Brothers’ Death Sentences Upheld

Brothers Roger and Robert Murray must face execution in Arizona for the 1991 double murder of the owners of the store and restaurant in rural Grasshopper Junction outside Kingman, a federal appeals court held Monday.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a variety of claims in separate appeals by the brothers, including rejection of Roger’s claim that the trial should have been moved due to media coverage of the “sensational, small-town murder.”  In addition, the court rejected the claim that the brothers’ should have been tried separately.

The court also rejected the brothers’ claims that the prosecutor did show race-neutral reasons for dismissal of two Hispanic potential jurors and that brothers dysfunctional and abusive childhoods should have been a factor to mitigate against execution.

Roger also argued that he was denied due process based on his lawyer’s belated request for access to the sanitized crime scene and jurors should have been given instructions about voluntary intoxication and second degree murder.

The same three-judge panel reviewed each separate appeal and rejected the claims of each brother.  In Roger’s case, Judge Johnnie Rawlinson wrote the opinion.  In Robert’s case, Judge Jay Bybee wrote the decision.  Judge Sandra Ikuta joined in both.

In May 1991, a customer stopped at the Grasshopper Junction restaurant run by Dean Morrison and Jacqueline Appelhans.  He saw money lying on the ground outside, the restaurant door open and the cash register askew.

The customer, LaVern Raduenz, walked to Morrison’s house next door and discovered the couple’s bodies, lying face down in the livingroom in bathrobes.  Morrison had been shot in the head by a shotgun and a .38 caliber pistol.  Appelhans had been shot twice in the back of the neck with a .22 caliber and .38 caliber weapons, according to the court.

Police declared robbery was the likely motive, though Morrison’s wallet contained $800 in his pants pocket and $172 was found on a desk chair, the court states.

A police officer later saw the Murray’s driving a car with Alabama license plates and determined the car and the Murray’s were wanted in Alabama for assault and robbery.

He attempted to stop the pair but they fled in what became a high-speed chase through a roadblock until they crashed into a ravine.

Officers found weapons and live shells in the car, including a twelve-gauge shotgun and a checkered couch cushion matching the couch in the Morrison’s house containing $1,400 in rolled coins and $3,300 in cash, according to the court.

Human blood and tissue were found on the brothers’ clothing.

Robert Murray wrote a book called “Life on Death Row,” in which he denied committing the murders.

The two opinions uphold denial of habeas corpus relief sought by the brothers.

Cases: Roger Murray v. Schriro, No. 08-99013

Robert Murray v. Schriro, No. 08-99008



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