Don Murray

 

EDUCATION

I went to Williams College where I majored in History.  After Williams, I went to the University of Florida College of Law (now named the Levin College of Law).  I graduated from law school with honors.


LEGAL EXPERIENCE

During law school, I had a clerkship working for an amazing criminal defense lawyer named Bill DeCarlis.  Bill is a criminal defense lawyer of some considerable reputation in the Southeast, and working with Bill changed my life.  To me at the time, Bill seemed like a super hero, and for good reason.  He is a former Aerospace engineer who worked on the Apollo program before going to law school.  He flew his own airplane.  He collects Corvettes.  

Bill was amazing to clerk for because he made sure to immerse his clerks in the actual practice.  When Bill went to Court, I went to Court.  When Bill talked to clients, I was in the room.  I had the privilege of shadowing one of the finest criminal defense lawyers in the nation.  I met some of the most amazing criminal defense lawyers, including legendary Bobby Lee Cook on a case we did in Atlanta.  

Working for Bill set me on fire.  From the moment I started working for him, law school became suddenly so much more interesting to me.  Despite working almost full time for Bill, my grades skyrocketed.  I started making straight A's.  It was amazing.  I lived and breathed criminal defense, but everything about law school became intensely interesting to me, including classes that had nothing to do with criminal law.   It was one of the most exciting times of my life.

After law school, I parlayed my experience working with Bill to land a job as a trial lawyer for the Legal Aid Society, Criminal Defense Division, in New York City, where I took on a substantial caseload of criminal cases.  There I handled all manner of criminal cases and tried quite a few cases.  While at the Legal Aid Society, I was engaged to prepare a chapter on the cross examination of witnesses with criminal convictions for a multi volume series of books for criminal defense lawyers called "Criminal Defense Techniques."

After six years at the Legal Aid Society, in 1996, I formed the law firm Shalley and Murray with my friend and colleague at the Legal Aid Society, James Shalley.  We limit our practice to criminal defense.  At this point, we have grown the business to two locations, including one location in New York City and one location in Westchester County.  Over the years, we have handled all manner of criminal defense cases from the least to the most serious.

We have had some interesting successes, including a successful false confession defense in Westchester, where we successfully defended a person who had been accused of stealing $60,000 worth of lottery tickets from a store where he was the manager.  They had managed to extract a full, written "confession" from him but we were successful nonetheless.  (Confession was extracted after 14 hours of non-stop interrogation and various promises that he could be released if he simply signed a confession.  There was no corroborating evidence.)

LEGAL CONSULTANT TO ENTERTAINMENT industry

Over the years, I have been consulted by a variety of television and movie producers and writers on small points of New York criminal law and procedure for television programs, movies, articles, and novels.  

Most recently, I was engaged to consult more directly on the NBC miniseries "The Slap" to help them understand how an arraignment in New York City would look and sound.  If you haven't seen the show, one of the characters (played by Zachary Quinto) is arrested and must be arraigned.  They invited me to the set to be there to answer questions about things like who would stand where and to make sure that the things people said at the arraignment made sense.  As it turned out, I was able to catch a mistake in terminology that nobody but a criminal defense lawyer or prosecutor would have caught but it was fun to hear the corrected term in the show and know that it was a result of my influence.  

At the end of the day's shooting, they surprised me by asking me to be in a scene (in the background).  I actually made it into the show for about six seconds, in a hallway scene where the real actor Peter Sarsgaard walks by me on the way to the courtroom while I pretended to have a conversation with an actor playing my client.  This was all quite a fun, exciting, and fascinating experience.

LEGAL INTERESTS

I enjoy legal research and writing.  I recently accepted a case for a substantially reduced fee primarily because I thought the search and seizure issues were so compelling.  We ended up doing a suppression hearing, and I wrote a 40 page memorandum in support of my arguments.  The judge granted the suppression, the case was ultimately dismissed, and my client was spared a substantial minimum sentence as a result.  Of course, winning suppression of significant evidence at suppression hearings is among the rarest of all achievements for any criminal defense lawyer.  I felt a bit like Luke Skywalker blowing up the Death Star.  But part of the allure of being a criminal defense lawyer is taking on a case against all the odds.  

PERSONAL

I am a bit of a geek.  I taught myself computer programming from a book I borrowed from the library because my family couldn't afford a computer when home computers were new and expensive in the early 1980's. Since then I learned a variety of computer programming languages (on an actual computer).  

I own and throw boomerangs.  Yes, they do return if you throw them right (and it isn't too windy).

I am a tournament level Scrabble player, and former Scrabble champion of Gainesville, Florida.

I play the mandolin, the guitar, and a little Irish tin whistle.

After reading Moonwalking with Einstein, I taught myself some memorizing techniques and learned how to memorize a deck of cards in short order.  My best time for memorizing a deck of cards was just under ten minutes.  Nothing the pros couldn't do easily, but not bad for a dabbler like me.