Michael F. Murray, one of Orange County's most accomplished homicide prosecutors, is running to win a superior court judge post in the 2016 election.
Long feared by criminal suspects for his intense, relentless pursuit to solve major crimes, Murray's prospective departure from prosecution duties should bring a collective sigh of relief from future Southern California hoodlums.
I've witnessed psychopathic killers cringe when the no-nonsense, West Point graduate–a U.S. Army captain during the first Persian Gulf War–entered the courtroom.
In October, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the righteousness of Murray's homicide conviction in People vs. Marvin Smith after bickering lower courts nitpicked about imaginary violations of Smith's constitutional rights.
The Smith case was one of the senior deputy district attorney's finest moments. Another veteran prosecutor decided she couldn't prove who savagely killed Minnie Smith, a wealthy Cypress housewife, in 2005 and dropped the matter. But Murray re-opened the case, began digging with police detectives, found new incriminating evidence and convicted the woman's husband, Marvin V. Smith, who'd staged the crime scene to look like a burglary gone wrong to get total control of the couple's multimillion dollar estate. [You can read about the Smith trial HERE.]
With the aid of Orange County Sheriff's Department investigators, the prosecutor also tackled another cold-case murder: the 1998 killing of Jack Jessee in Placentia. The killers hoped police would believe the stabbing death resulted from a burglary-gone-wrong staging, but Murray solved the crime in 2011 by winning convictions against a hitman as well as the victim's wife and stepson. You can read about the Jessee murder case HERE and HERE.
During nearly two decades in the Orange County District Attorney's office (OCDA), Murray handled a wide range of cases, including burglaries, assaults, auto thefts, DUIs and gangs. He's prosecuted more than 100 jury trials and earned a conviction rate of 96 percent.
"I have an excellent command of the law and a strong sense of fairness," Murray said in his campaign announcement. "I have the professional ability, judgment and even temperament to be a fair and impartial superior court judge."
Though he might not garner much support in the public defender's office and he hasn't always enjoyed state appellate court favor, Murray has so far captured the endorsements of more than 20 current and retired superior court judges. Prominent defense lawyers such as John Barnett, Gary Pohlson, Joe Smith and Mike Molfetta are also supporting his campaign. A onetime deputy district attorney who now is a defense attorney, called his former OCDA colleague "smart and hardworking."
Murray's wife, Jesse, is an FBI Special Agent based in Santa Ana, and his father worked as a defense lawyer.
The election is set for June 7, 2016.