The courtroom was surprisingly empty, but the domestic violence trial of Payson Mayor Ken Murphy last week proved a most interesting way to spend two days.
The county attorney's office rolled out its heavy artillery, sending two attorneys to do battle with the mayor and his lawyer, Harlan Green, in a trial that probably never should have happened in the first place. As Green pointed out after it was over, once two key witnesses notified the county attorney's office of their decision not to cooperate, everybody should have been saved the time and expense.
But since it did take place, here, in our opinion, are a couple of positives:
- The trial proved once again that the American justice system, however imperfect, does work. As both Green and visiting Judge pro tem John Perlman pointed out, the burden of proof rests on the state. There were times during the trial when it seemed that principle might be in jeopardy.
Murphy will be the first to admit that what happened at his house Nov. 9 and 10 was not pretty, but from the evidence presented, it didn't measure up to either of the counts of domestic violence with which he was charged.
- The legal contingent from Globe acquitted themselves exceedingly well. The two deputy county attorneys who prosecuted the case, Bryan Chambers and Robert Standage, were as fair as they were fervent. They treated witnesses with a great deal of courtesy and respect, even when a couple of them were less than forthcoming.
Similarly, Judge Perlman was most impressive, conducting the trial with a sense of fairness and a sense of humor, at times covering his mouth to hide a smile at the responses of some of the witnesses.
When he announced his verdict, Perlman began by congratulating both the defense and prosecution for jobs well done, then cited precedents and statutes ad infinitum to justify his decision. He had obviously done his homework.
The Roundup has been quick to criticize Gila County when it acts thuggish toward this end of the county. The recent battle over redistricting is a case in point.
The least we can do when people like Perlman, Chambers and Standage act with consummate professionalism and grace is to give credit where credit is due.
Good show, gentlemen.