ONE MILLION DOLLAR Settlement in Matthew Murphy Police Tasing Case
by Naja and Arnaud Girard…….
Two years ago when we asked where Matthew Shaun Murphy was we were given records showing that Murphy was a criminal at large; his name on the FDLE “Wanted” list. When we asked to see FDLE’s investigative report we were told there wasn’t one.
But after spending a month verifying rumors of Murphy’s death at the hands of a KWPD officer, we found him… in Miami’s Jackson Memorial Hospital. He had been there for over 3 years, left in a vegetative state after being tased on Duval Street by Key West police officer Mark Siracuse.
This week, the City Commission authorized a one million dollar settlement with Matthew Murphy’s family.
Matthew’s story is heart-wrenching. He was 27-years old at the time. Today he is stuck in a hospital bed, unable to move, speak, or eat on his own. Medical experts hired by Murphy’s attorney, Peter Williamson, established that Matthew is aware but trapped inside his body, unable to communicate with the outside world.
His case brought out many of Key West’s dirty little secrets; racial prejudice among them. Matthew is a White man, but he was engaged to Marie Annulysse, a young Black woman from Bahama Village. Their son Kaeden was just 6 months old. They were about to get married. At three o’clock in the morning on April 16, 2011 on Duval Street, they passed a local woman, Beverly Anderson. She screamed, “Nigger lover!!” A dispute ensued. On the 911 recording Anderson is heard spewing out a deluge of racial slurs. Police are dispatched to the scene.
Struck by 50,000 volts of electricity from Siracuse’s Taser, Matthew fell like a log, smashing his head on the sidewalk. When and how Officer Siracuse fired his Taser is not clear and was going to be the center of the controversy at trial. What is clear to these reporters is that, like in the in-custody death of Charles Eimers, the aftermath of the incident involved a lack of supervision over the collection of evidence and witness statements, false information in police reports, and possibly a deliberate cover-up.
RELATED: ALL COVERAGE ON CHARLES EIMERS DEATH-IN-CUSTODY
Just as Charles Eimers’ body was set to be cremated before a mandatory autopsy, Matthew Murphy was “disappeared” as a “criminal at large.”
As per a Memorandum of Understanding with KWPD, FLDE was supposed to investigate all “serious injuries” that occurred while a suspect was in KWPD custody.
After Eimers’ death, at a time when we knew nothing of Murphy’s case, we asked FDLE for copies of all of its investigative reports on death and serious injuries involving KWPD officers over the past ten years. The list we received showed no cases involving KWPD. Yet when we were able to request all FDLE records regarding Murphy, documents showed that FDLE agents had gone to see Murphy at the hospital in Miami just after portions of his skull had been removed to try to relieve the swelling of his brain. They made a note — Murphy was “listed in critical condition.” In lieu of an investigation they listed him as at large on their “Wanted” list.
That was around the time we discovered that FDLE’s lead Monroe County Special Agent was the ex-wife of a KWPD police Captain.
After we recorded several witness statements about the incident involving Murphy we sent a link to our articles to attorneys who specialize in Taser injury cases. The case caught the attention of Peter Williamson, a California attorney who had previously secured a $6.2 Million dollar verdict in a taser-related wrongful death case. Williamson filed a civil rights claim, on behalf of Matthew and his son, against the City and Officer Siracuse for excessive use of force resulting in serious injury.
The Plaintifffs’ case was made very difficult, however, by the fact that Officer Siracuse and at least one witness testified that Murphy had punched Anderson’s then boyfriend, Jason Moffett, and was getting ready to strike him again. Murphy was a head taller than Officer Siracuse who, believing he had only a split second to stop Murphy, deployed his Taser.
Taser International, the manufacturer of the weapon, warns officers that the Taser can cause serious injury or even death and Florida Statute 943.1717 Use of dart-firing stun guns requires that the Taser be deployed only after a suspect escalates their resistance to the officer from passive to active resistance. The City needed to show that a reasonable officer, under the circumstances, would have been compelled to fire without warning despite the prohibition found in the Florida Law.
On their side, Murphy’s family would have the burden of showing that the officer’s reaction was disproportionate and that the City of Key West either has a policy of shooting Tasers without warning or deliberately fails to supervise and train its officers as to the risks of using a Taser and the requirement to give the suspect an opportunity to stand down.
For the Plaintiffs, not settling now, meant risking having the case dismissed by the Court based on a pending Summary Judgment motion, which would mean walking away with nothing. For the City, the risk included a jury verdict finding the City liable for Matthew Murphy’s care. One expert indicated the costs of continued care and rehabilitation could reach $26 Million.
All parties agreed to settle the case for 1 Million, which is the City’s maximum insurance coverage. [$850,000 goes to Matthew’s care, and $150,000 to his son Kaeden who is now 4 years old.] The family didn’t hide their disappointment with the settlement, which to them seems inadequate compared to what Matthew and his loved ones have suffered over the past five years and will continue to suffer for the remainder of their lives.
“He is the first thing on my mind in the morning and the last thing I think about when I go to bed,” Matthew’s father, Marty Murphy, told us last April. Marty said he had planned to retire from his job in the coal mining industry but has been saving to try to move his son closer to home in West Virginia. Hopefully this settlement will help make that happen.
But Matthew’s fiancé Marie says she mostly just wanted the City to acknowledge some responsibility. “For three years they didn’t want to talk to us. They acted as though nothing had happened,” said Marie, “as though Matthew didn’t matter at all. We never even got an apology.” Marie, now a single mom struggling alone to make ends meet, hopes the Judge will allow her to receive a $200 a month stipend from the $150,000 settlement Kaeden will receive when he turns 18.
Matthew is still in the long-term care facility at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami.
Jason Moffet was rescued during a storm by the U.S. Coast Guard earlier this month after his dinghy broke down and gale force winds had carried him miles offshore.
14 thoughts on “ONE MILLION DOLLAR Settlement in Matthew Murphy Police Tasing Case”
It seems an officer can make all kinds of assumptions, violate any procedure or law, not give proper notification, etc. in KW and still have a job and go home.
So Murphy is in the hospital and part of the cover up is having him listed as wanted.
My recollection from older Matthew Murphy blue paper articles I read, and from attending Key West Citizen (Police) Review Board (CRB) meetings, Matthew’s head striking a concrete sidewalk after he was tasered and collapsed is what caused the brain injury and resulting paralysis.
Also, as I recall reading somewhere, Jason Moffet told Matthew his girlfriend was drunk and to let it go, move on, but Matthew did not let it go, and he went after Moffet who I recall said he was going to hit Murphy first, but he saw the cop coming up behind Murphy so he decided to take the punch. Matthew hit Moffet, and was about to hit him again, when he was tasered by Siracuse.
Also, Moffet himself later said Siracuse came up from behind Murphy and gave no warning of his presence and tasered Murhpy, while Siracuse claimed he was in front of Murphy, told Murphy to back off and Murphy did not back off and was about to hit Moffet again, so Siracuse tasered Murphy.
As I recall, Naja Girard much later looked up Siracuse’s use of his taser, and she learned, she told me, that he used it a lot more than Gary Lee Lovette, who had, apparently, led the charge to kill Charles Eimers, had ever used his taser.
During citizen comments at a CRB meeting, I said my concern was twofold:
First, did it go down as Moffet said it went down, or did it go down as Siracuse said it went down? Why would Moffet lie about how it went down? If Siracuse tasered Murphy from behind, without warning, I had a problem with that. However, I did not see anyway Siracuse could have anticipated the brain injury Murphy then suffered, and I was not against tasers, which were far kinder than being shot by a pistol.
Second, I said the CRB needed to find out if Siracuse was prone to use his taser more than other Key West police officers. CRB member Tom Milone, who was expressing the same concerns about Siracuse, said the hospital should be asked where the taser prongs were on Murhpy’s body. As I recall, the CRB was having, or later had, some difficulty getting that information from the hospital.
At this past Wednesday’ night’s city commission meeting, the Murphy settlement was on the consent agenda. Meaning, the mayor and commissioners were going to approve the settlement without discussion. I signed up to speak to that item, which caused it to be taken off the consent agenda and not sail quietly into the night.
I told the mayor and commissioners that this was a catastrophe, it was terrible, and I thought we all felt that way.The looks on the faces of the elected officials, and a few nods, agreed. I said did not see how Siracuse, or any police officer, could have anticipated the horrible injury Murphy received after he was tasered. Tasing is preferred to being shot with a Glock. However, the damages in the case are in the tens of millions, The man Murphy attacked said Siracuse tasered Murphy from behind, without warning. Why would the victim say that, if it were not true? That would be before the jury. There was evidence Siracuse used his taser a lot, and that would be before the jury. The best thing for the city was to approve the settlement, therefore.
As that time, based on what I’d read in the Key West Citizen, I thought the city’s settlement offer was for $850,000. That also was the number then mentioned by various of the seven elected officials, who spoke after I had spoken, who would not have said anything if I had not signed up to speak and taken the item off the consent agenda.
Commissioners Kaufman and Payne, who are lawyers, Payne was also a local judge, who retired before he ran for city commission,explained why the city should accept the settlement.
The risk of a huge jury verdict, although perhaps slim, was not worth the risk. The city’s insurance carrier and its defense counsel had made the settlement offer under the policy limits, $1,000,000. (Apparently, neither Kaufman nor Payne knew the settlement offer was for the policy limits.) So the city would not pay any of the settlement. But if the case went to trial, and the jury returned a large verdict above the policy limits, the insurance company would only pay $1,000,000 and the city would pay the rest.
The vote was 7-0 to accept the settlement.
One other unfortunate loose end.
After the Blue Paper broke the Murphy case, which, but for the Blue Paper, might have sailed quietly into the night, Naja Girard told me that Matthew Murphy had had a premonition that he would get into trouble if he went to Duval Street.
Am sure anytime a taser is used that the results will not be known. Point here is he gave no warning and that turns it into illegal use and now must face the charges.
Just maybe we better take tasers away from little boys that do not know the laws and how to use them. Can KW afford cops like this? Sooner or later someone will go after several million and not settle for the insurance money. Seems the insurance company did not see any chance to win. They still would only be out 1 mil so why give up. Take a guess at the cost to buy insurance next time. Will anyone even want KW ? Maybe KW better buy a better policy if they intend to keep thug cops.
So disgusted with how this human being was treated and is continuing to be treated as if he is lesser than…To pretend he was a fugitive to avoid facing up to this heinous injustice is indicative of a morally corrupt society. What have we become?
Please publish the police insurance policy premium for the two years before and after the Eimers death. I remember dismissive commentary about how that would cost the City nothing because it was insured. Then, let’s check again next year after the Murphy settlement.
HI, HERE’S MY PIECE FROM THE EIMER’S SETTLEMENT. THE SAME HOLDS TRUE HERE. I HAVE REQUESTED THE INSURERS AND COSTS TO UPDATE THIS—COMING SOON. MARTHA
When will all of this end ? A million dollar limit is a joke for such a case or a murder such as Eimers. Why are the lawyers settling for such low amounts and not going after the city for millions. Bigger question is when will KW have a respectable police department ?
At question is who will end up paying the medical bills. Will the family even get this $850 K or will the hospital take it.
You need a police chief with a set of balls that is not scared to fire officers like this.
Any idea what this makes KW look like to curious tourists ? Will they see the dangers and not visit KW ?
And 150 K will be worth what in 15 years ? Dam near nothing for a boy that must grow up without a father. KW should be ashamed.
THE BLUE PAPER EDITORS DO IT AGAIN. THANK YOU. GREAT TO HAVE GONE TO OUTSIDE LAWYERS AND MANY THANKS TO THE ATTY WHO GOT INVOLVED FROM AFAR. MARTHA
There might be a pretty obvious pattern common to the Murphy and Eimers cases in the obstruction of justice and not following mandated procedures. I would just like to point out one. Murphy was somehow “disappeared” into the hospital , ( made out as a fugitive ), and Eimers was within hours of being cremated without an investigation by the medical examiner. Apparently a lot more funny business, so well documented by theBluepaper.com , and it’s a shame no one has been held accountable really. The DOJ says no violation of civil rights , and that’s all they looked at – nothing about all the irregularities which are so obviously mendacious. So what’s next? Nothing? Shame!
KWPD are likely the teachers of all other Florida cities and county police on how to get away with anything. We seldom see any others as corrupt and no action taken. They are above the law and perjury and evidence tampering is normal every day action. They never do anything wrong. I compare chief Lee to Barny Fife.
sorry jiminkeywest… chief Lee is no barney fife. barney was a bumbler, but a good and decent man. this lee character is a sycophantic miscreant with sociopathic tendencies. the behavior of his department is beyond corrupt and brutal, and this spineless noodle of a man just goes along to get along, and doesn’t lose a second’s sleep over anything that his jackbooted thugs do. his behavior alone concerning his boyfriend troubles should have booted this clown out of office long ago. but then, with the backing of the equally corrupt city commissioners, city manager, and mayor, he knows he’s safe. at least that is until the KWPD starts costing the city money that they have to pay.
Your right ,I slammed Barney. Sorry Barney
I know of no other police chiefs anywhere that openly have gay drinking parties. I am sure some are but they keep it hid.
Always thought cops had a code of ethics they had to follow. Do hope Lee gets it in the end.
And just a matter of time before they screw something up that can’t be covered up and ends up in court costing tax payers millions
i sure hope you’re right. but make no mistake, Lee is doing exactly the job that the powers that be want him to do. the only way he goes down is if he starts costing them more than he makes them. i still can’t get over, after watching his depositions, what a semi-literate, obtuse, and utterly unimpressive “man” he is. he surely exemplifies the low IQ standards for police hiring these days. i guess that’s one way he leads by example…
Key West looks a lot like The Dukes of Hazzard . Just substitute Cates for Boss Hogg and the rest is about the same. Yes Lee is doing or should we say NOT DOING exactly what they tell him to do. He is the puppet that they want and need and as long as he plays the way they tell him he stays The video’s of him on Eimers case pretty much prove what he is. He will not fire anyone without Cates telling him to do it. He will sit and say as little as possable and defend any actions actions his officers do. Is too much danger to fire a cop that knows too much about the KWPD and could turn on them. This is corruption at its best. Eimers was about to be cremated by none other than Dean’s place. Yes one very big protective corrupt family. Thanks to this paper they are getting exsposed. The day will come when some victim will not let it go away for 1 million and yes then they will place all the blame on Lee and fire him. The tax payers will learn the hard way when they get the bill. I have the feeling that many of the new workers or poor people in KW are not voting. Can we even trust that department to count the votes ? Like I said this is corruption at its best.