Former deputy’s ironic new career

November 30, 2011

By DANIEL BLACKBURN

The central figure in an illegal raid by San Luis Obispo County sheriff’s deputies that violated the rights of a county resident is now a local defense attorney, handling cases for indigents and getting paid by the county public defender’s office.

Darren Christopher Murphy, in his first public comment since the recorded 2008 raid at the home of Matt Hart, confirmed Tuesday he is getting defense cases assigned to him by Superior Court Judge Michael Duffy. Murphy retired from the sheriff’s department last year and started a law practice.

Murphy was a career deputy with a law degree when he led a group of heavily-armed deputies onto Hart’s property after responding to a “shots fired” call. Finding Hart target-shooting — a lawful activity in the rural area — the deputies handcuffed him in his yard and crashed into his home, without a warrant.

The ensuing events — spanning more than three hours — were captured by the deputies’ own video and audio recorders and provided a chilling and indisputable account of their behavior. Afterwards, Murphy and the others could clearly be heard discussing at length possible justifications for their entry into Hart’s two-plus acre property, then into his house, and then into his locked gun safe, where they found and confiscated an assortment of valuable, legally-registered firearms.

The deputies, along with a detective, then pondered possible criminal charges against Hart in order to explain their actions.

Hart was charged with a variety of felonies and misdemeanors, all eventually dismissed except for “disturbing the peace.” Facing prosecutors’ threats of additional felony charges, Hart agreed not to sue the county, and his confiscated guns were eventually returned — with one gun missing its receiver.

A 22-minute video report entitled “The Hart Locker” was produced by KCCN.tv in July 2010 after copies of the sheriff’s recording were obtained. The video went viral with more than 2.7 million views worldwide. However, subsequent reaction to the deputies’ deeds by officials in San Luis Obispo County was negligible.

During a brief telephone interview, Murphy called the incident “old news” and also claimed for the first time that he felt threatened by homeowner Hart because “I thought the man tried to shoot at me.”

He also said, “I did what I thought was right at the time.”

Murphy acknowledged the search’s illegality: “The judge (Superior Court Judge Dodie A. Harman) ruled that evidence was taken in violation of (Hart’s) rights. In retrospect, should I have gotten a warrant? Certainly.”

He was critical of KCCN.tv’s reporting, calling it “a bit slanted, and (it) left out a lot of very relevant information.” Murphy said the video report suggested that he “just trampled over the man’s rights, that it was some kind of conspiracy, when in fact we step by step tried to rationalize everything we did.”

The new defender of the downtrodden then added, “Hart had an opportunity to sue us, to have his day in court, but he chose instead to take it to the court of public opinion.”

Murphy penned a letter in the Dec. 2010 issue of Playboy magazine, noting that “when the citizenry uses tools intended to protect all parties to wrongfully attack officers, the incentive to put your ass on the line is greatly diminished.”

He left the sheriff’s department shortly after that letter was published.

San Luis Obispo attorney Lou Koory, whose interview was featured in “The Hart Locker,” said that Murphy “now has an ethical duty to zealously defend the rights of the accused, whatever his philosophy. And he’ll be tested soon enough.”


34 Comments

  1. oto says:

    Hotrod:
    1. The Commission on Judicial Performance. If you can’t find it, call them.
    2. Judge Duffy.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  2. Jesus Child says:

    Hidden due to low comment rating Click here to see.

    Poorly-rated. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 60

    • cheseburger says:

      Hey Jesus Child, you get the green from me, all these posters have been brain washed by our local media, I know Daren and I would sure rather have him have my back then the two crazy cops in Santa Maria, (Hell let’s just shoot them all and let got sort them out, he did.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 28

  3. CA Native says:

    He’ll fit right in with our corrupt ‘justice’ system.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 45 Thumb down 2

  4. calvertworthington says:

    I’m thinking hypocrite.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 33 Thumb down 4

  5. cheseburger says:

    Hidden due to low comment rating Click here to see.

    Poorly-rated. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 66

    • choprzrul says:

      Let’s shred the Constitution so that poor Darren isn’t inconvenienced.

      Remember, the founders penned the Bill of Rights as a protection against government intrusion into our civil rights. Murphy epitomizes government intrusion into civil rights.

      Let the 1983 suit begin.

      .

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 41 Thumb down 9

      • cheseburger says:

        I don’t like it either but it’s their boat, want
        to fish?

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 7

      • cheseburger says:

        Bush shredded the good old constitution with his assault weapons ban and ten round clip law,
        Homeland security act, right up our asses, literally, they can look any where they want.
        You could get the kind of dirt they got on Darren if you provoked any cop enough.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 24

    • cheseburger says:

      Maybe he’s lucky this didn’t happen in Santa Maria, now do you have a clue he didn’t shoot the guy and if he did he would not of been charged with anything the guy reached for a god dam holster, I would of shot him in the leg.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 9

  6. bobfromsanluis says:

    I have to wonder if when a public defender is offered up to someone who has been arrested, if the person has any say in which public defender they get to have represent them. If they have a choice of public defenders, would they be able to avail themselves of the records of the public defenders? Any chance of learning the backgrounds of the public defenders before deciding to have one represent you in court? I would think that many people who were offered the services of Mr. Murphy and found out about his past wouldn’t feel more comfortable representing themselves instead; I’m sure that I would.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 3

    • Robert1 says:

      Typically the PD is not the creme of the crop as lawyers go.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 5

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