Defense attorney arrested, charged in Glen Burnie

July 11, 1995|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Sun Staff Writer

Prominent defense attorney William H. Murphy Jr. was arrested yesterday after state police said he engaged in a heated argument with a hearing officer and refused to leave the Glen Burnie courthouse.

Mr. Murphy, whose sometimes confrontational style has angered at least one judge who has cited him for contempt of court three times, was upset that a court commissioner set bail for his 22-year-old companion, who had just been charged with drunken driving.

The 52-year-old lawyer was handcuffed and charged with being disorderly in a public place, disobeying a police officer, resisting arrest and trespassing -- all misdemeanors.

He was released on $2,500 bail and is barred from the District Court commissioner's office in the Glen Burnie courthouse until his trial, a date for which has not been set.

Last night, Mr. Murphy said the dispute started when a District Court commissioner barred him from attending a bail review for his companion.

"It is a public hearing," Mr. Murphy said. "There is no such thing as a secret bail hearing. Second, I was the woman's lawyer. I have an absolute right to be in the room with my client."

Mr. Murphy has represented some of the most well-known criminal defendants in Baltimore in recent years. More than a decade ago, he stepped down from a Circuit Court judgeship to run for mayor, challenging incumbent William Donald Schaefer and losing by a 3-1 margin.

Earlier this year, a clash between Mr. Murphy and Judge Elsbeth L. Bothe erupted into a war of words and landed the lawyer in jail three times in two weeks for contempt of court. Mr. Murphy's latest troubles began at 3:30 a.m. yesterday in the northbound lanes of Interstate 97, near Quarterfield Road in Glen Burnie.

Trooper John K. Hasenei said he clocked Mr. Murphy's 1993 black Lexus at 88 mph and noticed it weaving. He stopped the car, which police said was being driven by Lea Shockley, 22, of Tracy's Landing, in southern Anne Arundel County.

Michael McKelvin, a state police spokesman, said the trooper smelled alcohol and ordered Ms. Shockley to perform a field sobriety test. He said Mr. Murphy got out of the car and watched.

Ms. Shockley was arrested and taken to the Glen Burnie barracks, where she was charged with driving while intoxicated and driving without a license. She refused to take a Breathalyzer test, police said. Mr. Murphy drove his car to the station house.

There, Mr. McKelvin said troopers recognized Mr. Murphy and allowed him to witness the booking procedure. But District Court Commissioner Janice Barnette would not allow him to sit in on Ms. Shockley's initial appearance, where bail is set.

"The court commissioner and Mr. Murphy argued for about 30 minutes over whether or not he should be allowed into the hearing room," Mr. McKelvin said. "It was agreed he would step out of the room and be within earshot of the door so he could listen to what was going on."

But when Ms. Barnette set Ms. Shockley's bail at $1,500, Mr. Murphy "rushed back in the room and began another argument with the commissioner," Mr. McKelvin said.

At Ms. Barnette's request, Trooper Hasenei escorted Mr. Murphy from the building, only to have the lawyer turn around and return to the hearing room, Mr. McKelvin said. At that point, the trooper arrested Mr. Murphy.

While being handcuffed, Mr. Murphy is accused of resisting "by trying to pull away from the officer," Mr. McKelvin said. The lawyer was taken to the Glen Burnie barracks, booked, and returned to the court commissioner's office, where his $2,500 bail was set.

Mr. Murphy denied going back into the court commissioner's office after leaving the first time, and said he did not rush back in when bail was set.

Judge Robert F. Sweeney, chief judge of the District Court system that oversees court commissioners, refused to discuss the case yesterday and would not say whether a suspect's initial bail review is open to the public or to lawyers.

"I have no comment to make of any kind," Judge Sweeney said. "He's arrested. He's charged. I don't even know the circumstances."

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