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Defense in $10.5M case claims juror bias, lawyer misconduct

Defense lawyers have come out swinging with a scathing set of post trial motions attacking the plaintiffs’ lawyer who scored a record-setting Charlottesville wrongful death verdict.

Matthew B. Murray of Charlottesville won an award of more than $10.5 million for family members of a 25-year-old nurse killed in a collision with a concrete truck. The defense pleadings contend Murray “devised and nurtured this unjust result through a pattern of unethical and improper conduct.”

The post trial motions claim the verdict was tainted by a biased juror, among other allegations. The foreperson was said to be the head of a nonprofit organization with close ties to Murray’s law firm.

The defendants also claim Murray coached a witness, made improper appeals to the jury, falsely accused opposing counsel of criminal conduct, and conspired with the decedent’s husband, Isaiah Lester, to destroy evidence.

The defendants asked Judge Edward L. Hogshire to dismiss the verdict, order a new trial, or reduce the verdict by almost 90 percent. “Lester and Murray should not be allowed to profit from a verdict obtained by patent dishonesty,” the defendants wrote.

The defendants moved to have Murray and the firm of Allen, Allen, Allen & Allen disqualified from participating in any new trial.

The juror allegation involves foreperson Amanda Hoy who, until last year, served as executive director of Meals on Wheels of Charlottesville-Albemarle. The Allen firm has been a major supporter of the nonprofit, with its logo and a clickable link prominently displayed on the Meals on Wheels webpage.

When potential jurors were asked about involvement with the lawyers or their firms, neither Hoy nor Murray spoke up about the connection between the Allen firm and Hoy’s former employer, according to the defense pleadings. “True to form, seizing another opportunity to win by cheating, Murray sat in stone silence, failing to disclose information that demonstrated juror bias and compromised defendants’ right to a fair trial,” the defense wrote, requesting the verdict be set aside.

Even before trial, the litigation was marked by repeated skirmishes, mostly over material posted on Lester’s Facebook page. The defense sought copies of photographs posted there, but Lester deleted some of the photos after discovery requests were made.

Accusations flew among the lawyers. Defense lawyer David M. Tafuri of Washington sought to link Murray to Lester’s attempts to hide evidence. Murray accused Tafuri of hacking into Lester’s Facebook page. Hogshire ordered Murray to pay $6,000 as a sanction for the unsubstantiated accusation.

Now, Tafuri alleges a late-disclosed e-mail shows Murray directed Lester to destroy damaging evidence. “This jarring and blatant instance of coordinated and premeditated misconduct, and the deliberate misrepresentation to this Court to cover it up until after the trial …, is the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back,” defense counsel argue.

The defense salvo includes shots at Murray’s dramatic courtroom style, with complaints about crying, singing and invoking God in closing arguments. His conduct, the defense contends, “was plainly atrocious and productive of a verdict that reeks of emotion and offends the dignity of this Court.”

Murray was philosophical about the defense pleadings. He said they reminded him of advice from an experienced attorney after a personal attack in court:

“[The veteran lawyer] reminded me that if a lawyer has the facts on his side, he argues the facts. If he has the law on his side, he argues the law. If he has neither facts nor law on his side, he attacks opposing counsel. Such is what we have here.”

A hearing on the post trial motions is set for May 27, according to Murray.


  1. Mr. Tafuri should take his beat down like a man and stop all the whining and unprofessional attacks on the jury foreperson and opposing counsel. With respect to the juror from Meals on Wheels, one would not expect Matt Murray to know every non-profit organization with which the Allen Allen marketing department has ties.

  2. Desparate times apparently call for defamatory measures. Congrats Matt on the verdict–and taking the high road.

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