Judge John Murphy and veteran public defender Andrew Weinstock exchanged words in a Brevard County courtroom after the judge tried to pressure the attorney to ask his client to waive his right to a speedy trial.
“You know, if I had a rock I would throw it at you right now,” Murphy told the attorney. “Stop pissing me off. Just sit down.”
The argument was captured on closed-circuit video.
“You know, I’m the public defender,” Weinstock said. “I have a right to be here, and I have a right to stand and represent my client.”
The judge then challenged the attorney to go into a back hallway, where there were no cameras, to fight.
“If you want to fight, let’s go out back, and I’ll just beat your ass,” Murphy said, and the two men left the courtroom.
Although the pair could not be seen on camera, the courtroom monitoring system captured audio of them scuffling, accompanied by several loud thuds.
Courtroom observers sat uncomfortably or exchanged incredulous looks during the altercation.
They clapped when the fight sounded as if it had ended.
Weinstock’s supervisor said the two men did not exchange additional words in the hallway, but he said the judge threw several punches at the defense attorney.
“The attorney said that immediately upon entering the hallway he was grabbed by the collar and began to be struck,” said Blaise Trettis, public defender of the 18th Judicial Court. “There was no discussion, no talk, not even time for anything. Just as soon as they’re in the hallway, the attorney was grabbed.”
Two deputies broke up the fight, and the attorney was reassigned to another area to keep him from interacting with Murphy.
The judge returned to court after the fight and continued ruling over first appearances.
“I will catch my breath eventually,” Murphy said. “Man, I’m an old man.”
The judge was not arrested or charged, but the public defender’s office said the incident would be reported to the Florida Bar.
Watch courtroom video of the incident posted online by WFTV-TV:
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