Joe Murray Hopes for a Knockout in Queens DA Race
In July, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz won the democratic primary, but she has a new opponent in the general election for Queens District Attorney (DA). Former police officer, current criminal defense attorney, and boxer, Joe Murray has thrown his hat into the Queens DA ring, and in Tuesday’s election, he’s hoping to get a KO and become the next DA to keep Queens safe.
The Howard Beach native who now lives in Bellerose is hoping that south Queens will come out strong on election day, November 5, and during the new process of early voting. From visiting his grandmother who lived here, to an uncle that owned Slice of Life pizzeria, and a slew of cousins and friends in the area, Murray knows Rockaway well. “It’s such a great community. I grew up in Howard Beach and went to John Adams High School but spent a lot of time down there on the beach. I love the place. I think one of the best kept secrets is over there and it should be thriving even more than it is,” he said.
Murray knows a thing or two about thriving. In 1987, he became New York City police officer. He worked in Midtown Manhattan before eventually going on to the 7th Precinct and he proudly served the department as not only an officer, but as a boxer for the NYPD Boxing team. However, it was his skills in boxing that would get him into a bout of trouble. In September 1993, Murray was arrested for assaulting a detective. However, Murray says the punch that broke the fellow officer’s jaw was in self-defense, and many agreed. He avoided a criminal conviction, fought to keep his job, and even avoided a lawsuit.
“I was being sued for $1 million for damages from the detective. It took eight years to go to trial,” he said. At that point, Murray could no longer afford a lawyer. Instead, he chose to represent himself. The end result? The jury found Murray to be justified in punching the detective. He was exonerated.
The judge was so impressed by Murray that she asked if he had any interest in practicing law. It was a suggestion that Murray didn’t take lightly.
It was the events of 9/11 that would lead him to a career change. “I have two kids and my son, Joe, who was in the first grade, went to school and came home after 9/11, to tell me that his friend’s father responded and didn’t come home. The next day I was supposed to go to Ground Zero and he was inconsolable, thinking that I wouldn’t come home.” It was soon after that that Murray decided to pursue law school and retire from the police department. “I didn’t want to hurt my kids anymore and let them think I was in danger,” Murray said.
Murray retired from the NYPD in 2002 and finished his bachelor’s degree before going on to law school and graduating in 2006. Although it wasn’t his first choice, due to his own personal experience of defending himself in court, Murray fell into criminal defense and has served as a successful criminal defense attorney since 2009. “I’ve had tremendous success being a criminal defense attorney and I love doing it and helping people,” Murray said.
Murray believes that his experience on opposite sides of the spectrum, as a police officer and a criminal defense lawyer, will make him a well-qualified choice for DA. “I’ve been a police officer and a criminal defense attorney, and I’ve been an accused violent felon. I challenge anyone who has more experience than I do,” he said. “I’m very sympathetic to police and what they go through. I’m also sympathetic to others because I have a lot of clients that I think were wrongfully convicted and need to get their story out there. I’ve done a lot of pro bono work for them. About 80% of my practice is black and Hispanic clients. I represent them and they love me. Many have become my friends and are supporting me in my race for office,” he said.
The attorney says he’s a Democrat, but part of his decision to run, especially on the Republican ticket, is due to the democratic progressive movement. “At one point I was very active in my community and I was the vice president of the Jefferson Democratic Club, but this democratic party has been hijacked by these progressives who have lost their minds, so I pulled out. I’m still a Democrat, but I’m not as active anymore,” he said.
Many of Murray’s views oppose those of the progressive movement. For instance, he disagrees with the decision to close Rikers Island. “I cannot believe they’re doing this. It’s ridiculous and it makes no sense,” he said.
He’s also taken a stance against cash bail reform. “On January 1, they’re estimating about 2000 people are going to walk off the island and they’ll come back for their court date. I’m curious to see how many come back. The whole no cash bail thing is ridiculous. The people in jail are there for a reason. I think the public is being lied to about how the bail system works and why people are being held. They’re not held because they’re poor. They’re being held because of failure to not appear in the past,” he said.
Another reason he decided to run is because he’s tired of the corruption in politics. “I have very strong feelings about the Queens democratic party and corruption. I hate corruption. I’ve experienced it, how horrible it is, and how it erodes the confidence in the government and legal process. I watched in horror as this took place during the Queens DA primary election and the recount,” he said. “I’m not entangled in any political ties. I’m not going to be manipulated by anyone. I owe nobody nothing, so when I get in there, my squad is free to investigate everyone, and I’m going to start with the primary election. I’ve been getting calls about things to investigate, like looking into de Blasio and ThriveNYC and missing money. I’m going to be the guy who’s looking at everything.”
Murray believes that his opponent, Melinda Katz’s continuous role as a politician will hinder her from being an effective DA. “Katz brags about being an attorney for 30 years, but she’s never represented anyone in court. She’s good at cutting ribbons but let me handle the criminal justice. There are going to be hard calls to make, but I’m going to do the right thing and not the popular thing,” he said.
Murray hopes that on election day, Queens, and especially south Queens, comes out strong. “We’d love to have the Rockaways come out really hard. Rockaway, Broad Channel and Howard Beach have a real stronghold and a powerful voice. You’ve all gone through tough times and I want to do the right thing for you. I know what I’m doing here. You can have a politician, or you can have a criminal justice expert as your next DA,” he said.
For more information on Murray and his views, check out www.joe4qda.com