Woman's Conviction Vacated After She Spends More Than Half Her Life in Prison

A woman sentenced at the age of 17 to life in prison without parole was released last week after 20 years. Michelle Murphy, now 37, was convicted of first degree murder in 1995 for the brutal slaying of her 15-week-old son. Now, an Oklahoma judge has vacated her conviction and sentence, finding that new material evidence discovered through DNA testing is contradictory to prosecutors' evidence presented in her trial. Murphy's infant son was discovered lying in a pool of blood on the kitchen floor with his throat slashed so severely he was nearly decapitated. After questioning, the teen mother told police that she accidentally knifed the baby during an argument with a neighbor. She was arrested and charged with first degree murder. However, at trial, the young woman's story changed. She said that she did not kill her son and that she only admitted to an accidental stabbing after relentless interviewing. She said she just wanted the questioning to stop. Her defense team indicated that a 15-year-old neighbor could be to blame. The neighbor, William Lee, told police that he saw Murphy carry the baby into the kitchen before he looked into the kitchen window, where he saw the baby surrounded by blood. Lee died in an accidental asphyxiation before Murphy's case went to trial. Jurors heard his recorded testimony, but defense attorneys did not have the opportunity to cross-examine him. Now, new evidence obtained through DNA testing unavailable at the time of Murphy's trial contradicts prosecution evidence presented at trial. Through an investigation by the Innocence Project, post-conviction DNA testing indicated that blood found at the scene belonged to the infant, Travis Wood. The prosecution had claimed, based on faulty DNA evidence available at the time, that it did not belong to the victim. Based upon the new evidence, U.S. District Judge William Kellough vacated the conviction and sentence and set Murphy's bond in the amount of $10,000. Murphy has not been exonerated by the evidence, however, and she may face a new trial. She is currently ordered to live in the home of a specific resident of Broken Arrow, and she must wear a GPS ankle monitor. She is not allowed to associate with known felons, nor is she allowed contact with any children other than those in her immediate family pending the outcome of her case. The Innocence Project describes itself as "a national litigation and public policy organization dedicated to exonerating wrongfully convicted individuals through DNA testing and reforming the criminal justice system to prevent future injustice." Learn more here.