Support swells for trooper who released Boston bombing suspect photos

CNN
Tuesday, July 23, 2013 - 8:24am

In the span of a few days, more than 51,000 people have thrown their support behind a Massachusetts State Police trooper who was temporarily suspended for giving Boston magazine photos of the hunt and capture of one of the Boston bombing suspects.

Sgt. Sean Murphy, who was suspended for a day last week for releasing the photos without authorization, will face a closed hearing Tuesday to determine his professional future with the agency, said state police spokesman David Procopio.

Boston magazine published what it said were Murphy's images in a story last week. The piece quoted Murphy as saying that he felt the Rolling Stone cover image -- showing a doe-eyed Dzhokhar Tsarnaev with tousled hair -- was an insult to the victims of the April bombings.

Boston magazine said it received images that Murphy, a tactical photographer, took of the hunt and capture of the alleged Boston bomber.

"I hope that the people who see these images will know that this was real. It was as real as it gets," Boston magazine quotes Murphy as saying alongside numerous images, including one of the suspect appearing bloody, looking down, his shirt raised and what looks like a red dot laser trained on his forehead.

"This guy is evil," Murphy told Boston magazine. "This is the real Boston bomber. Not someone fluffed and buffed for the cover of Rolling Stone magazine."

A day before three commissioned officers will decide if the sergeant will remain on full or restricted duty pending an investigation or suspended with or without pay during a probe, there was very little hair-splitting on "Save Sgt. Murphy" about how people feel.

"If the powers that be do the right thing, they'll give Sgt. Murphy a medal, a long weekend off with pay, a new camera, and an apology," Richard C. Martin posted on the Facebook page. His comment alone garnered 160 likes.

"I support Sgt Murphy for standing up for the victims," posted John W. Patterson, "he's a true hero for doing what he thinks is right."

But there were a few people who understood why the trooper was in trouble.

Darin Vance, a 16-year-old from West Virginia posted, "I hate to see him lose his job, but what he did really was illegal; those pictures were not his, since he took them for his employer. Therefore, legally speaking, he stole the picture, and published it. I guess it depends how his contract was set up, but I think all copyrights would have been given over to the state..."

Vance reiterated his support for the trooper to CNN Monday and said that he worried that the Rolling Stone cover might inspire someone to commit an act of terror hoping to land on the cover of a legendary magazine.

On Monday CNN reached a woman who said she was the organizer of the page but would only give a first name -- Lisa. She said that she felt compelled to create the page because her own father was a Massachusetts State Police trooper.

"I thought this page would only be popular among my friends, but I'm getting private messages from people across the country, in Germany and in England, all over, who believe this trooper did the right thing," she said. "I was so angry when I heard that Sgt. Murphy was going to suffer for trying to stand up for victims."

Before quoting Murphy in several long passages, Boston magazine wrote: "Here, in his own words, Murphy shares his thoughts on the Rolling Stone cover. He stresses that he is speaking strictly for himself and not as a representative of the Massachusetts State Police."

John Wolfson, Boston magazine's editor in chief, said the magazine has hundreds of photos similar to the ones Murphy provided and will publish more in its September issue.

He said Murphy was "conflicted on some level" about releasing the photos, but "genuinely worried" about how the Rolling Stone cover will affect the victims' families.

The Rolling Stone cover unleashed a wave of intense reaction on social media, which played out in brick-and-mortar stores. Three prominent New England-based businesses -- CVS pharmacies, Stop & Stop, and Tedeschi Food Shops -- heard the public outcry and announced they would not sell the print edition of the magazine. The 7-Eleven corporation said Thursday its nearly 1,700 company stores across the country won't sell the issue.

Some have defended the cover, arguing that it draws much needed attention to a young man who seemed an unlikely terrorist and makes us all reconsider our ideas of what a terrorist would look like. Rolling Stone issued a statement saying that the story "falls within the traditions of journalism and Rolling Stone's long-standing commitment to serious and thoughtful coverage..."

"The fact that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is young, and in the same age group as many of our readers," the statement read, "makes it all the more important for us to examine the complexities of this issue and gain a more complete understanding of how a tragedy like this happens."

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has pleaded not guilty to federal charges in connection with bombings and is awaiting trial. His brother Tamerlan, suspected to have helped carry out the attack, was killed during a gun battle with police.

CNN's Lawrence Crook contributed to this report.

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