Deputy District Attorney Robert Alan Murray is a funny guy. Having apparently decided that it was too obvious to tell an arrested kid that he would be summarily shot, which is always a gas—you should see their faces!—and a bit too risky to put a whoopie cushion on a judge’s chair behind the bench—those old fogies have no sense of humor—the young California prosecutor hit on the brilliant idea of altering the transcript of the police interrogation of a Spanish-speaking defendant who was charged with lewd or lascivious acts with a child younger than 14 years old.
Murray, the dickens, added this wacky exchange to the transcript:
Officer: “You’re so guilty, you child molester.”
Suspect: “I know. I’m just glad she’s not pregnant like her mother.”
He kills me, he just kills me! Inexplicably, though, the assistant public defender complained about the altered transcript, told a judge, and the judge dismissed all charges against the accused child molester.Who would have guessed the public defender would use the gag to defend his client? What a party pooper.
The bar court judge recommended a 30-day suspension for Murray’s misconduct, and a one-year period of probation. The judge’s investigation found that Murray and the assistant public defender had a history of joshing each other, though there hadn’t been any previous practical jokes or punks involving the alteration of evidence. There was no evidence that Murray intended the fake testimony to be used by anyone in trial or to affect the outcome of the case. Murray’s boss, District Attorney Lisa Green, said that Murray is a “very talented attorney,” and that she’s not going to fire him over what he explained was a “joke gone awry.”
Here’s the really hilarious part: given a second chance after charges were dismissed against him because of the “joke gone awry,” the child molester found a new kid to molest, and was sentenced to four years and four months in prison. I hope somebody tells the victim’s parents this story so they can be in on the fun.
But seriously, folks, Robert Alan Murray showed atrocious judgment, engaged in stunningly unprofessional conduct, and there is no justification for the justice system allowing him to continue as a prosecutor. These are lives he’s dealing with, not setups for a punchline or a cream pie in the face. The fact that the bar judge and the District Attorney view altering evidence with a false confession as worth only a one month suspension may be more damning than the “joke.”
I wonder: are all the innocent people in prison because of withheld or manipulated evidence by prosecutors also victims of jokes gone awry? Maybe the whole system is one big joke, if this is how seriously the rest of the legal profession takes its obligations and responsibilities.
Pointer and Source: ABA Journal