Professionalism Tales: The Hilarious Prosecutor

Clown lawyerDeputy 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

9 thoughts on “Professionalism Tales: The Hilarious Prosecutor

  1. Well, that was a head-scratcher. How did that get included in a translation transcript (did you see what I did there – I used ‘trans’ twice!!) without anyone noticing? I am trying to figure out how a prosecutor would insert that little gem into translation, and why it would be considered a, what did they call it . . . ‘a joke gone awry’. That transcript had to have passed through a bunch of hands before it made it to the defense attorney. Nobody caught it and said, “Um, Bob? Yo, Bob?! Did you see this? The guy admitted he molested the victim.” How did that happen? Perhaps there is a bigger problem than some wacky prosecutor with an odd sense of humor.


  2. I keep remembering how the judge in the O.J. case called the opposing attorneys forward, spoke on some matter, after which all three had a laugh. It was just a day at the office for them. Yet, two young people had been cruelly murdered and their loved ones were right there in the courtroom, hoping that justice would be done. You can bet they weren’t laughing. The parents of those molested children wouldn’t have been, either.

  3. Not being an attorney, this whole thing puzzles me…

    Why was Murray not fired immediately for blatant misconduct in office? Is Murray being protected by some sort of “union” or some kind of law that has limited the power of the District Attorney to fire people based on something so damned obvious as this misconduct?!

    Honestly, I think Murray’s should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law for tampering with evidence, thrown in jail, and disbarred for life.

    • The legal system generally has a horrible track record of policing and punishing its own. The trend is getting better, I’ve read some encouraging stories, but the lack of real punishment doesn’t surprise me in the least.

      • Sorry, HT, but that’s just not true system wide. The ethics committees are no joke. It’s getting in front of them that doesn’t happen enough.

        • I don’t know how that makes it different. There really isn’t a material difference whether the ethics committee declines to investigate something or if they do and don’t punish it. Maybe I could have tightened up the language in my comment, but I meant what was said.

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