An Alaska grand jury indictment of Judge Margaret Murphy on felony perjury charges has sparked a wave of protests and calls for citizens’ rights to investigate government corruption. Over the years, concerned citizens like David Haeg have been documenting the erosion of the powers vested in grand juries, highlighting actions by the Supreme Court that they view as unconstitutional. According to Haeg, the power of grand juries to investigate and make recommendations concerning the public welfare or safety is enshrined in Article 1, Section 8 of the Alaska Constitution.
Haeg argues that this right, second only to the right to bear arms, is essential for safeguarding democracy and freedoms. He points to the Constitutional Convention delegates unanimously supporting the concept of grand juries and emphasizing their role in investigating public officials. However, Haeg contends that the Supreme Court has gradually restricted these rights through various rule changes.
In 1985, the Supreme Court issued Criminal Rule 6.1, which limited certain grand jury rights, such as the power to investigate and make recommendations. Justices Burke and Compton deemed the rule unconstitutional, but a divided court upheld it. Haeg further claims that after 1991, grand jury investigations and recommendations virtually stopped. It was only in 2004, following the uncovering of systemic corruption within Alaska’s legislature and judicial system, that Haeg’s group became energized.
Protests and sit-ins erupted across the state in defense of citizens’ rights to investigate government corruption. However, according to Haeg, the Supreme Court responded by rewriting the Alaska Grand Jury Handbook, eliminating references to a citizen’s right of direct appeal and the grand jury’s autonomy in deciding what to investigate. These actions led to a petition with roughly 500 signatures that was refused by government officials.
In April 2022, a Kenai Grand Jury was disbanded after attempting to investigate evidence of judicial corruption and cover-up. Activists filed felony complaints against Superior Court Judge Jennifer Wells, prompting her retirement. A new grand jury was convened in July 2022, but grand jury powers were again restricted by Supreme Court Order 1993 in December. Haeg’s group sees these actions as self-serving and without constitutional foundation.
The tension continued to escalate, leading citizens to gather petition signatures seeking the impeachment of all five Supreme Court justices. In February 2023, the Supreme Court rescinded portions of its order that prohibited grand juries from indicting but retained control over appealing directly to the grand jury.
The saga culminated in the indictment of Judge Margaret Murphy on felony perjury charges in April 2023. Haeg’s group alleges that the grand jury proceedings have been frustrated by efforts to quash certain findings and recommendations. The prosecution is set to continue on January 8, 2024.
The continued erosion of citizens’ rights to investigate government corruption in Alaska has provoked outrage and calls for action. Concerned citizens like Haeg believe that the powers of grand juries, as outlined in the Alaska Constitution, must be protected to maintain a healthy democracy.