He does talk out of both sides of his mouth at times. The other day he ran his recommendations for the judicial races in Harris County. Most of his recommendations were as I expected. Murray is conservative and he's still got a lot of prosecutor in him.
But some of his comments about the candidates in the race for the bench in the 177th Judicial District were astounding - even for Murray.
To recap, back in 2008 a Houston criminal defense attorney named Kevin Fine unseated Devon Anderson and became the lightning rod for conservative activists in the county. Earlier this year Judge Fine announced that he would not seek re-election and the race was on to succeed him. Houston criminal defense attorney Vivian King took the Democratic nomination and Assistant District Attorney Ryan Patrick won the GOP tilt. Then Judge Fine decided to step down early and that allowed Gov. Rick Perry to appoint Mr. Patrick to the bench (it certainly helps to be the son of a zealous right-wing state senator).
The fact that Murray wants everyone to vote for Ryan Patrick should come as no surprise. He's a right-winger and he's straight out of the prosecutor's office. There are those who are worried that Mr. Patrick doesn't have enough experience to sit on the bench (among other problems) According to Murray, however,
I worked with Judge Patrick when he was a prosecutor and I can attest that those concerns aren't valid. He exhibited a solid record of good judgment and fairness that will translate to him being a good judge. He rose quickly through the Office and was a Special Crimes prosecutor at the time he left to be sworn in.So it's alright for a lawyer to walk right out of the DA's office, slip on a black polyester robe and preside over a criminal court. Without any experience as a defense attorney, Mr. Patrick doesn't understand just how much the system is stacked against a defendant. He is part of the machinery that cranks out "chain pleas" and sets exorbitant bonds for defendants. He has never had to deal with a lying police officer on the stand or with a prosecutor who refuses to turn over Brady material.
But, god forbid if a defense attorney wishes to be a judge. Murray has a definite problem with that. According to Murray,
The primary concern of most prosecutors that I talk to is that she is so deeply committed to being a criminal defense attorney that she couldn't be a neutral judge.So what if prosecutors don't want a defense attorney on the bench. I wouldn't expect them to. It's much easier to prosecute cases with judges who walked out of the DA's office in the judge's chambers. It's much easier to prosecute cases with other like-minded attorneys who consider themselves to be "tough on crime." It's much easier to prosecute cases with judges who have never had to sit at a table with a criminal defendant knowing they are the only person standing between the defendant and jail.
I like Murray. He's a nice guy. But there are times I wonder if he really knows what side of the fence he's on. I don't think he ever wanted to leave the DA's office. Had Pat Lykos not won the GOP nomination four years ago, Murray may never have left the office.
Ryan Patrick is not qualified to sit on the bench. Vivian King is the better choice in the 177th. We don't need another judge straight out of the prosecutor's office.