LAS CRUCES — A special prosecutor from Clovis handling a bribery case against a former Las Cruces-based state judge recently was reappointed by newly installed Doña Ana County District Attorney Mark D'Antonio.

Also, a spring trial date has been set for Murphy.

There had been some question whether D'Antonio, who took office Jan. 1, would retain special prosecutor Matt Chandler. But D'Antonio opted to reappoint Chandler, according to a Jan. 24 letter signed by both men.

Chandler said the document gives him authority to continue in the role.

Chandler has been assigned the case since even before charges were first filed against Murphy in May 2011. Chandler's appointment was explained at the time as an attempt to avoid a conflict of interest with Doña Ana County prosecutors, who were still appearing in the courtroom in front of Murphy.

In an interview this week, former District Attorney Amy Orlando noted that Chandler has had the case from the beginning, and his recent reappointment keeps continuity.

"It's important that case keep moving forward," she said. "I'm glad Mr. D'Antonio saw it the same way I did — that there's evidence of criminal behavior and he's going to allow Matt Chandler to continue as special prosecutor."

Orlando held the county's top prosecutorial post when the case against Murphy was first filed.


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But the seat switched hands after Orlando, a Republican, lost to D'Antonio, the Democratic challenger, in last November's general election.

D'Antonio had discretion about whether to reappoint Chandler, name someone else or possibly even take back the case, as it inches closer to trial in front of acting State Judge Leslie Smith. D'Antonio couldn't be reached for comment.

Murphy's attorney, Michael Stout of Las Cruces, declined to comment on Wednesday.

Murphy has pleaded "not guilty" to four felony charges in connection with allegations he sought a bribe from an attorney who was considering a bid for a vacant judgeship. A fifth charge relates to Murphy allegedly offering a bribe to state Judge Lisa Schultz, in an attempt to sway her vote for the judicial district's chief judge. A misdemeanor count against Murphy was dismissed.

Murphy's trial is set to start May 16, according to the state courts website.

Murphy stepped down from the 3rd Judicial District judgeship in February 2012. That was in lieu of facing disciplinary proceedings from the state Judicial Standards Commission.

Diana Alba Soular can be reached at (575) 541-5443; follow her on Twitter @AlbaSoular

On the Web: New Mexico Courts: nmcourts.gov