Franklin County prosecutors have until April 24 to file final briefs in opposition to an appeal to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court filed by a New Sharon woman convicted of contempt of court for possessing farm animals in spite of a lifetime ban as the result of animal abuse convictions in 2005 and 2010.
Carol Murphy, 72, of Lane Road, New Sharon, received the 364-day jail sentence in early December in Franklin County Superior Court from Justice William Stokes, who agreed to a stay of execution that would postpone her jail time until her appeal is heard by the state law court.
Murphy is free for now, pending a hearing for a written decision by the justices, Assistant District Attorney Joshua Robbins said.
“There’s an appeal that she has made and I am in the process of responding to that,” Robbins said. “I have a deadline coming in a couple of weeks.”
He said law court justices will let them know if they are to argue the case in front of them, or if they will decide the case based on the briefs that both sides will be submitting in writing. The new scheduling order will be released sometime in May, Robbins said.
“At this point, I think they are going to hear the case,” he said.
Declaring herself to be a “sovereign citizen” — meaning she does not recognize the authority of the states to enforce laws — Murphy has been representing herself in years of court proceedings, assisted at times by Wilton attorney Margot Joly, who was assigned by the court as a “standby” for Murphy.
A woman answering the phone at Joly’s office said the attorney is not representing Murphy and that she had no comment on the status of the appeal.
Murphy’s contempt conviction occurred Nov. 16. The conviction and sentence by Stokes stemmed from incidents that happened from January to September 2014, in which witnesses said she was seen with animals even though she was subject to a 2010 ban.
On Oct. 1, 2014, during a search carried out by police, Murphy was found in possession of four dogs, a cat, a pot-bellied pig, chinchillas and a rabbit. Murphy was summoned for contempt of court and her trial was scheduled for June 2015. Authorities said it took two years to get the case to court because Murphy failed to appear in court on two occasions during that period and spent more than four months in jail for a traffic violation.
Robbins said he opposes her appeal and hopes the law court will agree with him. He said he does not yet have the “specific issues” contained in the appeal. If Murphy is successful in her appeal, she “gets out of the 364 day sentence,” Robbins said. If she is not and the law court upholds the conviction, she will have to serve the time in jail.
Murphy already has spent time in prison for a number of animal-related offenses over the last decade, along with a felony conviction for assault on a state trooper with a stun gun in 2009 when he tried to arrest her on a warrant for unpaid fines.
In 2005, Murphy was convicted on one count of animal cruelty and four counts of possession without a permit after officials seized dozens of pets from her home. She was sentenced to 24 hours in jail, ordered to pay restitution and forbidden to own animals. The animals were being abused and were living in unhealthy and inhumane conditions where the air quality was poor and reeked of ammonia, according to court documents. Few animals had water or food in their cages, and a pig’s cage was so small the pig could not turn around, prosecutors said.
In 2010 Murphy was convicted again of animal cruelty after law enforcement officers had found more than 40 emaciated pets at her home and a ban was imposed again.
Robbins said he has to file his court briefs by April 24 and Murphy has 14 days from that date to file her reply. The case will be in consideration by the court beginning May 8.
In December, Stokes said the conditions at Murphy’s property were “shameful, horrid, disgusting and despicable” and sentenced her to the maximum penalty allowed. Stokes said he had read all the transcripts from Murphy’s previous court appearances and told Murphy that he did not see her as a victim of judicial and law enforcement misconduct, as the woman claimed, but rather saw her as “obstinate,” “truculent” and “contemptuous” of the judicial system. Stokes said she had insulted everyone who sought to bring her to justice, calling them crooks in a kangaroo court and accusing them of violating the very laws they sought to enforce.
Under conditions of her release, Murphy is subject to random searches for possession of animals. Franklin County Sheriff Scott Nichols said in an email Friday that he has been told that Murphy is in Texas and has not been at her residence during most of the winter.
Doug Harlow — 612-2367