In January we wrote about an incident in Kern County, California, where a prosecutor added lines to a transcript in order to make it look like the defendant in a criminal case had admitted guilt in a statement:
A Kern County judge has thrown out all child molestation charges against a defendant who was facing 16 years in prison because the prosecutor in the case added sentences to a transcript that indicated the defendant had admitted guilt when he hadn’t.
The Bakersfield Californian asked [Deputy District Attorney Robert] Murray to explain his actions. He told the news outlet:
… he sent an email of the translation to [Deputy Public Defender Ernie] Hinman with two inaccurate lines, knowing Hinman would notice it, and asked in the email if Hinman disputed anything in the translation.
When Hinman called his attention to the inaccurate lines, Murray told him he’d been joking with him and sent a copy without the lines in question. Murray said it was banter between two attorneys that he thought was understood as a joke and would stay between them.
“That’s what it was intended to be,” Murray said.
Though Murray said he wouldn’t have allowed the changed transcripts to “make it to court”, the chief public defender was outraged at his actions, calling them “bizarre” and “shocking”.
Now a bar complaint has been filed against Murray by the California State Bar. The 4-page complaint is available here. It alleges Murray violated his ethical duties on three counts:
Count 1: An act of moral turpitude. The complaint reads:
Respondent sent discovery to the defendant’s attorney, which included an English translation of the defendant’s Spanish recorded statement, but where Respondent added the following statements which he knew were not part of the interview, which implied that the suspect had had sexual intercourse/penetration with the victim:
“[Officer]: You’re so guilty you child molester.
“[Suspect]: I know. I’m just glad she’s not pregnant like her mother.”
Respondent knew that the defendant had not made those statements at the time he sent them to the defendant’s attorney, which was an act of moral turpitude, dishonesty or corruption in willful violation of Business and Professions Code section 6106.
Count 2: Violation of defendant’s right to due process. The complaint alleges:
By sending the English translation of the defendant’s Spanish recorded statement to the defendant’s attorney, Respondent violated the defendant’s due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Respondent violated defendant’s right to counsel under the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Respondent thereby wilfully violated Business and Professions Code section 6068(a) by failing to support the Constitution and laws of the United States and of this state.
Count 3: Violation of the Penal Code. The complaint concludes:
By sending the English translation of the defendant’s Spanish recorded statement to the defendant’s attorney, Respondent violated Penal Code section 1054.1, subdivisions (b), (c), (e) and (f) and Penal Code section 1054.7. Respondent thereby wilfully violated Business and Professions Code section 6068(a) by failing to support the Constitution and laws of the United States and of this state.
It seems the bar is taking issue not only with the fact that Murray changed the transcript, but that he sent an English translation to the defendant’s attorneys of a statement made in Spanish when he should have sent the statement in its original form. Murray’s response to the bar complaint through his attorney is available here.
In addition to potential discipline from the courts, the California Bar could disbar Murray. He could face legal costs if there is a public finding of misconduct. A settlement conference has been scheduled for later this month.