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Judge rules that senator’s hearings must be closed to public

Sen. Rick Murphy (file photo)

Sen. Rick Murphy

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Cari A. Harrison denied the Arizona Capitol Times’ request that hearings regarding allegations of child abuse against Sen. Rick Murphy be opened to the public.

The Capitol Times’ attorney, Dan Barr, argued Monday afternoon that Murphy’s status as an elected official, as well as comments the Peoria Republican has made regarding Child Protective Services, warranted opening the hearings to the public.

CPS has conducted its own investigation of Murphy since this summer, when Peoria police investigated allegations the senator sexually abused foster children in his care, which he has denied.

Peoria police ceased their investigation in July, citing a lack of witnesses and evidence.

Murphy lashed out at the agency in July after CPS workers removed his children from his home, claiming that its accusations and continued investigation were perhaps retaliation for his criticism of CPS as a lawmaker.

The hearings will help determine if CPS must return Murphy’s children to him.

Harrison also denied an alternative request for a transcript of the hearings, redacted to protect the identities of Murphy’s adopted and foster children.

In explaining her decision to keep the hearing closed to the public, Harrison expressed concern with a Dec. 19 Capitol Times story, which reported the judge’s decision that afternoon to close the case.

An attorney representing Murphy’s children made a motion to close the case on Dec. 19, arguing the proceedings would be an unnecessary embarrassment to the senator’s young family members.

Attorneys for Murphy and CPS had no objection to the motion, which Harrison granted at the Dec. 19 hearing and remains in effect for subsequent hearings.

Harrison said she was disappointed the story identified Murphy and herself, as well as where certain parties were sitting in the courtroom – information gathered prior to the hearing date and before the courtroom was closed.

 

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