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An apology to Judge Murphy

Heath Haussamen

When Judge Leslie Smith reinstated the bribery indictment against Third Judicial District Judge Mike Murphy last week, he was essentially saying he made a mistake in dismissing it previously.

In a tersely worded order, he blamed the defense and prosecution for failing to provide him with relevant information. And then he corrected what he viewed as an error by reinstating the charges.

I sympathize with Smith’s frustration. The layers to this case and the dizzying stream of motions and countermotions make it among the most difficult to keep up with that I’ve ever covered. And I covered courts for several years before I started NMPolitics.net.

In the course of writing about Smith’s reversal and other issues related to the Murphy case over the last few days, I discovered that I’ve been making my own whopper of an error in reporting on the case.

I’ve been writing, in article after article, that the indictment alleged that Murphy paid a bribe in exchange for his job and that he solicited a bribe from another potential judicial applicant.

But Murphy isn’t charged with paying a bribe for his job. The indictment on four felony charges is based on allegations that Murphy solicited a bribe from potential judicial applicant Beverly Singleman, told District Judge Lisa Schultz to tell Singleman she needed to pay the bribe, and threatened to destroy Singleman’s reputation for telling others that he solicited a bribe from her. I verified that with prosecutor Matt Chandler on Thursday.

Separate from that indictment, Murphy faces another felony charge for allegedly offering “several promises” to Schultz in December 2010 if she would agree to be the tie-breaking vote to make Douglas R. Driggers the chief district judge in Las Cruces.

Murphy allegedly told several people he paid money for his appointment. But in New Mexico, such an admission isn’t enough for a criminal charge. To this point, Chandler and his team have come up with no additional evidence that Murphy actually paid a bribe.

So he isn’t charged with paying a bribe.

Soliciting a bribe and the other charges Murphy faces are felonies and are serious. But they’re not the same as paying a bribe. I’ve been unintentionally mischaracterizing the charges against Murphy for months. On Thursday, I went back through NMPolitics.net’s archives and corrected every article in which I repeated the mistake. I also noted the correction at the end of each of those articles.

I could bore you with a lengthy piece about how I made such a big mistake and try to explain it away. But it wouldn’t change the reality that I failed to accurately portray the indictment.

You expect better from me. I expect better from myself. And all involved in this case – especially Murphy – deserve better.

My apologies to Judge Murphy. I’ll accurately portray the indictment in the future.

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8 comments so far. Scroll down to submit your own comment.

  1. Smith’s frustration is due to him being used by Chandler. The whole thing is strictly a political event on the part of La Tejana Susana AND Chandler. Thus is going nowhere except the front pages of the newspapers. Chandler will try and keep it there for as long as possible. He needs the exposure.

  2. Thank you for your clarification. Thank you for your display of rare journalistic integrity. Thank you for NMP.

  3. So it seems that Murphy was pressured by a party or parties unknown to solicit a bribe–possibly the bribe was to go to yet another unknown party. None of the parties involved in pressuring him, or in receiving the bribe, are being charged. He is the little guy caught in the middle.

  4. Great Job Heath!

  5. A good man does not make mistakes.
    A better man admits when he is wrong.
    You are the better man Heath. That is why NMpolitics.net will continue to be the venue that sets the bar high in NM.

  6. Kudos to Heath for the public admission of the error.

    Gofdisks, the law does not require that the bribe go to the one soliciting the bribe. About 25 years ago, I seem to remember a fellow from Hobbs, NM that did federal time over a solicitation issue with a NM Governor. While the case was never tied to the then Governor, that fellow still did the time. Can someone help me with the names of those players and the facts of that case?

  7. Things like this are what separate you from the field Heath. You do a great job. Thank you for your honesty and humility.

  8. Forgiven.
    Doesn’t soliciting a bribe inherently mean that the issue of the bribe would necessarily have to go to the briber? How can it be a bribe if he personally did not stand to benefit in the least bit? I can tell someone that they would be “better off giving” money to the church say. I could even be a jerk about it.
    Soliciting money on behalf of a cause or organization however coercive, short of physical threat, is not illegal. Even if you think his soliciting did carry some sort of threat, he certainly lacked any means what so ever to carry out any threat and the so called victim KNEW that any threat was bogus. This is the sort of thing where a person just goes home and spouts off the affront to their spouse declaring that the offender is full of it and his statement is bogus (only using terms that Heath would ban in this forum).
    What a waste of time and money.

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