Judge John M. Murtagh

Sunday, June 07, 1959

Chief Magistrate John Murtagh is congratulated by Judge Samuel Leibowitz as Brooklyn D.A. Edward Silver looks on, March 8, 1954. (Nick Sorrentino/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)

This episode is from the WNYC archives. It may contain language which is no longer politically or socially appropriate.

Jay Nelson Tuck moderates.

Guest is Judge John M. Murtagh, who discusses the drug problem and prostitution.

Panelists include Stan Siegel, Barbara Benmolche, Lillian Affan.


Judge Murtagh discusses current laws (based on the Harrison Narcotic Act) which restrict a doctor's ability to treat drug addicts. He speaks in general about the drug trade and the role of "pushers." He believes that the money must be pulled out of the drug trade by providing hospitals and clinics for addicts.

Murtagh speaks specifically about current laws and a leading official, whose policies he disagrees with.

Currently, there are only two treatment hospitals in the United States, and these are inadequate, as the in patient stay is only thirty days. It provides a time to withdrawal, and though they offer psychological services few patients use these services. Murtagh believes the roots of addiction need further probing to discover the underlying causes.

Asked about the addictive nature of marijuana, Murtagh points out that this drug does not have the physical addiction seen in other drugs, such as heroin, and even tobacco. The problem he sees is the potential that a marijuana addict may go on to use heroin. Though he does not view this relationship is a hard and fast rule.

The drug "king pins" are difficult to catch and convict. He also thinks it is more important to get at the main problem - addiction, not dealers. Specifically mention Lucky Luciano, and the Mafia.

They move on to questions of prostitution. While Murtagh is morally opposed to prostitution, he does not believe that arresting the "misguided girls" is the best method. He feels better therapeutic skills would solve more problems than arrest.

Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection

WNYC archives id: 72097
Municipal archives id: LT8424


Lillian Affan, Barbara Benmolche, John M. Murtagh, Stan Siegel and Jay Nelson Tuck


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This is not your run-of-the-mill 'student conference.'

"For the answers to these and other questions..." Each Campus Press Conference (1951-1962) begins with a slew of questions from the student editors of New York City college newspapers, delivered with the controlled seriousness of a teenager on the radio for the first time. Despite their endearing greenness, the student editors pose sharp inquiries to guests from the fields of science, finance, culture, and politics. 

With the country on the cusp of radical cultural and political change, these recordings offer insight to student empowerment movements, flower power, and hippie culture – a time when the youth of America began to realize their tremendous impact and ability to shape their futures. The passion and curiosity of young people is heard through interviews with elected and appointed officials and experts.

Notable guests include Jackie Robinson, Joseph Papp, Averill Harriman, and Senator Jacob Javits.


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