We needed another high profile trial in Houston now that the first Enron case has ended, and so just in time the trial of Calvin Murphy has begun.
Calvin Murphy's extensive family tree -- including 14 children he fathered with nine women -- came under close scrutiny today as the beloved local basketball hero went on trial, accused of molesting five daughters more than a decade ago.
Murphy, a 56-year-old retired Houston Rockets player and former TV commentator, sat silently as prosecutors told jurors that he sexually abused the girls between 1988 and 1991, when they ranged in age from 6 to 13.
"These were children who were on the receiving end of their father's divide-and-conquer ploy," Assistant District Attorney Lance Long told jurors in his opening statement.
Murphy is charged with three counts each of indecency with a child and aggravated sexual assault. If convicted, he could face a sentence ranging from probation to life in prison.
His attorneys said the allegations stem from a dispute about money and long-standing tension between the children Murphy had with his ex-wife, Vernetta Murphy, and those born to other women, who were pressured to keep their father's identity a secret.
"This case is not just about money .... This case is about resentment," said defense attorney Andy Drumheller. "This case is about jealousy. This case is about hatred. This case is about revenge on a father who did a disservice to his children by having such an unusual family tree."
Defense attorney Brian Wice, who is not involved in the case but was one of several lawyers observing the trial, said five separate complaints will make it hard for jurors to reject them all as fabrications.
"What bothers me, from a defense standpoint, is the sheer number of complaints," Wice said. "And there is no nexus between the children. It's not like they all grew up together and were sitting around talking about what Calvin may have done to them."