Getting death threats after being libeled by the Herald not necessarily enough for a disability pension, court rules

The Supreme Judicial Court ruled today that a former Superior Court judge is not entitled to a disability pension for the permanent psychiatric problems he says he suffered after receiving cartons of hate mail and death threats after Herald articles and a reporter's comments that were ultimately ruled libelous.

At issue was not whether Ernest Murphy had severe enough psychiatric problems to keep him from working as a judge, but whether he read the death threats - which came after a Herald reporter claimed on the Bill O'Reilly show the judge had told a rape victim to "get over it" - while performing his job as a judge. The court concluded he failed to produce evidence he had read them while working as a judge, even though he reported receiving them in his judicial chambers:

Assuming that Judge Murphy read this death threat in his chambers, there was no evidence whatsoever as to what he was doing when he opened and read it. The mere fact that an employee is in his office during regular work hours does not necessarily mean that the employee is engaged in "the actual performance of the duties that the employee has undertaken to perform on behalf of the public." ... Judge Murphy's testimony before the administrative magistrate did not supply the necessary evidence to support his claim for accidental disability retirement benefits. During his testimony, Judge Murphy only stated that he "received death threats, which the State police found were credible and [he] was given a State police protection for a period of time." He made no mention of what he was doing when he received the death threat in his chambers. It was incumbent on Judge Murphy to present evidence to show that at the time he sustained his personal injury, he was engaged "in the performance of" his judicial duties. G.L. c. 32, § 7(1). He simply did not satisfy this burden of proof.

In its decision, the court did recount the day Murphy realized he could no longer work as a judge - during a case that came after he had won his libel suit and send Herald Publisher Patrick Purcell a letter a judicial-conduct commission investigated as threatening:

On July 18, 2007, while presiding over a criminal session, Judge Murphy was asked by a defense attorney to consider a particular sentence on a plea tendered by her terminally ill client in a drug case. Judge Murphy agreed with defense counsel that the proposed disposition would be appropriate in the circumstances. However, his fears that a headline in the Boston Herald the following morning would read, "Murphy Walks Drug Baron," and that hate mail and death threats would resume, rendered him unable to enter the proposed disposition. Judge Murphy realized that he could no longer perform the essential duties of his job, wept, left the court house, and never returned to work.

One-alarm fire in apartment down the street from Back Bay station

Fire scene at Dartmouth and Columbus. Photo by Antigone in BostonFire scene at Dartmouth and Columbus. Photo by Antigone in Boston.

Fire officials are still investigating the cause of a one-alarm fire at 333 Columbus Ave. last night that caused an estimated $30,000 in damage to an apartment whose tenant was in the process of moving out.

The fire, called in at 7:14 p.m., started in the kitchen in the fifth-floor apartment, Boston Fire spokesman Steve MacDonald said. There were no injuries.

Thu, 08/30/2012 - 19:14

Testing scandal second blow in recent years to drug prosecutions in Massachusetts

Once again, people in prison on drug charges could be let out because of problems with the way the state handled testing of the substances they possessed.

This time, officials are investigating whether a chemist at a state lab in Jamaica Plain compromised evidence, possibly in thousands of cases across the state.

In 2009, the Supreme Court ruled the way Massachusetts presented evidence of drug testing in many cases was unconstitutional, because defendants' lawyers could not question the technicians who certified a substance found with their clients was a particular drug - Massachusetts had allowed their certifications to be entered into court as established facts.

That ruling, Melendez-Diaz vs. Massachusetts, led to a string of decisions by Massachusetts appeals courts reversing drug verdicts in which that evidence was critical to the convictions.

Theater Distrtict club wants to add several hundred more patrons a night as two neighboring lounges shut

Royale, 279 Tremont St., is seeking permission from the city to expand its capacity from 775 to the 1,200 patrons its troubled predecessor, Roxy, was once allowed to let in.

The Mayor's Office of Consumer Affairs and Licensing holds a hearing on the request on Sept. 5. The office slashed Roxy's maximum capacity to 775 in 2007 after a skein of violations, from overcrowding in the streets at closing to cases of assault and battery.

Royale's request comes just four months after Mayor Menino cited it and several other Theater District night as trouble spots he wanted to crack down on after the closing-time murder of a Revere man in a parking garage used by the clubs.

But in a letter to neighboring businesses and residents, Royale General Manager Brig Dauber wrote that Royale is further moving away from the club atmosphere that kept getting Roxy in trouble. "Our intent is concentrate our business away from a dance club on Friday nights offering more Concerts and Private Events."

He continued that the net effect of expanded crowds at Royale would be diminished by the fact that the neighboring Encore and Caprice lounges, with a capacity of 350, are closing this fall.

He added that "We are diligently working with the BRA, other agencies and contractors to beautify Tremont St. We will be committing funds and long-‐term commitments to Tremont Street. We are invested in this neighborhood. We are here for the long term."

Entertainment-license hearings begin at 10 a.m. in the O'Neil hearing room on the eighth floor of City Hall.