From the state that gave us Stand Your Ground, we now have Stand Your Ground, Courtroom Edition. Or perhaps it’s Stand Your Gavel – On the Public Defender’s Head.
You have to hand it to Florida. Time and again, on the scale of judicial craziness, the state does something, like earlier this year when the courts returned a Glock pistol and other firearms to a blind man who fatally shot his friend during a drunken argument, where you groan, “Oh, they’ll never top this,” only to be proven wrong within a remarkably short time. So I’m loathe to say that it’ll be a long while before Florida outdoes this new bizarreness, but once again, the bar has been raised.
Earlier this month in a Brevard County, Florida courtroom, in a proceeding that was captured by the court’s videotaping system, Assistant Public Defender Andrew Weinstock stood in the docket with his client, before Judge John Murphy. The judge inquired whether Weinstock wished to waive his client’s right to a speedy trial, and the PD declined. Judge Murphy asked him what he wanted to do, and Weinstock said, “What do you want to do?” as in, schedule it for trial, docket sounding, whatever.
There was something about that answer that rubbed Judge Murphy the wrong way. You can tell that, because the judge uttered the following, rather un-judge response: “You know if I had a rock I would throw it at you right now. Stop pissing me off. Just sit down.”
To which Weinstock replied that he was the public defender and had the right to stand there and represent his client.
And that’s when Florida distinguished itself yet again in the “That &^%# Really Happened?” Hall of Dubious Justice Fame.
Judge Murphy snapped, quote, “I said sit down. If you want to fight lets go out back and I’ll just beat your ass.”
I can only surmise that while in law school, Murphy took a course in “Frontier Justice” and read about dueling to defend your honor, and confused it with dueling to defend Your Honor.
In any case, for some reason, Weinstock rose to the bait and bolted from the courtroom to “step outside.” Quickly followed by the judge. What follows sounds like one of those cartoons or vintage slapstick comedies where the instant the protagonists wander off-camera, you hear a series of loud crashes, clunks, thuds, thumps and thwacks.
Only this time it’s all punctuated by Judge Murphy’s voice repeatedly snarling, “You wanna fuck with me?”
Talk about taking justice into your own hands…
About a minute later, the judge re-entered the courtroom, alone, and – this is bizarre – the folks occupying the courtroom seats – presumably other defendants about to appear before Judge Murphy – broke into thunderous applause.
“Yeah! You go, Judge! Beat that severely underpaid assistant public defender who’s the only thing standing between us and a long prison sentence!”
Notably, the defendant in this particular case, who remained passively standing in the docket during the whole tumult, refrained from joining the ovation.
And then, after pausing for some seconds to catch his breath, Judge Murphy addressed the defendant directly, as if nothing had happened, save for commenting that further proceedings in this case will “likely” be handled by a different judge.
If I had been the defendant, I might have been a little intimidated, but this guy stood his ground and requested the same speedy trial that had just gotten his PD ass-whupped. And the judge granted it, no problem.
No charges were filed, and Judge Murphy was placed on a “paid temporary leave of absence” and agreed to take anger management classes.
But if I know Florida, where justice isn’t so much blind as looking the other way, after the Florida Bar concludes its investigation, “Fightin’”Judge Murphy will be returned to the bench. With a Glock.