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A retired Coast Guard captain, Murray ‘steadying the ship’ as appointed D.A.

Andrew Murray Andrew Murray

Along with every other U.S. attorney in America, Andrew Murray complied with the request from the new administration in January to resign from his job.

Effective Feb. 28, he became Citizen Murray for the first time since he donned a Coast Guard uniform 41 years ago.

“It was the first time in my life since I was 12 years old without a job,” he said. “I was doing some honey-do list on my house, fixing it up. We took two vacations during that time.”
He was scheduling interviews for a new job when he got a phone call that would make the job hunt academic.
“Gov. Cooper called me and asked me if I was willing to take an emergency appointment,” he said. Days earlier, Superior Court Judge Robert Ervin had removed Judicial District 29B’s elected prosecutor, Greg Newman, after a hearing into misconduct in office and two disciplinary actions by the state Bar.
As top prosecutor in the largest local district in North Carolina and then for all of Western North Carolina as U.S. attorney, Murray has plenty of experience putting offenders away, from major drug traffickers to white-collar criminals.
But asked whether he felt like he was handed a cleanup job in the judicial district made up of Henderson, Polk and Transylvania counties, he defends the operation he inherited and the assistant D.A.s who handle the crush of cases.
“I think I have great personnel,” he said. “I think there’s great relationships with our personnel with all of our external stakeholders — that is, law enforcement, probation, the judges and the clerks of court. That’s a building foundation of having a great, running, functional D.A.’s office.
“Why the governor chose me — hopefully it’s because I’ve built a reputation for getting the job done and doing it with honor and integrity. … This place is running well.”
The hiatus in regular court hearings and jury trials because of the Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated a backlog of cases.
“Here, I have great employees, great partners, but being able to cover only three counties with only nine ADAs I’ve found to be a challenge,” he said, noting that he had received a resignation from an assistant district attorney that week. “There’s a lot of stressors when you start going down a person or two. But it’s great job. I’ve been a public servant my entire life, from the Coast Guard to second D.A. to D.A. and then to U.S. attorney so I am made to be a public servant. I have a passion to do justice for the public. I’m enjoying this job so far, although I’m still swimming upstream.”
He took an unusual path to his career in the law. After joining the Coast Guard out of high school in 1980, he earned an undergraduate degree in political science at UNC Charlotte in 1989 while serving on active duty. After completing officer candidate school, he earned a law degree, in 1992, from the University of North Carolina School of Law.
On active duty, he served aboard Coast Guard helicopters making sea rescues.
“I was the guy on the cable or putting the person down from the cable,” he said. He was promoted to operations commander of a unit based in Charleston, South Carolina, and retired from the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve in 2015 as a captain.

Won’t open Pandora’s box

For the past several years, family members of crime victims have assailed Newman for what they regard as his refusal to prosecute cases or for accepting light sentences in plea bargains. One activist who advocated for Newman’s removal lists more than 20 instances of these aggrieved family members. While he is aware of the complaints, Murray plans no wholesale review of cases Newman resolved.
“I’ve had several phone calls from several individuals that I have told them I would take the time to at least review a case,” he said. “It is not my intention unless there’s some extraordinary change of circumstances to review all cases. Greg Newman was the properly elected district attorney for this district. He got to make discretionary calls along with his staff, so I don’t intend to open up a Pandora’s box in going back.
“There are always individuals that are unhappy with the D.A.’s office,” he added. “That’s the nature of our job. Finding that sweet spot is not easy when you’re D.A. and the sweet spot always has individuals on both sides that are not happy. I’ve always received emails and phone calls on both sides that either it was too much or it wasn’t enough.”

Will he or won’t he?


For now he’s commuting from Charlotte and spending weeknights in a hotel. He and his wife love to hike in the mountains and visit waterfalls and he’s looking forward to finding a home here.
“Right now I haven’t had much time to breathe,” he said.
A popular parlor game around the courthouse these days is whether Murray, a Republican who served as a Trump-appointed U.S. attorney, is on the job here as an interim emergency administrator or as a candidate waiting to happen in next year’s elections.
“That’s the question of the hour,” he said, before hinting that he’s thought of the positive side of running for the job. “All I can tell you is I came up here to do a job, to do the best job, steadying the ship. I think that’s a decision for down the road a bit. I have to assimilate into this community.
“I love Hendersonville, I love Transylvania, I love Polk. I’m an outside person, love mountains, so this is a place that I fit in well and quite frankly I fit in well with my politics.”