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Prosecutors reconsider cases after Manchester cop's firing

New Hampshire Union Leader

February 17. 2018 10:02PM

MANCHESTER - Worried prosecutors have started sifting through their case files after Manchester police disclosed that a detective involved in drug investigations was recently fired for unspecified misconduct, officials told the New Hampshire Sunday News.

On Friday, Police Chief Nick Willard confirmed that police Detective Darren Murphy, a Manchester officer for 10 years, was terminated Feb. 2 following a brief investigation of misconduct.

In a statement, Willard said police received a complaint on Jan. 10, and the complaint was specific only to Murphy.

In a brief conversation, Willard said he was limited to what he could say because Murphy's firing was a personnel matter. State laws shield most public-employee personnel issues - such as performance reviews and discipline - from public disclosure.

"If the misconduct was a crime, I would have charged him with a crime," Willard said.

Police departments have all sorts of regulations governing officer behavior that go beyond criminal law. Those can deal with truthfulness, relationships with civilians and proper behavior.

Murphy worked in the Special Enforcement Division, which handles drug investigations in the city. Detectives in drug units routinely deal with drug users, dealers and prostitutes. Detectives often try to coax them to become confidential informants and work on behalf of police.

Murphy's firing was being discussed last week among prosecutors throughout the Manchester area.

That's because prosecutors are obligated to let defense lawyers know anything that would benefit their case - the legal term is exculpatory evidence - and that includes the misconduct of police who investigated a crime. Such misconduct could affect their credibility.

"It seems like he was very active. It's a good number of cases where we'll have to notify defense counsel," said Hillsborough County Attorney Dennis Hogan.

Manchester police hired Murphy in July 2007. According to Union Leader archives, he was a lifelong Manchester resident who attended Manchester High School West. He had taken criminal justice courses at the now-closed Hesser College and worked as a Bedford police officer for three years before joining the Manchester force.

His hourly base pay was $35.95 before his termination.

Willard said he notified four prosecuting agencies that might have cases that involved Murphy. They are the U.S. Attorney for the District of New Hampshire, the New Hampshire Attorney General, the Hillsborough County Attorney and the Manchester city solicitor.

Lisa Wolford, the chief of the Attorney General's Criminal Justice Bureau, said her office is prosecuting one case that Murphy worked on. That case is ongoing, so Wolford said she would not give details, including the name of the case.

Acting U.S. Attorney John Farley said he is aware of the Murphy situation, but would not comment further.

Hillsborough County Attorney Hogan said "we haven't even counted them up yet," and that he learned of Murphy just recently.

Because Hogan's office deals with most prosecutions in Manchester, his office would likely be the most affected. He said a meeting is scheduled this week to discuss Murphy.

"We haven't had access to his personnel file yet," Hogan said.

In the past, Hogan said, his office has had to drop charges when a police officer's credibility became an issue.

But when prosecutors do so, they usually do so quietly. None of the three prosecutors pledged to publicly announce if they were forced to drop a case because of Murphy.

"It's happened before. We didn't put out a press release," Hogan said.

"We don't usually say why we drop a case. It's not something we ordinarily do," Farley said.

For years, the state has grappled with how to disclose police officers with any credibility-damaging information in their personnel files.

In 2004, then Attorney General Peter Heed released the "Laurie List" memo, which established a process. Last year, then Attorney General Joe Foster created the Exculpatory Evidence Schedule, which includes the names of police officers with tainted backgrounds. Foster also created a process to remove officers from the list.

Crime, law and justice Courts Public Safety General News Manchester

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