- The Washington Times - Friday, October 13, 2000

An Alexandria, Va., judge may appoint a third lawyer to represent the man charged with killing 8-year-old Kevin Shifflett, after the man accused his court-appointed lawyers of being "racist" and "not qualified" to handle his case.

At a brief hearing yesterday in Alexandria Circuit Court, Judge Alfred D. Swersky assured Gregory Devon Murphy that lawyers Joseph Bowman and Jonathan Shapiro are not racist, but agreed to consider another lawyer for his defense team by next week.

"I'm satisfied that these attorneys are more than qualified to represent your case and that there's not one racist bone in their bodies," Judge Swersky told Murphy, who sat surrounded by three deputy sheriffs.

Murphy, who is black, told the judge he wanted him to appoint a white female attorney and a black female attorney from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

"I feel that Mr. Bowman and Mr. Shapiro are racist towards me and I'm not satisfied with their representation," Murphy told the judge as he read from a piece of paper. "This is a racist situation. I want them off my case before they damage anything and frame me."

Murphy also told Judge Swersky he wanted "an expert" who was "100 percent experienced" in defending his case and who would not "frame" him.

"I want to get paperwork to get rid of these attorneys," Murphy argued with the judge, pointing to Mr. Bowman and Mr. Shapiro, who stood beside him.

Mr. Shapiro and Mr. Bowman, who are both white, said they met with Murphy over the weekend prior to their official appointment.

"We are both willing to represent Mr. Murphy, but he has expressed some dissatisfaction," Mr. Shapiro told Judge Swersky.

Yesterday's hearing was to set a trial date for Murphy, who was indicted by a grand jury last week on a capital-murder charge in the April 19 slaying, but because of Murphy's request, no date was set, and another hearing was scheduled for next week.

In addition to the murder charge, Murphy was charged with two counts of malicious wounding in the stabbing of Christine DeCourt and an assault on Kevin's great-grandmother Thelma Taylor, both of whom tried to stop the attack.

Each of those counts carries a maximum of 20 years in prison.

Also during yesterday's hearing, Murphy pointed out to the judge that he was the one who had sent him to prison before. In 1994, Judge Swersky sentenced Murphy to five years and nine months in prison for a 1993 attack on a stranger at an Alexandria Exxon gas station. In that case, Murphy was convicted of attacking Leonard Riddle with a ball-peen hammer.

"You put me away for five years," Murphy told the judge.

After Judge Swersky set another hearing for next week, Murphy called the judge a "racist [expletive]" and shouted other obscenities at him before he was led away in handcuffs from the courtroom.

Kevin's parents, Tami and Arthur Shifflett, attended yesterday's hearing but did not talk to reporters afterward. Outside the courtroom, Mr. Bowman and Mr. Shapiro declined to comment on the case. "It's too early to talk about it," Mr. Bowman said.

Both lawyers said they were appointed as Murphy's counsel Oct. 5 and each had met separately with Murphy last Saturday and Sunday.

Mr. Bowman also is representing Murphy on a parole-violation charge, which was filed against him in Alexandria June 25 after Murphy did not tell his parole officer of his April 17 arrest in Fairfax County and for missing an appointment with his parole officer.

Murphy has not filed any papers requesting Mr. Bowman be replaced in that case.

Murphy was released from state prison on mandatory parole April 7 after serving more than six years for the 1993 attack. Ten days later, on April 17, Murphy was arrested at the Homewood Suites hotel in Baileys Crossroads after firefighters were called and found his room burning. He was released on bond on cocaine and misdemeanor charges later that day.

Two days later, on April 19, Kevin was slashed and stabbed to death while playing with other children on the front lawn of his great-grandparents' house in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria.

At the time of the killing, Murphy lived on Hickory Street, about five blocks from the scene of the crime.

Sources have been quoted as saying that prior to Kevin's death, Murphy had left a note in another hotel room that mentioned, in misspelled English, killing white children. Kevin was white.

Prosecutors have refused to discuss a motive for the crime, but there has been some evidence that race was a factor. A federal grand jury had been convened to examine if the crime violated civil rights law, and Murphy launched into a racially tinged tirade against a judge in Fairfax County last month in an unrelated case.

He is scheduled to appear in court on a drug charge there Tuesday.

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