DECATUR – Nearly eight years after 61-year-old Jerry Newingham lost his life to a random attack by a mob of teens as he rode his bicycle home from work on a gorgeous late summer day, the young man considered the group's leader listened to witnesses who clearly remembered details of the incident and those who said they forgot everything about the case.
Elliott T. Murphy, 23, was previously sentenced to 80 years in prison for stomping Newingham to death on the 500 block of West Sawyer Street, and stomping 46-year-old Kevin S. Wilson nearly to death in Garfield Park, on Aug. 24, 2009, after he was convicted by a jury in 2011.
On the second day of his retrial Tuesday, some of the same witnesses testified for the state, but some needed assistance to recall the details they more easily remembered five-and-a-half years ago.
The state brought details of the original testimony to light by reading transcripts from former trial testimony to witnesses as they appeared on the stand.
Murphy was convicted of first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder, but those convictions were overturned by appellate court judges on the grounds that his trial attorney had a conflict of interest.
The state presented witnesses who treated the victims, witnessed one of the attacks, saw the teens running from the scene of the other one and participated in both attacks.
A surgeon testified as to the seriousness of the injuries to Wilson, who was knocked unconscious, suffered multiple facial fractures to his eye sockets, cheekbones and sinus walls, and was hospitalized for 25 days,.
Wilson, who was disabled by the stomping attack by about eight teens, was scheduled to testify Tuesday afternoon. Prosecutors informed Associate Judge Jeffrey Geisler that Wilson was hospitalized for a medical emergency and would not be available.
In her opening statement, First Assistant State's Attorney Nichole Kroncke said that the evidence in the trial will show that not only was Murphy the leader of the mob that killed Jerry Newingham, but “he was the most violent participant.”
She said the attack on Newingham, which was perpetrated by nine boys, took place just after school let out and after a fight took place between Murphy's group and another teen.
“As they were walking around, they see Jerry Newingham and he was riding his bicycle,” Kroncke told the jurors. “He had a backpack on his back and looking down he does not even see what is coming next. You will learn that this defendant's younger brother runs across the street and hits Mr. Newingham in the face as hard as he can, knocking him out.”
Then Murphy and at least two other teens ran across the street and stomped on Newingham's head, Kroncke said. Murphy then stomped on the victim's head while he lay unconscious on the ground “a minimum of 10 times and a maximum of 40 times.”
In his opening statement, Assistant Public Defender Bruce Berry said the two horrific incidents occurred, but “no physical evidence was ever found linking Elliott Murphy to this.”
Berry told the jurors that there were “a whole bunch of kids who were scared,” so when they were questioned by the police their stories “were back and forth” as they tried to protect themselves and others.
He said there are people walking the streets today who had blood evidence against them.
“We have a huge mess here,” Berry said.
A 24-year-old man testified that he was originally charged with first-degree murder in the case, but later pleaded guilty to a lesser charge. He said he agreed to testify against Murphy, because people lied about his role and he wanted to set the record straight as to what he witnessed.
As Kroncke screened photographs of Murphy and four of his co-defendants, who received prison sentences ranging from 15 to 65 years for their roles, the witness identified each one of the images, all taken shortly after the incidents occurred.
That witness said he was at the Garfield Park pavilion the afternoon of Aug. 24, when Murphy, his brother, and about six other teens arrived.
He testified that he was two or three feet away from Wilson, as Murphy stomped on his head and others stomped on his body. Wilson had been standing up unsteadily, apparently drunk, and had tried to get away when the mob arrived on the scene.
“Did you see the defendant stomping on him?” asked Assistant State's Attorney Kate Kurtz, the second prosecutor in this trial.
“Yes,” the witness said. “The man was unconscious. He looked like he was beaten to death.”
He said that Murphy stomped on the man's head more than five times, and “most likely” more than 10 times.
The witness testified that two days later, when they were both at MacArthur High School, Murphy told him that before he and the other teens came to Garfield Park “they jumped on somebody” on Sawyer Street.
Murphy told him that he “told his brother to punch” the man on Sawyer, and “he did go over and punch him.” Murphy told him that he then “stomped on his head,” the witness testified.
The trial resumes at 9:30 today in Macon County Circuit Court.