Retired Judge’s Victory: Unusual Criminal Charge Dismissed in Alaskan Grand Jury Case

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — A retired judge in Anchorage, Alaska, has been cleared of an “extremely unusual” criminal charge brought against her by a grand jury, marking a significant victory for former judge Margaret Murphy and a setback for conservative legal activists. The charge of perjury against Murphy, which was included in an indictment with minimal details, was dismissed by Superior Court Judge Thomas A. Matthews. The case, which emerged from a broader investigation by a Kenai grand jury, diverged from the norm as it was initiated by the grand jury rather than a state prosecutor.

For more than a decade, a small group of vocal activists has been advocating for the power of citizen-led grand juries in Alaska to independently investigate and issue criminal charges. David Haeg, a Kenai resident and leader of this movement, has alleged widespread corruption in the state’s legal system since his own conviction for unlawfully hunting wolves in 2005.

Murphy, who was the district court judge handling Haeg’s case, faced allegations from him that she conspired with law enforcement against him. However, Haeg’s argument was ultimately dismissed on appeal.

In January, Judge Matthews heard arguments on dismissing the perjury charge from both Murphy’s defense attorneys and the Alaska Department of Law. The case was assigned to a special prosecutor, Clint Campion, instead of a state attorney. The defense presented four separate reasons for the charge to be thrown out, including issues with the grand jury’s quorum, the vagueness of the indictment, and improper evidence presented before the grand jury. Matthews agreed with all four arguments and concluded that the charge against Murphy was invalid.

One factor that stood out was the flood of evidence presented to the grand jury by Haeg, who testified for hours and supplied them with approximately 1,500 pages of documents. Matthews deemed much of this evidence to be inadmissible hearsay and speculative testimony.

Murphy’s defense attorney, Jeffrey Robinson, refrained from commenting on the ruling at this time. Meanwhile, Campion, the special prosecutor, stated that he was reviewing the order for dismissal and had until March 8 to decide whether to present the case to another grand jury for a new indictment.