Wednesday, April 16, 2003

How many contempts in profanity-laced outburst in courtroom

From this opinion released today by the 4th Circuit today: --

"At Murphy’s sentencing hearing, the district court sentenced him to 130 months imprisonment—seven months less than the guidelines maximum—on Count Nine and a consecutive term of 60 months on Count Ten.

At the conclusion of the hearing, the following exchange occurred:

MURPHY: You should have just gave me the other damn seven—the other seven months is what you should have did, stinky mother fucker.

THE COURT: Mr. Benya—Mr. Murphy, you are summarily found in contempt of this court—

MURPHY: Just give me the other seven months.

THE COURT: You’re summarily found to be in contempt of this court. I sentence you to six months to be served consecutive to any other sentence imposed.

MURPHY: You should have just gave me the other seven months is what you should have done.

THE COURT: Mr. Murphy, I find you again in contempt of this court and you’re now summarily found in contempt for a second time and you’ll serve an additional six months consecutive to any sentence—

MURPHY: What about that? What about that? Serve that, mother fucker. . . .

THE COURT: Mr. Stone, just a minute. Mr. Murphy—


THE COURT: You just gave the finger to the court. That will be a third contempt of court and that’s six—

MURPHY: Add another one to it.

THE COURT: —six more months at the end of your sentence. Well, that’s a quick year and a half.

J.A. 57-58. In a written order, the district court noted that Murphy initiated the exchange, shouting in a loud and agitated voice even as marshals attempted to remove him from the courtroom. The court found that Murphy’s conduct constituted three separate instances of contempt, and sentenced him to three separate six-month terms to be served consecutively to the sentence he was already serving."

The Fourth Circuit held that Murphy could be punished only once, not three times.

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