Thomas Francis Murphy

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Thomas Francis Murphy (December 3, 1905 – October 26, 1995), often referred to as "Thomas F. Murphy" or simply "Thomas Murphy," was a federal prosecutor and judge in New York City.


Murphy was born in Manhattan, where he attended Regis High School. His grandfather was a police officer and his father chief clerk of the city's Department of Water Supply, Gas and Electricity. He earned a B.A. from Georgetown University in 1927 and graduated from Fordham Law School in 1930.[1] He was an attorney in private practice until 1942.


Federal prosecution (Hiss Case)[edit]

From 1942 to 1950, Murphy served as an Assistant United States Attorney in Manhattan. He became head of its criminal division in 1944 and in 1949-50 served as prosecutor in the two perjury trials of Alger Hiss, winning a conviction in the second after the first ended in a hung jury.[1]

New York City police[edit]

Murphy served briefly as New York City Police Commissioner from September 1950 to June 1951. At the time of his appointment, the New York Times described him as "a reader of Proust as a change from law books"[2] and said that members of all political parties greeted his appointment with such unaninimity as to suggest that he was "certain of continued tenure if he does the job expected of him".[3] After he resigned to become a federal judge, New York City Mayor Vincent Impellitteri said Murphy had laid the groundwork for ridding the department of corruption: "He had restored the self respect of police officers who had suffered through the greed of their corrupt comrades."[4]

Federal judicial service[edit]

In June 1951, President Harry S. Truman nominated Murphy to serve as a District Judge of the District Court for the Southern District of New York, succeeding Harold Medina, whom Truman named to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.[5] Murphy was confirmed by the United States Senate on June 29, 1951, and received his commission on July 2, 1951.

He presided at a jury trial that determined that the Swedish sex film I Am Curious (Yellow) was obscene. He called it "repulsive and revolting" and ordered it confiscated, but was later overruled by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.[6]

He also presided at the 1958 wiretapping trial of James R. Hoffa, the president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.[7]

He moved to Connecticut in 1968. Serving in federal district court there, he presided at the trial of Vladimir Sokolov, a former Yale University instructor, who was accused of lying about his activities as a Nazi propagandist during World War II both when immigrated and when seeking U.S. citizenship.[8]

Murphy served as an active judge until 1970, when he took senior status.

Personal and death[edit]

Murphy was described at the time as "a lifelong Democrat".[3]

His younger brother, Johnny Murphy, had a long career in professional baseball as a pitcher with the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox and as general manager of the New York Mets.[1]

He died in a nursing home in Salisbury, Connecticut, on October 26, 1995.[1]

See also[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Van Gelder, Lawrence (October 31, 1995). "Thomas Murphy, Police Head And Prosecutor of Hiss, 89". New York Times. Retrieved February 17, 2015. 
  2. ^ "Murphy Won Fame as Hiss Prosecutor". New York Times. September 26, 1950. Retrieved February 17, 2015. 
  3. ^ a b Conklin, W.R. (October 8, 1950). "Clean-Up Man". New York Times. Retrieved February 17, 2015. 
  4. ^ "Impellitteri's Televised Keynote on Record as Mayor". New York Times. Retrieved February 17, 2015. 
  5. ^ Mosow, Warren (June 12, 1951). "Truman Promotes Medina; Murphy Named a U.S. Judge, Will Quit as Police Head". New York Times. Retrieved February 17, 2015. 
  6. ^ Ranzal, Edward (November 27, 1968). "U.S. Court Clears Swedish Sex Film". New York Times. Retrieved February 17, 2015. 
  7. ^ "Hoffa and 2 Others Freed in Second Wiretap Trial". New York Times. June 24, 1958. Retrieved February 17, 2015. 
  8. ^ McFadden, Robert D. (June 3, 1986). "Federal Judge Rules Ex-Lecturer at Yale Hid his Ties to Nazis". New York Times. Retrieved February 17, 2015. 
Police appointments
Preceded by
William P. O'Brien
NYPD Commissioner
Succeeded by
George P. Monaghan
Legal offices
Preceded by
Harold Medina
Judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York
Succeeded by
Murray Gurfein