Patrice Murphy went on trial again Tuesday on charges of drug possession stemming from a March 28, 1998 traffic stop.

During her first trial in August, 2000, Murphy was found guilty of possession of cocaine and sentenced to two life sentences. That verdict was later overturned by a court of appeals. Murphy then pleaded guilty to two charges of drug possession and Judge Jerry Woodlock sentenced Murphy to two consecutive 20-year sentences.

Murphy subsequently received a new trial.

Murphy and a companion, Tarita James, were traveling in a green Jeep Cherokee when a Cooke County deputy found over 400 pounds of cocaine and methamphetamine in the cargo area of the SUV during a traffic stop.

Murphy’s companion, Tarita James was also given two consecutive 20-year sentences for her role in the drug possession case.

According to a previous Register article on the Murphy case, former Cooke County deputy Bobby Faglie — now with the Watagua PD — testified in Murphy’s first trial that the incident began when he noticed a Jeep Cherokee leave the northbound rest area on Interstate 35 at about 1:30 a.m. the morning of March 23.

He said the driver did not signal a lane change and he stopped the car, suspecting a DWI.

The driver, Murphy, did not have a driver license and used a Cook County, Ill. citation to identify herself, Faglie testified.

Faglie questioned both women about why they were in the Gainesville area and apparently got two different stories.

Murphy told Faglie they were going to Dallas after visiting James’ aunt for two weeks. James, on the other hand, told Faglie the pair had only spent a few days in Dallas and had never found James’s aunt.

Over eight years later, Faglie again told the jury Tuesday about the early morning traffic stop that led to the drug bust.

Cooke County District Attorney Cindy Stormer indicated a collection of black suitcases in front of the bench and asked Faglie if he had ever seen them before.

Faglie testified they were suitcases which had contained drugs and that he found them in a cargo area of the Jeep Cherokee during the 1998 traffic stop.

Faglie agreed that he had when Stormer asked him if he had found a very large quantity of contraband in the suitcases inside the SUV.

“It was loaded down,” Faglie concurred.

On cross examination, defense attorney, Mark Davis, seemed to question the chain of custody of the evidence and to hint at doubt at the culpability of Murphy in the possession of the drugs.

He pointed out that James was the elder of the two women. (James was approximately 28 at the time of the arrest. Murphy was 23.) He also said that the Jeep Cherokee in which the women were traveling had been rented in James’ name at a Saint Louis Hertz rental car outlet. He noted that the crack cocaine found in the front of the SUV was in James’ purse. Finally, he had Faglie admit the consent to search was given by James.

Chipping away at the chain of custody, Davis then asked Faglie how the Jeep got back to the sheriff’s office.

Faglie testified that since the vehicle was equipped with four-wheel drive, a tow truck could not remove it from the scene of the traffic stop and Deputy Faglie told the jury another deputy, Brent Mast, drove the vehicle to the sheriff’s office.

Defense attorney Davis also asked if Faglie noticed two purses in the Jeep .

Faglie said he did, and when he searched the purses he found a quantity of cocaine in Tarita James’ purse.

He said when he questioned James about the contraband, she told him it was for her personal use. He said James said bluntly, “I’m an addict.”

Faglie went on the testify that the purses also contained a combined total of $6,636 cash.

Davis asked Faglie if he saw Murphy make any “furtive gestures” as she sat in the Jeep during the traffic stop.

The former deputy admitted he had not seen Murphy attempt to hide her purse to do anything else to hide potential evidence from the officer.

Davis also got Faglie to admit that neither he nor Mast tagged the drug evidence before they removed the vehicle from Interstate 35 that morning.

Next, Tamara Keller, a forensic chemist with the Drug Enforcement Administration’s South Central Laboratory testified that she does drug analysis “on a daily basis” and that on May 14, 1998, she performed a series of tests on the substances taken from the Jeep Cherokee.

Davis had earlier objected to the introduction of 19 white cardboard boxes as states’ evidence. The boxes contained plastic packages of a “coarse, white powdery substance.” The plastic bags had been covered in a spray-on foam insulation.

Stormer asked Keller to look into each box and identify its contents.

Stormer also asked Keller if the lab at which she was employed is accredited and if the evidence showed any signs of tampering when Keller received it back in 1998.

Keller explained that South Central Laboratory is properly accredited and she said, no, the evidence showed no signs of tampering.

Keller also testified that the drugs she tested were “very pure.”

The cocaine was found to be approximately 91% pure, while the methamphetamine was 48% pure. These findings are significant, Keller said, because they indicate the substances would likely have been cut with other products and then sold, thus increasing the value of the cocaine and methamphetamine.

Keller also admitted she had never seen so much contraband at one time.

The trial continues today.

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