Matt Murphy, a mainstay on true crime TV shows, will step down after 26 years in District Attorney’s Office.
Matt Murphy, arguably the most recognizable homicide prosecutor in Orange County, is leaving the District Attorney’s Office after 26 years to work as a victims rights attorney and a television legal analyst. Murphy, who is in the midst of a high-profile kidnapping and torture trial, confirmed Friday that he plans to retire within the next month for two career opportunities.
The first is a position at Taylor and Ring, a law firm that represents victims of sexual assault. Murphy, 52, will be seeking monetary judgments against offenders. The second is a position with ABC News as a legal analyst with a focus on violent crime. He will appear on news segments and the show “20/20.”
Murphy said it will be difficult to walk away from a job he has had for a quarter of a century — including 17 years in the homicide unit, which he said is a record for longevity. “I love what I do,” Murphy said. “I know I’m going to miss it terribly. It’s fun. It’s dynamic. You really feel like you’re helping victims’ families.”
District Attorney Todd Spitzer said Murphy deserves to pursue his dreams after a distinguished public career. “We are lucky that, because of his experience, he will have a national forum to advocate for crime victims and explain the difficult but honorable work prosecutors do every day,” Spitzer said. Murphy’s boyish charm and knack for explaining complex issues have made him a mainstay on true crime television shows.
Favorite in DA’s Office
He’s a favorite in the District Attorney’s Office, tackling some of the most heinous murder cases in Orange County history: Skylar Deleon, the con-man who tied up and threw a wealthy couple off their yacht to drown; Daniel Wozniak, the community theater actor who fatally shot and dismembered a friend to take over his hefty bank account; and now Hossein Nayeri, who is accused of torturing a business owner in the desert and ordering his penis be cut off.
“I’ve watched him and he’s one of the best prosecutors they’ve ever had,” said defense attorney John Barnett. “He connects very well with juries because he appears like a schoolboy … telling a story that’s believable. He tells a complex story simply, arguing things that have horrible pictures. Very, very effective.”
An early mentor
Murphy first came to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office in 1992, when he was a junior law clerk working on writs and appeals. He was 24, clerking for Deputy District Attorney Mike Molfetta. That summer, Molfetta introduced Murphy to homicide prosecutor Lew Rosenblum. And suddenly, Murphy had a mentor.
Murphy passed the bar exam in 1993. He said he would sit in the back of the courtroom to watch Rosenblum, studying his style. In his first case, Murphy won a conviction in the prosecution of a man who threw a bottle of cough syrup at a car. He said Rosenblum watched his closing argument, and told him he had talent.
In 2017, Murphy faced criticism from the Public Defender’s Office and an accusation that he defrauded a jury by saying an inmate “got nothing” for his testimony. The inmate later received a lenient sentence, although Murphy said he was promised nothing in advance. A judge said there was no evidence of misconduct on Murphy’s part.
Murphy also argued vehemently that defense attorneys exaggerated the misuse of jailhouse informants by prosecutors and police to get confessions, a problem that an appellate court said was “systemic.” Asked to recount his top cases, Murphy rattled off a lengthy list that included the trial of Edward Shin, who killed his business partner at their San Juan Capistrano office and posed as him for months by email to cover up the slaying.
In a particularly dramatic moment in the Shin trial, Murphy ended his lengthy cross-examination of Shin by handing him a pen, pointing at a map and offering him one last chance to tell his victim’s family where the body was buried. Shin, who denies disposing of the body, declined. “I’ve had a fantastic run,” Murphy said.