Todd H. Murray of Helena-West Helena has filed to be the next Prosecuting Attorney for the 1st Judicial District, which represents six counties in eastern Arkansas: Cross, Lee, Monroe, Phillips, St. Francis, and Woodruff. The election is May 22 for the nonpartisan position. Early voting begins May 7.
Murray has 27 years’ experience as a prosecutor. He was first appointed deputy prosecutor attorney (DPA) for Phillips County in 1991. Since then, he has served continuously under three different prosecutors, and as city attorney for Marvell and West Helena. He is the Senior DPA for the district, and recently closed his private law practice, Murray Law Firm, to devote himself full-time to the position.
Murray has tried hundreds of criminal trials, including numerous jury trials involving murder, and cases of rape, child abuse, robbery, burglary, theft, drugs and other serious and high-profile crimes. Currently, Phillips County has 182 inmates in the ADC, the most for any county in the district.
“It’s a very important job that affects our communities and the lives of so many people,” said Woodruff County DPA John Bell. “I’ve seen just how hard Todd works to keep violent and repeat offenders off the streets and to obtain justice for the community and for everyone who has been victimized by criminals. I have no doubt he will put his heart and soul into this.”
Being a prosecutor tests your legal skills, and your organizational skills, but more than anything, you have to possess strength of character and a capacity for fairness,” said Monroe County DPA Baxter Sharp. “In my twenty years of doing this, I’ve not met anyone who has had these qualities in greater quantity than Todd Murray.”
So far this year, Murray has obtained convictions in two major jury trials. Both victims were minors. In a murder case, a 15-year-old was shot by a gang of four men on Easter Day. Eleven children and two adults were inside the home. In the other case, a 67-year-old preacher sexually assaulted a youth member of his church. "There is no greater betrayal of our trust and faith than when a church leader preys on a child entrusted to his guidance and care,” Murray added.
When asked about other challenges of the office, Murray said, “Some areas of the state have more prosecutors, more staff, bigger budgets. Aside from myself, we have only part-time DPAs and a heavy caseload. But that does not deter me. If elected, I will bring energy and innovation to our work in prosecuting criminals.”
Among the innovations Murray pioneered as DPA was the acquisition of a grant to add a full-time investigator to his staff. He also convinced state legislators in 2017 to pass a new law to clarify the role of counties in funding the prosecutors’ expenses and support staff. Murray said, “Public safety is of paramount importance. People deserve to live in a safe place. Businesses want to locate in a safe place. This law makes sure our prosecutors have the minimum resources they need. My hat is off to the Representatives, Senators, and the Governor for helping us make that happen.”
Murray concluded by saying that he wanted to continue his good working relationship with the courts and law enforcement officials. “I work closely with law enforcement. I look forward to working in all six counties. I want to work hard with them to make our communities safer.”
Murray, 52, was raised in West Helena and returned after law school to practice with his father, Ralph Murray. He and his wife of 24 years have two sons in college. He is a past president of the Phillips County Bar and a member of the Arkansas Bar and Prosecuting Attorneys Associations.