declined to comment further.
The attorneys would not identify the woman Murphy wants to wed.
Murphy has been jailed since he was captured following a massive, citywide manhunt last year.
Murphy admitted in September that, during his search for money to finance his drug habit, he killed his estranged girlfriend, Gail L. McFarland, 43, of Leroy Avenue; his half brother, Michael Eaton, 31, of Elmwood Avenue; his sister's ex-boyfriend, Occie Redden, 46, of Grey Street; and a longtime family friend, William A. Ransom, 36, of Northampton Street. The slayings occurred May 1 and May 3, 2001.