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Same Story: Not Competent

Gregory Murphy Makes Another Court Appearance

Gregory Murphy remains not competent to stand trial for the murder of eight-year-old Kevin Shifflett.

Murphy appeared before Alexandria Circuit Court Judge Alfred Swersky on Dec. 3, for a regular status hearing. He sat quietly in his chair and read a brief statement when he was given permission to speak.

“I am competent to stand trial,” Murphy said. He further stated that his doctor was saying that he was not competent just to help him.

Dr. Lilian Tidler, who has been treating Murphy since he was remanded to the custody of Central State Hospital a year and a half ago, said, “It is my opinion, to a degree of medical certainty, that Mr. Murphy’s mental illness continues to impair his rational understanding of the charges against him and of the evidence against him and continues to impair his ability to assist his attorneys with his defense in a meaningful manner."

She recommended that he remain hospitalized and continue receiving the treatment that might restore him to competency so that he can eventually stand trial.

Kevin Shifflett was killed while playing in his great grandparents’ front yard in the Del Ray area of the city on April 19, 2000. Murphy was indicted on a capital murder charge in October, 2000, and found not competent to stand trial in June 2001. Since that time, he has been held at Central State Hospital where he is being forcibly medicated with antipsychotic drugs. He has been diagnosed with schizophrenia paranoid type.

UNTIL HE IS FOUND competent to stand trial, he will appear before Swersky every six months for status reviews. That is, at least, for five years. That is the current cap on treatment to restore defendants to competency to stand trial.

“After that, he would be civilly committed until a doctor is willing to say that he is not a danger to himself or others and that he can care for himself,” said Commonwealth Attorney S. Randolph Sengel. “The two standards are quite different. He could remain not competent to stand trial but a doctor could find that he is no longer a threat to himself or to others and that he can care for himself.”

For that reason, Sengel drafted legislation that has been endorsed by the Commonwealth Attorneys’ Association and is being patroned by Delegate Brian Moran (D-46) and State Senator Patricia S. “Patsy” Ticer (D-30). “The legislation would make the time for attempting to restore defendants in capital murder cases open ended,” Sengel said. “That would keep us from ending up in that kind of a conundrum.”

Murphy will appear in court in Alexandria again in June.