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Cortez Murphy

Other Burglary Exonerations
On June 14, 2012, the homes of 30-year-old Lyndsi Constant and 35-year-old Ashley Benton were burglarized in Decatur, Illinois. Among the items taken in the two burglaries were a digital camera, an Xbox video game console, video games, and controllers.

Decatur police later learned that 26-year-old Cortez Murphy had visited the Pawn King store in Decatur on two separate occasions. He pawned the Xbox for $90 and the digital camera for $35.

Police questioned Murphy, who said he bought the items from someone “on the street.” He denied committing the burglaries.

In August 2012, the Macon County District Attorney’s Office filed two burglary charges against Murphy alleging that he broke into the two homes and stole the items. The prosecution subsequently filed two additional charges alleging that when he pawned the items, he was committing a burglary.

Murphy went to trial in Macon County Circuit Court in January 2013. The prosecution dismissed the two charges that he broke into the homes, and went forward on the charges relating to the pawnshop transactions.

Phil Worthy, the general manager of Pawn King, testified that on June 16, 2012, Murphy pawned the camera for $35 and left the store. Murphy returned 40 minutes later and pawned the Xbox, controllers, and two games for $90.

Decatur police detective Troy Kretsinger testified that while investigating the residential burglaries, he learned that Murphy had pawned two of the items that were missing. Kretsinger said that Murphy admitted he pawned the items, but denied he got them by burglarizing homes. Kretsinger said Murphy said he bought the items “on the street.”

The detective said that Murphy never admitted the items were stolen, but did concede that it was “reasonable for him to know or at least strongly suspect the property he was purchasing was stolen.”

The prosecution argued that by pawning the items, Murphy had obtained control over stolen property and therefore satisfied the legal requirement of the crime of burglary that a defendant “obtains…unauthorized control of the property of the owner” with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of the property.

The jury convicted Murphy of both charges and he was sentenced to six years in prison.

In March 2015, the Illinois Appellate Court reversed the convictions and ordered the charges dismissed. The court held that the permanent deprivation of the property occurred “prior to defendant’s entry into Pawn King and incontrovertibly not inside or upon entry into the pawnshop. Accordingly, defendant did not enter Pawn King with the intent to commit…a theft, as required under the burglary statute. In short, the pawnshop was not burglarized.”

The prosecution did not seek to appeal the decision further and the charges were dismissed. On May 20, 2015, Murphy was released from prison.

On December 2, 2015, Murphy was granted a certificate of innocence. The Illinois Court of Claims subsequently awarded him $13,500 in compensation.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 10/16/2017
Most Serious Crime:Burglary/Unlawful Entry
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2012
Sentence:6 years
Age at the date of reported crime:26
Contributing Factors:
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No