Alicia Murphy out of jail for now

Alicia Murphy is out of jail. The 34-year-old walked out the door Wednesday after a judge sentenced her to time-served for two bail violations. Those were the only charges she was facing - for now.

Alicia Murphy is out of jail.

The 34-year-old walked out the door Wednesday after a judge sentenced her to time-served for two bail violations.

Those were the only charges she was facing – for now.

Murphy was convicted in 2009 of second-degree murder of Evangeline Billy. She appealed that conviction and, earlier this year, a new trial was ordered.

Last month a Yukon Supreme Court justice ordered the Crown pay for Murphy’s chosen lawyer for that new trial.

That hasn’t happened yet. Prosecutors are appealing the order.

That put Murphy in an unusual position when she sat in front of judge Michael Cozens in territorial court this week.

She’s not technically facing a murder charge right now. The supreme court ordered the charge be stayed until plans were made for her new lawyer to be paid for.

Murphy was only facing charges of breaching her bail conditions in September. She pleaded guilty to two counts – sneaking out of the house and drinking.

It was an odd sentencing hearing.

In most cases, when a person is sentenced for violating bail, that sentence comes combined with other charges.

The lawyers on both sides of the Murphy case struggled to give the judge examples of cases that dealt with breaches specifically.

Prosecutor David McWhinnie argued that three to six months in jail for each of the two breaches would be appropriate, served one after the other.

Murder charges are serious, he said, and it’s important that there be a serious penalty to maintain the public’s confidence in the bail system.

“The crux of the Crown submission is that a breach of a condition of release on a charge as serious as murder should attract a sanction more significant than a breach of a condition of release on a less serious charge,” Cozens wrote in his decision.

On the other side was Murphy’s defence lawyer, Jennie Cunningham. She argued that a 30-day sentence for each offence, served concurrently, was more appropriate, and relatively standard in the territory.

Her client is innocent until proven guilty, she said, and so the fact that there’s a murder change involved shouldn’t be a factor, she said.

“Counsel notes that Ms. Murphy was incarcerated from 2008 until her release in July, 2014. Until the date of the breaches, Ms. Murphy had been diligent in following her release conditions. She had just started working at Challenge. Her release conditions had already been relaxed due to her positive performance and there was discussion regarding easing them even more,” Cozens wrote.

In the end the judge landed closer to the defence’s side. He sentenced Murphy to 30 days for each of the charges but ordered that they be served consecutively.

Murphy had already been in custody for 74 days.

Cozens said he wasn’t persuaded that Murphy should receive a sentence outside of the normal range for an offender being sentenced for the first time for breaching court-ordered conditions.

“I find that it would be contrary to the fundamental purposes, objectives and principles of sentencing to do so,” he said.

“Ms. Murphy is entitled to the benefit of the presumption of innocence.”

No date has been set yet for when the Court of Appeal might hear the Crown’s case.

In an email yesterday, McWhinnie said his office is not involved when it comes to making financial arrangements related to court orders. He said the office intends “to both pursue the appeal (as expeditiously as is possible) and continue with the prosecution when and as we are able.”

Contact Ashley Joannou at

ashleyj@yukon-news.com

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