On Monday, September 12, 2022, the California Commission on Judicial Performance announced that an appearance for oral argument before the commission has been scheduled in the matter concerning Judge Michael F. Murray, a judge of the Superior Court of California, Orange County.

In January 2022, Judge Murray was charged with two counts of judicial misconduct for failing to disclose evidence in a murder case a decade ago while a prosecutor.

Judge Murray allegedly hid evidence when he worked as a prosecutor in the vehicular murder case of Cole Wilkins, who was driving a truckload of stolen appliances in 2006 when a stove fell from his vehicle, resulting in a crash that killed David Piquette, a 10-year veteran of the sheriff’s department. Wilkins was convicted of second-degree murder in 2017 and was serving a sentence of 16 years to life in Avenal State Prison when a 4th District Court of Appeal panel ruled in 2020 that jurors did not have enough evidence to prove Wilkins’ actions demonstrate the “implied malice” required to support a conviction for second-degree murder. His conviction was altered from murder to involuntary manslaughter, which carries a four-year maximum penalty.

Before his retrial, Wilkins learned that the California Highway Patrol (CHP) altered a report that showed that Deputy Piquette’s unsafe speed for the conditions was at fault for the accident; the CHP changed the report to being reasons “other than driver.” Judge Murray was made aware during the trial that the CHP collision reports concerning the Wilkins case had been altered. Judge Murray chose not to disclose this information, stating instead that “it did not matter because the defendant was a fleeing felon at the time the stove fell from his vehicle or words to that effect.”

The Commission said that Judge Murray “violated [his] obligations under Brady v. Maryland, which mandates the disclosure of evidence favorable to the accused that is material either to guilt or punishment.”

In his answer, Judge Murray said that by the time he learned that the CHP reports had been changed, he
had been informed and believed that Mr. Wilkins’ counsel at the Public Defender’s Office had already learned that the original CHP reports had been changed, that the original conclusions as to the primary collision factors had been changed from unsafe speed to “other than driver,” and were aware of the circumstances surrounding the changes to the reports.

In its September 12, 2022 press release, the Commission announced the hearing date regarding the matter.

According to the press release:

“The appearance before the commission will take place on Wednesday, October 19, 2022, commencing at 2:00 p.m. at the Supreme Court of California, 350 McAllister Street, San Francisco, California. The hearing will be open to the public.”

The Judge earned a law degree from the University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law in 1994.

A copy of the original filing can be found here.