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Berkeley Springs man gets new trial in traffic death

June 09, 2007

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - A Berkeley Springs man convicted in the death of a bicyclist he hit with his vehicle three years ago will get a new trial.

The West Virginia Supreme Court reversed the verdict against Brian Daniel Murray on Tuesday.

In their 3-2 opinion, the justices found that it was wrong for the prosecutor to comment during closing arguments on Murray's decision not to testify on his own behalf, which is a Fifth Amendment right.

The high court recognizes that attorneys must be given certain latitude in closing arguments, which in their intensity can produce intemperate language, the opinion states. "However, this can never justify disregard for constitutional and statutory guarantees either directly or by inference or innuendo."

Murray was found guilty in February 2005 of failing to render aid at an accident involving death, a felony, and failure to maintain control of his vehicle, a misdemeanor. He was sentenced to three years in prison.

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A car driven by Murray hit Justin McAnulty's bicycle on U.S. Route 522 near Berkeley Springs on the night of June 15, 2004. McAnulty, 18, was thrown into some weeds and died several hours later of his injuries.

Murray said he surveyed the area twice the night of the accident, once with his wife, but found nothing and assumed he'd hit a deer. The couple later called local police, who came to their home and took a report.

The next morning, after finding blood and shreds of clothing imbedded in his car's headlight, Murray returned to the scene and found McAnulty's body.

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