On Thursday afternoon a Richmond County Superior Court jury convicted Murphy, 22, of murder in Brown’s death. He will spend the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole.
What Murphy did was “a callous and cowardly act”, Assistant District Attorney Hank Syms said in asking for the maximum penalty for Brown’s murder.
Murphy had previously been convicted of misdemeanor vehicle homicide. While Syms said he is sure Murphy had no intent to kill Daniel Cohen, 30, in a March 28, 2010, crash, if anyone should have been more careful it was Murphy, the prosecutor said.
In the early morning hours of Sept. 15, 2011, after getting into a fight at what was then known as Club 5150 on Deans Bridge Road, and getting kicked out of the club, Murphy indiscriminately fired multiple gunshots into a crowd of people leaving the club.
Brown, who witnesses described as a solid citizen and loving person, had made a rare trip out to a nightclub that night for a birthday celebration for one of her best friends. Her last act may have saved that friend’s life.
“Ashley pulled me down,” Chauntel Smally told the jury this week about how her friend saved her when the shooting started.
When initially questioned by Richmond County Sheriff’s investigators, Murphy said he heard gunfire that night as he and his friend Robert Wright were driving away from the club. Wright, 27, told the same story.
But after two witnesses identified Murphy as the shooter, Murphy and Wright changed their stories, the prosecutor argued. The new story was that Murphy was with another friend who fired at the club. Murphy said he didn’t know what was going to happen until the friend fired through the window of the rear passenger-side seat, behind Murphy. Wright testified that he didn’t leave with Murphy that night, but later saw the other friend picking shell casings out of his vehicle.
Two other young men who gathered after the shooting with Murphy and Wright and the man Murphy identified as the shooter testified this week. Both testified they saw that man with 9 mm bullet casings that night.
That no 9 mm shell casings were found at the crime scene supports the defense, attorney Rick Goolsby argued to the jury in his closing statement. If Murphy had fired with his arm outside the passenger seat window as one witness described, why weren’t there any shell casings found, he asked. It does, however, fit Murphy’s statement that his friend fired the shots from inside the car.
Syms attacked the defense’s position in his closing statement, saying Murphy got a couple of buddies to implicate the other man.
Wright will be tried at a later date. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges -- murder, aggravated assault, criminal damage to property and a weapon violation.