Legal Ethics

One-month suspension is recommended for prosecutor's 'joke gone awry'

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A California bar court judge is recommending a 30-day suspension for a California prosecutor who said he was joking when he added an admission of guilt to a transcript.

The prosecutor, Deputy District Attorney Robert Alan Murray, added the admission before sending the transcript to a deputy public defender, the Bakersfield Californian reports. The bar court judge recommended the 30-day suspension, along with a one-year period of probation, in a Dec. 16 opinion.

The transcript translated 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 was accused of adding this 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.”

The bar court judge, Donald Miles, said Murray and the assistant public defender had a history of joking with each other, though there was no history of practical jokes or jokes involving the alteration of evidence. Miles found no evidence that Murray intended the prank document to be used by anyone or to have an effect on the deputy public defender’s handling of the case.

District Attorney Lisa Green told the Bakersfield Californian that Murray is a “very talented attorney” and he won’t lose his job over the incident. The recommendation by the bar court judge makes clear he believed the incident was a “joke gone awry,” as Murray has maintained, Green said.

After the assistant public defender complained about the incident, a judge dismissed charges against the defendant. The defendant was later charged in a case involving a new molestation victim. He pleaded no contest and was sentenced to four years and four months in prison.

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