Ex-Rocket accused of abusing 5 daughters

HOUSTON -- Prosecutors portrayed Hall of Fame basketball player Calvin Murphy as a cheat and a child molester Monday, while defense attorneys maintained that five daughters accusing him of sexual abuse were lying in an orchestrated effort to make him pay.

"You can never fully repair his reputation," defense attorney Rusty Hardin told jurors during closing arguments. "But you can take that first step in righting an injustice."

Hardin asked jurors to find Murphy innocent of abusing five of his 10 daughters between 1988 and 1991. He faces three charges of indecency with a child and three charges of aggravated sexual assault.

Prosecutors, however, labeled Murphy "a master of manipulation."

"He concealed from his own wife for more than 20 years that he has four other families," prosecutor Paula Storts told jurors. "He's a liar. He's a cheat and he's a child molester."

The month-long trial's testimony phase ended last week after Murphy testified in his own defense and tearfully denied the allegations.

Jurors began deliberating the case Monday afternoon following three hours of closing arguments.

If convicted, Murphy faces five years to life in prison for the aggravated offenses and two to 20 years for the indecency violations.

Prosecutors say Murphy tried to maintain a public image of having only one family, even though he has 14 children with nine women. He only married one of the women, according to prosecutors, and accepted her children. They said his children with the other women were told not to call him "Dad."

Prosecutor Lance Long said some of the women's outcries as teens went unanswered and one was placed in a mental hospital after speaking out.

Long claimed Murphy molested those he didn't think would tell and those whom nobody would believe. He kept the girls' mothers "under his thumb" through emotional and financial dependence on him, Long said.

Murphy's attorneys say the former Houston Rocket didn't abuse any of his children. They claim the allegations by his daughters, now all adults, stem from a dispute over money and resentment over the way Murphy treated some of the children compared to others.

Defense attorney Rusty Hardin said jurors shouldn't let the way Murphy lived his life influence their verdict.

"Don't be sidetracked by a lot of these issues," he urged. "These are fabricated charges."

He disputed prosecutors' assertion that Murphy controlled the women in his life and said "the only power Calvin Murphy had was the power of discipline to get into the Hall of Fame at 5-foot-10."

"He is a ruined man," Hardin said. "They have already won. Now, the question is whether he is going to go to the penitentiary."

Defense attorneys say three of the five women have been trying to claim $52,408 in death benefits left in a Teacher Retirement System of Texas account belonging to their mother, Phyllis Davidson. Murphy had a 20-year relationship and four children with
Davidson, who died in a car accident in 1996.

This year, the three daughters continued their grandmother's earlier protests over Murphy receiving the benefits. He was listed as the account's beneficiary, according to court records.

On Feb. 20, letters went to Murphy, his three daughters and their grandmother saying that Murphy was the account's rightful beneficiary.

A month later, Murphy, 56, was arrested and charged with sexual abuse and indecency with the five daughters, including three with Davidson.

Murphy was drafted in 1970 by the San Diego Rockets, who moved to Houston the following season. He quickly became a fan favorite. His 17,949 points were a franchise high until Hakeem Olajuwon passed him.

Known as the "Pocket Rocket" because of his small stature, Murphy missed just nine free-throw attempts -- and made 78 straight in one stretch -- in 1980-81 for a record single-season percentage of .958.