TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Jack Roland Murphy, the famed jewel thief and surfer known as "Murph the Surf," has spent the last quarter-century going into prisons and telling inmates that they could still turn their lives around.
Murphy, now 75 and living in Crystal River, said he thought it was time he tried to get his own bit of redemption. He asked the state of Florida to restore his civil rights despite the fact he spent nearly 20 years in prison for murder.
"I'd like to be able to go to these guys I talk with and say 'Listen I just came back from the governor's office and received favor' because I have been working with the system and trying to do the right thing," Murphy told Gov. Rick Scott and members of the Florida Cabinet on Thursday.
The answer: No.
Scott was willing to restore Murphy's rights, but not the other three Cabinet members, including Attorney General Pam Bondi. Under Florida law the governor cannot grant clemency without the yes votes of two additional Cabinet members.
Bondi told Murphy he was fortunate just to have avoided execution for his role in the slayings of two women.
"Under today's death penalty scheme I firmly believe he would be on Death Row or executed by this time," Bondi told reporters. "His blessing is he is out there walking the street."
Murphy was a national surfing champion, a concert violinist and a tennis pro. But he is probably most famous for a jewel heist.
On the night of Oct. 29, 1964, Murphy and two accomplices broke into New York's American Museum of Natural History and stole the J.P. Morgan Collection including the Eagle diamond, the Midnight sapphire, the DeLong ruby and the world's biggest sapphire, the Star of India, a 563-carat gem about the size of a racquetball.
Within 48 hours, Murphy and his cohorts were in police custody thanks in part to a bellhop at the Cambridge Hotel, where the three had been planning the break-in and throwing lavish, all-night parties for weeks. The jewels were recovered from a locker at a Miami bus station, except for nine diamonds that had already been fenced.