Dominic Murphy, seated next to his attorney Abigail Aragon, reacts to the reading of his guilty verdict on two counts of first-degree murder and one count of tampering with evidence in the murder trial. (CNJ staff photo: Eric Kluth)
By David Irvin: CNJ staff writer
A Clovis man found guilty of first-degree murder Saturday exited the courtroom in a profanity-laced tirade, maintaining his innocence and blaming law enforcement officials for the verdict.
After 12 hours of deliberation, jurors found 26-year-old Dominic Murphy guilty of two counts of first-degree murder and one count of tampering with evidence in the February 2003 shooting deaths of Alex Rodriguez, 29, and Wesley Griest, 39.
“You just had to pin it on somebody. Cops, you know I didn’t do anything,” Murphy yelled while being restrained by police.
After the verdict was read, family members of the victims let out a restrained applause and Murphy hung his head.
Following the decision, defense attorney Abigail Aragon asked for the jury to be polled. All eyes focused on the men and women selected to hear the case, as one after another said they voted guilty on all three counts.
Some family members of Alex Rodriguez cried and others cheered when the judge finally excused everyone from the courtroom.
Most were exhausted when the jury finally came in with the verdicts after 12 hours of deliberation.
“It will help somewhat, but it won’t help fully,” said Marcos Rodriguez, the younger brother of the victim. “(Murphy) got what he deserved.”
For the two mothers of Rodriguez’ children, the verdict was bittersweet.
“I was glad but then I had to keep telling myself that Alex isn’t going to walk through that door,” said Tammy Naslund, Rodriguez’s ex-wife and the mother of his 3-year-old daughter.
Naslund, who praised the efforts of investigators and state prosecutors, said comforting her daughter has been the most difficult.
“Her first sentence was ‘where’s my dad?’ She’s only 3 and instead of learning her ABCs and numbers she’s having to learn about death and murder and the ugly things in the world,” Naslund said.
Rodriguez and Griest were found shot dead on a country road west of Clovis. Prosecutors said the slayings involved a drug debt.
The mother of Rodriguez’s 8-year-old child, Suzanne Shafer left the courthouse in tears, thankful for the jury’s verdict but tormented by the week-long trial.
“I hope he gets life, being that we don’t have the death penalty,” she said.
On the other side of the aisle, disbelief took hold.
“I’m shocked,” Aragon said on her way out. “We anticipated a full acquittal based on the evidence presented.”
She said defense attorneys will appeal the verdict. Murphy will go to the department of corrections for a 60-day evaluation before sentencing.
Murphy faces a maximum of two life sentences for the murder charges, a guaranteed 60 years before parole, and 18 months for the tampering with evidence charge.
Family members of Murphy declined to comment at any point during the trial. Visibly shaken from the trial, jurors also declined comment as they exited the courthouse.
Just 90 minutes before the verdict, the jury entered the courtroom and told the judge they were at an impasse on two of the counts and could perhaps come to consensus on the other count.
District Judge Joe Parker asked them to take more time in deliberations.
District Attorney Matthew Chandler said the state presented 96 pieces of evidence altogether. He said that may have contributed to the long jury deliberations.
“Sometimes the most difficult part of the trial is the sitting and waiting for the jury to come back,” he said. “It was evident that they took the time to look at everything.”
Joey Martinez, 29, who testified for the prosecution, pleaded guilty to accessory to second-degree murder in December of 2003 in connection with the incident. He’s serving a 29 1/2-year sentence.