Several dozen judicial reform advocates showed up for the Aug. 18 pretrial conference of former Alaska Judge Margaret Murphy in a case that they hope will begin to expose longstanding corruption among Alaska judges and state officials.
Murphy, who served as an Alaska District Judge in Homer before retiring in 2019, has been charged by a state grand jury in Kenai with perjury. If convicted she faces up to 10 years in prison and $100,000 in fines.
At the Aug. 18 pretrial conference in Homer, Murphy’s legal team said it has been presented with more than 1,100 pages of transcripts and 200 pages of discovery documents.
The defense said it needs additional time to examine the material, and presiding Anchorage Judge Thomas Matthews agreed to set the next hearing on Oct. 4.
Murphy’s case appears to deal with a 2005 case against David Haeg, who was convicted of illegally hunting wolves via plane. Haeg has long-maintained that Murphy, Alaska Trooper Brett Gibbens and his own defense team illegally conspired to convict him. While this has never been proven in court, a Superior Court Judge has concluded that Murphy and the trooper were too closely connected, and that Murphy should not have handled Haeg’s case.
Over the past two decades, Haeg has spearheaded a much larger effort to root out judicial corruption throughout Alaska’s court system. A vital component of this mission is to empower citizen-led grand juries in their constitutionally-guaranteed authority to investigate and indict corrupt judges and officials without interference.
Over the last year, a Kenai Grand Jury has investigated Murphy as well as a number of other judicial corruption allegations, which could result in additional charges against more government officials and judges.
Haeg’s activism has drawn the attention of the Alaska Supreme Court, which issued Court Order 1993 late last year in an attempt to place restrictions on a state grand jury’s authority to investigate and indict corrupt judges and public officials.
After the Aug. 18 pretrial hearing for Murphy, Haeg told political blogger, Politadick, that he believes there are many more people who may be implicated through the Kenai Grand Jury investigations.
With sparse coverage from local mainstream media, Haeg said Alaska citizens need to work hard to keep the case in the forefront of the public’s mind. He encouraged residents to call the governor’s office, contact local legislators and show up at the Oct. 4 hearing in Homer.
“Why would judges not want grand juries to investigate judges, especially when our constitution says that is their most important duty,” Haeg said. “It is a very important thing, not only for us but for all future Alaskans, that we preserve the grand jury’s right to investigate wrongdoing by judges, because we now know that those judges and the court system will try to not have investigations into what they’re doing.”
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It appears Haeg’s efforts are beginning to yield fruit. With scores of judicial reform advocates now demanding for investigations of corrupt judges, courthouses across Alaska have seen peaceful demonstrations demanding accountability. The recent pretrial hearing in Homer included special security measures to ensure all participants were protected.
Alaska Grand Juror’s Association, which Haeg is associated with, has followed the Murphy case in detail. An Aug. 18 post on the group’s website noted that the courtroom was packed for the pretrial hearing, which only lasted nine minutes. The group is inviting those who have credible allegations against Murphy to contact them at email@example.com.