has been set free. Almost.
On Wednesday, 3rd District Judge Pat Brian released Bernt Murphy from the Utah State Hospital, where Murphy has been held for 32 years, but ordered him to continue residence at the Opportunity House, a halfway house adjacent to the hospital in Provo."This court and community wish you well in this new-found freedom," Brian told Murphy. "We have every (reason) to expect you will succeed."
Murphy was sent to the hospital in 1957 after being found not guilty by reason of insanity in the rape of a 5-year-old girl. The Utah Supreme Court last June ruled that Murphy is mentally retarded, not insane, and, therefore, has been housed illegally and must be released from the state hospital.
Murphy wept Wednesday at the judge's decision, but they were not necessarily happy tears. Janina Chilton, state hospital spokeswoman, said after the hearing she believes Murphy cried because he thought he was going to be given more freedom than he received.
She said she believes he also cried because of the judge's order to have electronic surveillance equipment placed around Murphy's wrists.
But Rob Denton, one of Murphy's attorneys, said Murphy is looking forward to proving himself. "He understands the order gives him a chance to demonstrate he can succeed out there. That's what he's wanted for a long time."
Chilton said Murphy has been residing at the Opportunity House for several months but now will be under the jurisdiction of the 3rd District Court rather than the state hospital.
In his order, Brian said Murphy must complete a vocational program "consistent with his interests and abilities" and attempt to secure gainful employment, paying back part of the costs of his care. He must also continue social, mental and psychological counseling.
Murphy must be monitored electronically 24 hours a day. Chilton said this is the first time an Opportunity House resident will be monitored electronically.
She said residents of that facility are free to come and go and are not "locked down" at night.
Hearings to report Murphy's progress will be held before Brian every four months beginning June 20. The judge warned Murphy that he has to follow the rules of the facility and the laws of the land. "Even a child knows the difference between right and wrong," Brian said.
Bud Ellett, chief of the Salt Lake County attorney's office justice division, told Brian he is concerned about the cost of the surveillance. Ellett told reporters after the hearing that the surveillance equipment alone could cost about $15,000.
Brian said the case is "one of the most complex legal, social problems that this court or any other court will be asked to resolve" and that he based his order on several factors.
Though 51, Murphy has the mentality of an 8-year-old and has been institutionalized for 42 years, Brian said. "He was committed to the American Fork Training School at the tender age of 9."
The judge noted that Murphy had an extensive juvenile criminal record, has no immediate or extended family, suffers numerous medical problems, can be violent and aggressive, and has no means, community ties or vocational skills.
The judge said Murphy's needs had to be balanced against society's need to be protected.
Murphy once confessed to murdering a 23-year-old mentally retarded woman in 1955 but was found incompetent to stand trial and later retracted his confession, saying he admitted to the murder to get attention.