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Interview with Harold Murphy, December 15, 2008

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
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00:00:45 - Early life and education

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Partial Transcript: You come from a well-known family in Haralson County...

Segment Synopsis: Murphy talks about his early life, parents, and his cousin Tom Murphy. He recalls working at a young age, joining the U.S. Navy, and studying law at the University of Georgia.

Keywords: Felton, Georgia; childhood

00:07:32 - Legislative career

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Partial Transcript: Tell us, if you will, a little bit about your service in the legislature.

Segment Synopsis: Murphy describes the atmosphere in the Georgia legislature when he joined in the 1950s. He comments on the different governors he hass worked under, including Herman Talmadge, Marvin Griffin, and Ernest Vandiver. He talks about not running for re-election to the legislature and the missed opportunity of being Speaker Pro Tempore of the House.

Keywords: Georgia General Assembly; re-election; representative

00:13:54 - Judgeship

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Partial Transcript: How early in life did you decide you'd like to be a judge?

Segment Synopsis: Murphy recalls being nominated by Jimmy Carter to serve as a superior court judge. He discusses how political patronage influences appointments to the federal bench, and the differences between the state and federal courts.

Keywords: Jimmy Carter; appointment; federal district court; political patronage; state superior court

00:20:40 - Memorable cases

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Partial Transcript: Let's talk about some of your more visible cases.

Segment Synopsis: Murphy discusses famous cases he worked on including: Knight v. Alabama (regarding discrimination in all the public universities in Alabama), the Georgia Voter ID case, U.S. v. Thevis (regarding racketeering), and the Tri-State Crematory case.

00:32:15 - Caseload distribution / Indigent defense

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Partial Transcript: Has your caseload increased very much over the years?

Segment Synopsis: Murphy discusses the decreasing caseload over the years, the blind case distribution system, and favor of sentencing to life without parole rather than the death penalty. Murphy also discusses the lack of funding for public defenders for indigent clients in death-penalty cases, and cites the Brian Nichols case as an example of the standstill that it has caused in Georgia.

Keywords: Brian Nichols; caseload; death penalty; funding; indigent defense; public defenders

00:40:45 - Reflection on experience as judge

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Partial Transcript: Have you enjoyed being a federal judge?

Segment Synopsis: Murphy talks about the enjoyable and difficult parts of his career as a judge, and what makes for a good judge and trial lawyer.

Keywords: experience; preparation; sentencing

00:44:18 - Case trial structure / Jury selection process

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Partial Transcript: Times change and people change.

Segment Synopsis: Murphy comments on the increased length of trials, and the practice of absolute discovery of evidence in pre-trial. He also compares the jury selection process between the superior versus federal courts, and explains the misconception around the phrase "picking the jury."

Keywords: evidence discovery; jury selection; striking jurors

00:49:08 - Reflection on life, career / Attorney James Neal

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Partial Transcript: Thirty-one years on the bench.

Segment Synopsis: As he looks back on his life and career, Murphy rules out running for any further political office in the future. He also mentions the attorney in the previously-mentioned Thevis case, James Neal.

Keywords: James Neal; career

00:54:02 - Relationship with staffers / Sentencing

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Partial Transcript: I meant to ask you about staff.

Segment Synopsis: Murphy comments on the number of staffers he employs in his office. He also discusses the correspondence he receives from people he has sentenced, and his approach to sentencing compared to that of other judges.

Keywords: judge's office; sentencing; staff

01:00:44 - Drug cases / Court system administration

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Partial Transcript: I'm concerned about all these drug cases among young people.

Segment Synopsis: Murphy talks about the drug problem among young people and his experience trying big drug cases while on the federal bench. He also describes the administrative structure of the district court system.

Keywords: administration; drug use