Rensselaer County Judge Patrick McGrath is leaving the bench after 37 years

TROY — “Treat everyone equally. Don’t become a second prosecutor– some judges are accused of being a second prosecutor. You go by the rules and you treat everyone the same way and do your preparation. Like I said, 90 percent preparation, 10 percent ability,” said Judge Patrick McGrath, as he took a break from packing up his chambers.

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Judge McGrath is a familiar face in Rensselaer County courtrooms.

He presided over 137 felony trials.

He did the first double jury murder trial in the county: the Stewart’s homicide.

“And then in 1996 we had two defendants with cross-implicating confessions, so instead of doing two trials separately, I did one trial and two juries. And that was the first time that had ever been done in Rensselaer County, so I’m kind of proud of that,” he said. “There were convictions, it got appealed and they were affirmed.”

He had the trial of Christine Wilhelm, who drowned one young son in the bathtub and tried to kill the other in 2002. The case made national news.

He remembers infamous serial killer and thief Gary Evans, whose last dramatic escape attempt in Troy ended in death.

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“And then two days after I arraigned him, he fell to his death off the Menands Bridge,” he said. “I couldn’t believe it. I had a lot of work. I was getting ready for a trial. It was a capital case with three counts of murder and Gary Evans was a notorious criminal and two days later he was gone.”

He’s proud of having the first felony upstate drug court.

He’s been a big supporter of having an open courtroom.

He says there are four basic rules for any judge, besides being decisive.

“There are two sides to every story, no matter how compelling the first story may sound. There’s no substitute for hard work. Treat people the way you want to be treated. And never get impressed with yourself, because you’ll probably be the only person who is.”

McGrath has seen a lot. His friends say he should write a book.
Now, saying goodbye to the courtroom, he contemplates his next chapter.

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“I would say to the people: I thank you for letting me serve as your judge, whether it was troy police court judge, county court judge, supreme court judge, I appreciate the confidence you put in me and I hope that I lived up to your expectation because I worked hard to do the best job I could,” he said. “No one is perfect, but you do the best job you can.”