Crime & Courts

Perjury charge for retired Homer judge signals a victory for grand jury activists in Alaska

A former Homer judge has been indicted on a felony charge of perjury.

While many elements are still unknown, the case against Margaret Murphy could signal that an activist group has successfully influenced the way Alaska’s grand jury system works — putting discretion of which allegations are investigated and the power of criminal prosecution in new hands.

The indictment itself, filed on April 28, contains almost no information, saying only that Murphy perjured herself on or around Nov. 3, 2022, in Kenai. The document offers no details as to what the former judge is accused of lying under oath about.

But the list of witnesses examined by the grand jury suggests the allegation is related to a long-running saga between a Kenai man, David Haeg, and Alaska’s judicial system as a whole. For nearly two decades, Haeg has publicly accused judges, including Murphy, of corruption.

Reached by phone Thursday, Haeg, who was in the midst of running heavy equipment to crush rock, said he believed “beyond doubt” that the charge against Murphy is related to his case.

“There would not be a grand jury investigating those events besides that,” he said.

Murphy was a magistrate judge in Aniak and McGrath district courts before serving as a district court judge in Homer until 2019, when she retired. She could not be reached Thursday.


Many aspects of the case are atypical: The indictment is signed not by a state prosecutor but by Clint Campion, an Anchorage attorney. Campion was a longtime prosecutor and served as Anchorage district attorney from 2015 to 2017 before going into private practice. It’s rare but not unheard of for the Alaska Department of Law to hire private attorneys as independent prosecutors in cases that present special conflicts. For example, in the criminal case filed against Alaska’s former acting attorney general, Ed Sniffen, the department hired Gregg Olson as an independent prosecutor. That case was dismissed this spring.

The Department of Law retained Campion “to serve as outside counsel and handle proceedings related to a confidential matter,” department spokesperson Patty Sullivan said in an email. “The decision to hire outside counsel was made to avoid any potential conflicts of interest that might arise from the Department of Law’s handling of the matter.” The department didn’t immediately make available Campion’s contract or a letter describing the scope of work he is being retained for.

[State agency serving vulnerable Alaskans declines to take new cases amid staffing crisis]

Haeg was originally convicted of unlawful hunting in 2004. Part of his sentence included forfeiting an airplane he used for a guiding business.

The case started a long legal odyssey that included appeals and a petition for post-conviction relief, as well as a 2018 incident in which Haeg was tased by troopers at a status hearing. In 2021, the Alaska Court of Appeals sided against Haeg, upholding his conviction. “Haeg also makes numerous assertions of widespread judicial corruption,” the opinion says. “But virtually all of these assertions are based on judicial rulings with which Haeg disagrees.”

Haeg has for years alleged broad corruption within Alaska’s judicial system, outlining his grievances on a website, Alaska State of Corruption. In recent years, he has focused on trying to get Alaska grand juries to directly investigate judges and district attorneys.

Grand juries are made up of citizens who typically listen to prosecutors present potential evidence for criminal charges, and then vote on whether the case should go forward or not. They meet regularly for months at a time, weighing in on dozens of potential cases. The defense doesn’t get to participate or show evidence. Grand juries wield significant power: They can subpoena people, forcing testimony. Indictment by a grand jury means criminal prosecution.

On rare occasions, grand juries have been formed in Alaska to investigate specific issues of public concern. In the 1980s, an investigative grand jury recommended that former Gov. Bill Sheffield be impeached.

But citizens interested in getting a grand jury to investigate an issue or allegation of concern have typically gone through a state prosecutor. Haeg and his supporters say that’s a problem, and that citizens should be able to directly, without mediation from the court system or state Department of Law, put topics on a grand jury agenda.

Last year, the Alaska Court System received three requests from citizens for grand juries to investigate issues, said spokesperson Rebecca Koford. On Dec. 1, the Alaska Supreme Court released new rules, saying ”grand juries are constitutionally authorized to investigate matters of public welfare or safety and to issue reports on the results of such investigation” while confirming the prosecutor’s role in taking the allegation to a grand jury.

Grand juries have a constitutional authority to investigate but “that does not mean that an individual citizen has a right to present anything directly to the grand jury,” the court system’s top attorney, Nancy Meade, said during a Kenai Peninsula Borough committee meeting in March.

The rules also established a process for dealing with complaints that involve the Department of Law, allowing for an outside prosecutor — like Campion — to be appointed if necessary.

Haeg, meanwhile, mobilized his supporters to stage protests at the Kenai Courthouse, waving signs with slogans like “Let the Grand Jury Investigate” and “Grand Juries Have the Power.”

Frustrated by the Supreme Court’s rules, they tried new ways of talking directly to grand jurors.

“We said OK, we’re gonna start protests in front of the courthouse. We’re gonna start asking people going into the courthouse, are you a grand juror?” Haeg said. “They say yeah, we’re gonna say, ‘Hey, I want you to investigate.’”

Two people connected to the Alaska Court System said protesters had even entered the courthouse to try to physically get into the jury room itself. Others reported grand jurors finding flyers on their parked vehicles from Haeg’s supporters.

Haeg contends he believes his tactics ultimately worked, though grand jury proceedings are secret.


“Five or six grand juries in a row on the shelf started investigating what we wanted to get them to investigate,” he said.

Haeg says state Rep. Ben Carpenter, a Republican from Nikiski, with support from Gov. Mike Dunleavy “agreed to convene a special grand jury” that would investigate Haeg’s claims itself.

Carpenter wrote an op-ed for the conservative website Must Read Alaska in 2022 supporting Haeg’s cause.

“Judges and lawyers must not control grand jury investigations for obvious reasons,” he wrote. Carpenter did not respond to a request for comment Friday.

Gov. Dunleavy “had absolutely no involvement in the Grand Jury investigating Mr. Haeg’s claims,” his spokesman Jeff Turner wrote in an email.

What transpired last summer and fall within the grand jury convened in Kenai isn’t public — such proceedings are secret. Haeg says he himself doesn’t know what was discussed.

Haeg says he isn’t happy about the Supreme Court rule, which he believes limits the access of citizens to grand juries.

But he sees the charge against Murphy as “vindication.”


“Maybe it was worth 19 years of my life,” he said. “For justice.”

How the case will proceed, and whether it will inspire other citizen-initiated grand jury investigations, remains to be seen.

Murphy is set to make an initial court appearance Tuesday.

Michelle Theriault Boots

Michelle Theriault Boots is a longtime reporter for the Anchorage Daily News. She focuses on in-depth stories about the intersection of public policy and Alaskans' lives. Before joining the ADN in 2012, she worked at daily newspapers up and down the West Coast and earned a master's degree from the University of Oregon.