Cops Behaving Badly: The Death of Stanley Beebe, Part 2

inquiry pushedThe alleged beating death of Stanley Beebe while he was in custody resulted in more than just a public relations crisis for the LAPD. Citizens were outraged and leery of their police department, especially when other cases of alleged police brutality began to surface.

Mayor Bowron and the City Council joined the District Attorney in demanding a full investigation. None of the politicos wanted to be perceived as soft on police brutality. Besides, any heat brought to bear on the power structure of the city might reveal pay-offs and other nefarious goings-on and that just wouldn’t do.

The Mayor issued a statement in which he said that a full investigation would be made, and the Council adopted a resolution asking the Board of Police Commissioners to investigate and supply additional information involving the possible beating of a blind man by LAPD officers.investigation

Another man, Mr. James M. Palmer, 63, a janitor at the Philharmonic Auditorium Building came forward and charged that two police radio officers beat him over the head with a blackjack and kicked him after they had arrested him on a charge of intoxication.  The records showed that Palmer was booked by Officers Francis B. Doyle and Edward L. Burnett early on the morning of January 4, 1943. Doyle and Burnett told one of the D.A.’s investigators, B.G. Haworth, that they’d gotten an anonymous call, shortly after 1 a.m., informing them that a man was lying on the sidewalk near 433 S. Olive Street and when they arrived at the scene they had  found Palmer in a drunken stupor.

Palmer denied that he’d been drinking. In fact his story was substantively different from that of the two cops. Palmer claimed that he’d gone to a drugstore about midnight to get some medicine when he was seized and beaten by two police officers at Fifth and Hill Streets. He was thrown into a black and white patrol car and driven around for a while as the two officers took turns choking and kicking him.

Officers Doyle and Burnett suddenly came down with amnesia–they said they had no recollection of an incident like the one described by Palmer. The investigation was tough going–eight policemen and two jail trusties who had worked the fingerprint room on the night of Stanley Beebe’s incarceration in Central Jail were interviewed.  Initially Sergeant Rudolph C. Kucera, made a report to Captain James E. Irwin in which he stated that when he saw Stanley Beebe he looked like he had been beaten–yet when the D.A.’s investigators came around none of them recalled any complaints or beatings. Amnesia was apparently endemic among certain officers in the LAPD.

Assistant D.A. Clyde Shoemaker, who had initiated the investigation into Palmer’s charges said he was puzzled by the discrepancies in the statements and he let it be known that he’d like to speak with any witnesses.

“If anyone was in the vicinity of Fifth and Hill Streets that morning and saw any disturbance, I would like to have them tell me about it.  We are going to continue this investigation until we have arrived at the truth as to what happened.”

Councilman G. Vernon Bennett introduced a resolution at a council meeting:

“Moved that the Board of Police Commissioners be requested to make a thorough investigation of alleged police brutality in the Beebe affair and in the alleged mistreatment of Clark Stamper, a blind worker from the Industrial Workshop for the Blind, apprehended at Seventh and Hill Streets at 11:30 p.m. on his way from work: also in the alleged police beating of James M. Palmer, a watchman 63 years of age.”

Councilman Edward L. Thrasher stated that some older police officers had told him that new vice-squad policemen were running rough-shod over vice suspects booked at the Lincoln Heights Jail:

“The picture as presented to me is that these overzealous young men beat and strike these prisoners, being careful to hit them in the stomach or other places where the blows will not leave marks.”

Mayor Bowron weighed in on the allegations of brutality:

“The matter of alleged police brutality is causing me much serious concern.  I do not countenance this thing any more than any good citizen of Los Angeles.  There has been an unfortunate death under circumstances that make it appear a crime has been committed.  That the deceased came to his death as the result of a violent blow there can be no doubt.  The question is how was the blow inflicted and by whom.

“The investigation now under way will be thorough and complete.  There will be no covering up, there will be no buck passing.  Whoever is guilty will be brought to justice but there will be no scapegoat.”

photog kickedOne of the officers called to the D.A.’s office to make a statement was John M. Yates.  He had been on duty at the booking desk the night Stanley Beebe had been brought in. Officer Yates failed to grasp the importance of being on your best behavior during an investigation into police brutality.  When newspaper photographer Edward Phillips snapped a photo of him the enraged officer kicked the photographer in the balls.

investigationYates offered a creative explanation for the kicking incident.  He said that he’d already been semi-blinded by one photographer’s flash bulb, so when Phillips set off another in his face he started to fall backward. As he struggled to regain his balance his foot flew upward and somehow Phillips fell testicles first onto the upraised foot.

Within four hours of the incident Yates was suspended and ordered to face a trail before a police board of rights.

The investigation of police brutality had turned into a cluster fuck. Officials from Mayor Bowron’s office and from the LAPD were tripping over each other, but whether it was to do the right thing or obfuscate wasn’t entirely clear. Finally D.A. Dockweiler couldn’t take it anymore and ousted all police and city officials who had been involved in the inquiry and announced that his staff alone would undertake the investigation. Dockweiler called it “bad psychology” to expect accurate information from jail trusties, policemen and citizens called as witnesses when they would have to testify in the presence of high ranking police officials.

It’s no wonder some of the witnesses were reluctant to speak. Deputy City Attorney Everett Leighton’s wife picked up their home phone and a man speaking in a gruff voice said:

“If you want that big-mouthed husband of yours to stay alive, tell him to keep his mouth shut.”

Earlier that day Leighton had spoken with Deputy District Attorney Robert Wheeler, the man in charge of the investigation, and told him that when Stanley Beebe had appeared in court at City Jail on the morning after his arrest on intoxication charges he:

“…looked like he had been through a meat grinder. His face was red and puffy.  His eyes were swollen so that he seemed to have difficulty in seeing, but they were not discolored.”

Leighton’s statement corroborated that of Mrs. Martha Hamilton, court reporter, who had been on the job the day of Beebe’s court appearance.

None of the D.A’s investigators had been able to break down the cops they interviewed. Without exception police witnesses stated that Beebe showed no indications of any injuries at any time.

In his deathbed statement Stanley Beebe was unable to name his attacker but described him to his wife as a “tall blonde man”. Without a break in the case it was likely that at least one bad cop, maybe more, would get away with murder.

NEXT TIME:  The investigation continues.

Film Noir Friday: T-Men [1948]

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Welcome! The lobby of the Deranged L.A. Crimes theater is open. Grab a bucket of popcorn, some Milk Duds and a Coke and find a seat.

Tonight’s feature is T-MEN [1948] directed by Anthony Mann and starring Dennis O’Keefe, Mary Meade, Alfred Ryder, Wally Ford, June Lockhart and Charles McGraw.

TCM says:

In Los Angeles, an informant who has promised to turn over a sample of the paper being used by a counterfeiting ring to a U.S. Treasury agent is killed. Later, in Washington, Treasury Department chief Carson assigns Dennis O’Brien and Anthony Genaro to infiltrate the gang through connections in Detroit. O’Brien and Genaro assume the names Vannie Harrigan and Tony Galvani, respectively, and create personal background histories to support their new identities. After the Detroit police cooperate by identifying them as robbery suspects, the agents contact with local crime boss Carlo Vantucci, who runs a produce market as a front. Vantucci checks them out and hires them to work in his counterfeit liquor stamps racket, where they soon discover the name of the mob’s Los Angeles connection, The Schemer.

Cops Behaving Badly: The Death of Stanley Beebe, Part 1

beebe death studiedFrom the 1920s through the 1950s political corruption, police pay-offs and rumors of police brutality were part of life in Los Angeles. Countless books (read any of James Ellroy’s novels), newspaper articles and angry editorials have been written on the topic.

There were many instances of malfeasance in the city. From the framing of city councilman Carl Jacobson, a vice crusader, on morals charges by political enemies in 1927, to the “Bloody Christmas” beatings of prisoners by LAPD officers in 1951 the city was up to its eyeballs in excrement.

On December 19, 1943 Mr. Stanley H. Beebe, a 44-year-old certified public accountant with a job in the war industry, was pulled off of a streetcar at First and Hill for public intoxication. He was booked by Sergeant J.E. Martin then transferred to Lincoln Heights Jail. His wife Maxine turned up and paid the $10 fine–Stanley was kicked loose.

Maxine was horrified by Stan’s condition. He had a couple of shiners and a large hourglass-shaped bruise (which looked like a shoe print) on his abdomen. He couldn’t stand up straight and she had to help him into the taxi that took them to their apartment at 1819 N. Kingsley Drive. Stan told Maxine that he had been kicked in the stomach by one of the officers and that he had been vomiting and in excruciating pain ever since.

The day following her husband’s release Maxine phoned the Police Department to make a complaint–she reported what her husband had told her, that he had been beaten severely by officers while in custody. Her complaint went nowhere until Stan died of a ruptured bladder, which had resulted in peritonitis, at General Hospital on December 29th and his widow took her complaint higher up the food chain to the District Attorney and the Coroner.

With the news of Stan’s death, Detective Lieutenant Lloyd Hurst was tasked with investigating Maxine’s complaint. Every officer who admitted to having seen Beebe the night of his arrest stated that the man had not been assaulted while in their custody. LAPD wasn’t going to be solely responsible for the investigation into Beebe’s death, however.  District Attorney John F. Dockweiler assigned Deputy District Attorney Robert G. Wheeler and Investigators Charles Ebbets, Everett Davis and Kenneth Gillie to check out the allegations.

Dockweiler told newspaper reporters:

“Police brutality, if any exists, cannot be condoned in this community.  I have ordered a thorough investigation into the death of Mr. Beebe to determine the truth of his charges that he was fatally injured by police officers while under arrest.”

The 1943 grand jury would review the case as soon as it was impaneled.

D.A. Dockweiler pressed Chief of Police Horrall for his department’s cooperation in the investigation of Beebe’s death. Horrall (who would be involved in a vice/corruption scandal just a few years later) pledged LAPD’s full cooperation.

LAPD Chief C.B. Horrall inspecting Detective Division c. 1947.  [Photo courtesy UCLA Digital Collection.]

LAPD Chief C.B. Horrall inspecting Detective Division c. 1947. [Photo courtesy UCLA Digital Collection.]

Coroner Nance weighed in with his findings in Beebe’s autopsy. He stated that Stan had died of peritonitis  the result of a ruptured gall bladder.  To head off any attempts to blame the deceased’s death on a diseased gall bladder, Nance made it crystal clear that the organ had been healthy until it was damaged by an external blow–and there were plenty of bruises to prove his assertion.

Nance said:

“I intend to find out who kicked or struck this man in the abdomen.  The police and District Attorney have promised me full cooperation and I have deferred the inquest until

I have their complete list of witnesses.”

He continued:

“Whatever happens, I will not close this case until I am satisfied that every bit of available evidence has been made available at the inquest.”

The  D.A.’s investigators questioned more than 60 men who had shared the drunk tank with Stan on the night of his incarceration. Jail trustees were also grilled.

Otto Schalinske, the Central Jail turnkey, was summoned to Wheeler’s office for questioning but he didn’t go alone, he was accompanied by Chief Horrall and Vernon Rasmussen, chief of the police homicide detail. There was no way the conversation among the men could be kept secret and portions of their meeting was printed in theL.A. Times:

Wheeler spoke with Schalinske:

“Were you the officer who removed Beebe from the chair in the lieutenant’s office after he had telephoned his wife?”

“I am,” Schalinske answered.  “I removed him gently and did not harm him.”

“Did you hit Beebe in the jaw when he remonstrated against being confined in the jail, and when his chair overtunred kick him in the abdomen?”

“No,” Schalinske replied.  “I just took him to the tank.”

Wheeler was quick to point out that question the officers didn’t mean that they were guilty of anything–he was simply seeking the truth.

Wheeler admitted that he was troubled by the fact that the entire investigation was “pigeonholed by the police for more than a week after Beebe’s death, despite the pleas of relatives for an active investigation.”

Investigators were also trying to find out what had happened to the $40 that Stan supposedly had in his wallet shortly before his arrest.

One of the policemen questioned, Sergeant R.C. Kucera, had visited Beebe at General Hospital and could bear witness to the number and extent of the man’s injuries which included two discolored eyes, a black and blue mark two inches in diameter on the center of his abdomen, abrasions of the left groin and a black and blue mark the size of a half dollar on his throat.

So far the investigation seemed to substantiate Maxine’s assertion that Stan had been badly beaten by cops; however the most damning piece of evidence was Stan’s death bed statement.  It was reprinted verbatim in the L.A. Times and I’m reprinting it here because I think it is important to hear the incident described by Stan in his own words.

On this Christmas Eve–December 24, 1942–a statement to the best of my memory as what happened the night of the 199th as long as I could remember, recorded by my wife in a question-and-answer form–

Q:When did you get on the Hill St. trolley?
A: About 6:30 to 6:45 at my usual place, Seventh and Hill Sts.  I was feeling kind of sick as the car was crowded and the air was bad, so I stood near the door trying to get some air.
Q: Then what happened?
A: Every street the car stopped I leaned out of the door and got a few gulps of air–some comments were made about blocking the roadway and I answered back–more words were said and then I commented about these people who should be doing things for the country and didn’t.
Q: Then what happened?
A: The conductor asked a darked-haired man of small build to take me off the trolley for making a disturbance.
Q: Who was this dark-haired man?
A: At first I didn’t know but he showed his badge and said he was a sergeant of the police and that I had better come with him to the police station as I was not in apparently good condition.
Q: Did you resist?
A: Oh, no!  I told him this was a free country.  We were fighting for freedom overseas and we should maintain it here.  I certainly want to maintain it here and want to go with him at once.
Q: Then what happened?
A: I went into the police station with him.
Q: Can you describe the station house to me?
A: Oh, yes, you come into the door and on the right side there is a door about 8-10 feet from the entrance.  On the left side there is a long counter–I should say about 25-30 feet long.
Q: Was there anybody around when you came in?
A: Yes, behind the counter there was a man sitting and I believe there was a phone but I can’t remember.
Q: Did this man say anything to you? And can you describe him?
A: He didn’t say much. He made some comments and said something to my escort.
Q: Up to this time did anyone touch you or harm you in any way?
A: No!
Q: Then what happened?
A: I was taken into the room I told you about at first on the right-hand side.  My escort spoke to the man sitting at the desk there.
Q: Please tell me about the room!
A: When you walk in the room is on the right-hand side.  There is a small roll-top desk and a swivel chair.  Next to that is a window.  In the diagonal opposite corner of this desk is a table-top desk with some phones on it.  It was one of these phones I used to call you.  Next to this desk is a door which was closed.  And that’s all that impressed me except that the air was bad and hot and the room very small.
Q: Then what happened?
A: I called you on the phone and told you the circumstances and you spoke to the blond man who was sitting at the desk.
Q: Do you know his name?
A: I was told but it is not a usual name so I didn’t remember.
Q: Do you remember the name of the man who brought you in?
A: I believe it was (censored) or (censored).  The man at the desk began to speak to me in an uncivil tone and in language which doesn’t or didn’t seem necessary or warranted.  He would not let me say anything and said I was to be arrested, fingerprinted and jailed.
Q: What happened then?
A: I told him I had committed not crime, was never arrested and neither were any of my antecedents and that at 44 I wasn’t going to start a record.
Q: Then what happened?
A: At this point (censored) or (censored) came in and the man who was using toughy methods, he took a swing at me and hit me in the side of the jaw.  I was kind of stunned but I (two words undecipherable) going to take a swing at him and missed him and accidently hit (censored) for which I am very sorry.
Q: Then what happened?
A: They wanted to take me back somewhere and I wouldn’t get out of the chair as I said it was my civil right to speak.  At that point the big man took another swing and hit me in the eye.  I was holding on to the chair with both arms and would not let go.  He turned the chair over with me in it and kicked me in the chest twice with his shoe-toe.  Then he and (censored) took me by my arms and hands and started dragging me back to the back of the building through a corridor.  At this point the big man said, “I like to fix up a guy like you.”  As they was dragging me I was trying to get up but I couldn’t and the big man kept kicking me in the side of my stomach.  Finally he became so incensed that he stamped his whole foot on my stomach.  After that I am quite vague.  I do now I received a few more blows, one in the eye.  Not the (undecipherable) one and a kick in the groin.  Also a few more punches inthe face and they did something to my throat but I can’t tell you what, as I was in too much agony.  I know I stood up before another man and they took my fingerprints to, but after that stomach blow I was out on my feet. Finally I was taken somewhere else where there were a lot of men around who also were arrested.  I was in agony and one o f the m en gave me a place to sit.  We must have sat quite a while then we were taken in a van to another place.  I could hardly walk and some of the other poor devils helped me into the van.
Q: Then what happened?
A: When we got to the other place I asked for a doctor and the watcher or guard said he would get one.
Q: When did he come?
A: He never came although I asked for him for separate times.
Q: Then what happened?
A: I could hold no water on my stomach and I had diarrhea.  Gosh, I was so thirsty!
Q: Then what happened?
A: Then, thank God. I saw you in the other room and I knew that soon I could get home home to bed and some care.
Q: Is there anything else you want to say?
A: Yes, darling, please try to do something for someone else so no one person has to go through what we are suffering and let’s not tell mother anything (as we wouldn’t have her Christmas spoiled for anything.) It doesn’t matter for me as I am a goner.
Q: Please, Stan, must you put this in?
A: Absolutely, and be sure and leave it there as I am going to read this statement all through and sign on the very last line to be sure that you haven’t left out the end as that is very essential.
(Signed)
STANLEY H. BEEBE

A parade of police and civilians who were in Central Station during Stan’s alleged beating were questioned. The police officers who were interviewed said that they hadn’t seen or heard a thing that was out of line.

If Stan’s statement was false then he had managed to erode the public’s trust in their police department and, additionally, sullied the reputations of members of the LAPD for no good reason.

But what if Stan had told the truth? If his statement was true then no citizen of Los Angeles could feel safe in the presence of the people who had sworn to protect and serve them.

Newspaper accounts suggested that a Blue Wall of Silence was being constructed–it was going to take committed investigators to discover the truth.

NEXT TIME: The investigation into Stanley Beebe’s death continues.

Film Noir Friday: Murder By Contract [1958]

murderbycontract

Welcome! The lobby of the Deranged L.A. Crimes theater is open. Grab a bucket of popcorn, some Milk Duds and a Coke and find a seat.

Tonight’s feature is MURDER BY CONTRACT [1958] starring Vince Edwards, Phillip Pine and Herschel Bernardi.

TCM says:

When Martin Scorsese dedicated New York, New York to the memory of Irving Lerner (1909-1976), it wasn’t because Scorsese’s somber, fatalistic musical had anything in common with Lerner’s handful of noirs, apart from spiritual darkness. Of Lerner’s small output, the film that Scorsese was most influenced by, and cited frequently, was Murder by Contract(1958). A quickie shot in eight days on a microscopic budget, it’s a potent reminder of how less can be more, centered on Vince Edwards’ loner killer for hire. Cool on the outside, tightly coiled on the inside, Edwards’ Claude, priding himself on having put his emotions on ice, exemplifies a sort of cusp noir, a harbinger of postwar American change.

Enjoy the film!

Film Noir Friday: Illegal [1955]

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Welcome! The lobby of the Deranged L.A. Crimes theater is open. Grab a bucket of popcorn, some Milk Duds and a Coke and find a seat.

Tonight’s feature is ILLEGAL [1955] starring Edward G. Robinson, Nina Foch, Hugh Marlowe and Jayne Mansfield.

TCM says:

In Los Angeles, police arrest Edward Clary for murder, despite his protests that he is innocent. Victor Scott, a highly acclaimed district attorney, prosecutes Clary with evidence gathered by chief investigator Ray Borden and assistant Ellen Miles, who is the daughter of Victor’s deceased mentor. In court, jurors carefully chosen by Victor are stirred by his summation and convict Clary. Having won the difficult case, Victor’s reputation soars and he makes plans to run for governor. Then, the real killer confesses and Victor is unable to stop Clary’s execution in time. Ashamed that his drive to succeed has resulted in an innocent man’s death, Victor resigns, drinks heavily and rejects the consolation of Ellen, who loves him although he treats her like a daughter.

Enjoy the film!

Justice Denied, Conclusion

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Doris’ mother — Mrs. Jennie Schwuchow [Photo courtesy of UCLA digital collection]

Dr. George Dazey’s former in-laws were sure that he had murdered their daughter, Doris Schwuchow Dazey, when he became convinced that the baby boy she had birthed four months prior to her death was not his child. The Schwuchow’s said that he was a rude and uncaring man who never loved the little boy, Walter. Mrs. Schwuchow testified to George’s attitude about the baby:

“The doctor never paid much attention to the child.  One time I was visiting my daughter and I saw that the baby was sick and I called Dr. Dazey at the  Uplifters Clug and he said the the child had been all right in the morning.  I know when a child is sick and I told Dr. Dazey so and he came home and looked  at the child and I heard him say, ‘There’s nothing wrong with that damn brat.’  He said it under his breath and thought I didn’t hear him.”

Mr. & Mrs. Reis

Mr. & Mrs. Reis

If George was an indifferent and uncaring father, he was an equally unpleasant spouse according to Mr. & Mrs. Stanley Reis.

Stanley Reis testified:

“Four of us were at dinner one night when Dr. Dazey said to Doris, ‘It makes me sick to see you eat; don’t put so damned much in your mouth.”

The prosecution’s case against Dr. Dazey was circumstantial but they had a couple of persuasive witnesses. Frances Hansbury, George’s former employee and occasional dinner companion claimed that he had confessed to her that he’d killed his wife and told her to keep her mouth shut or she’d be sorry. Then there was the rent-a-cop, Roland Seal, who said that on the night of Doris’ death he’d been making his rounds as the operator of a residential patrol service in the Dazey’s Santa Monica neighborhood when he heard screams coming from the Dazey home:

“I heard some screaming coming from the house and on my next round, probably 45 minutes later, I got out of my car and went over n back of the Dazey residence   The back door was open and I could see the doctor inside.”

Roland Seal

Roland Seal [Photo courtesy of UCLA digital collection]

Seal said he then saw Dr. Dazey carrying Doris toward the door of the garage.   On cross-examination Jerry Giesler, the defendant’s attorney, managed to get Seal to admit that he’d been in trouble with the law a few times–once for robbery.  Seal’s credibility was seriously eroded.

Frances Hansbury didn’t fare much better–Giesler characterized her as a spurned lover with an axe to grind.

Giesler said that the defense was prepared to call forty-six people to testify on George Dazey’s behalf; and the line-up was strong. Among those to testify was Mrs. Kay Roth, the owner of a Santa Monica beauty parlor visited by Doris a couple of days before her death.

Roth said:

“She visited me in the beauty parlor just a few days before she died and told me that she was suffering from a illness from which she would never get well.”

The illness Doris spoke of was Addison’s disease and she’d been diagnosed by George and her father–although the diagnosis hadn’t been confirmed by anyone outside of the immediate family. George had given her the news of her condition but he wouldn’t give her many details nor discuss her prognosis. Undeterred, she looked it up in one of his medical texts and was, according to George, devastated by what she discovered.

It’s possible that Addison’s was the reason why Doris was unable to regain her strength after the birth of Walter; however she may have been suffering from postpartum depression. Known as the “baby blues”, depression following the birth of a child isn’t uncommon–but in some cases it may become extreme. If Doris was suffering from postpartum depression it may have made her suicidal.

Mrs. Roth further testified:

“She asked me about another girl who had tried to commit suicide but when I told her the girl had recovered she said, ‘If I commit suicide I will plan it so there’ll be no slip-ups…”

Kay Roth thought that Doris seemed “mentally depressed and physically exhausted” .

Others who had been in contact with Doris following Walter’s birth described her mental and physical health in much the same way as Kay Roth had done.

George Dazey on the witness stand. [Photo courtesy of UCLA digital collection]

George Dazey on the witness stand. [Photo courtesy of UCLA digital collection]

When it was Dr. Dazey’s turn to take the stand he testified that he and Doris had been in love and that he had no reason to believe that Walter was not his son.

On cross-examination the prosecution hammered hard on a few points they knew were  relevant in proving Dr. Dazey’s guilt. For example it had been suggested that Doris planned to divorce her husband, but George refuted that claim. In fact, George took such exception to the D.A.’s line of questioning the two men nearly came to blows.

By early March 1940 the four week murder trial was finally drawing to a close.  Deputy District Attorney Joseph Carr made the closing argument for the prosecution.

“It has been testified here that Mrs. Dazey was a very fastidious person.  One would not expect her, then, even if she had determined to take her own life, as the defense contends, to go into the garage and lie down in a pool of oil under the car.   She could just as easily accomplished her purpose by sitting in the clean seat of the automobile.

“There is then the fact that she left no notes to anyone.  An unusual procedute by one contemplating suicide.”

The prosecutor was also troubled by the fact that rather than staying to render aid to his wife, doctor Dazey ran into the house to phone for an ambulance. As a doctor shouldn’t he have wanted to try to revive her?

“A Boy Scout–not minding a doctor–would have given this woman first aid.”

The D.A. ended his closing argument by requesting that the jury sentence Dr. Dazey to death.

The prosecution may have made the jurors (10 men and 2 women) think–but it was Jerry Giesler who moved them to tears.

“The grandmother of this child–Mrs. Dazey’s mother–wants that child and will stop at no ends to obtain him.”

Adding fuel to his hyperbolic fire, Giesler continued:

“We might expect Hitler to ravish Poland, or a Stalin to rape little Finland on such trumped up testimony from polluted sources, but we do not expect it in American courts of justice.”

Both sides had done their best, it was time for the jury to review the facts in the case and reach a verdict.

Eight hours into their deliberation the jury foreman George D. Hale asked for the testimony of the several of the witnesses. Then he declared that the jury was stuck at eight to four– but wouldn’t disclose whether it was for conviction or acquittal.

The next day, March 9, 1940, the jury sent a note to the judge saying that they were deadlocked at ten to two and they did not believe it was possible for them to reach a verdict.  The judge asked them to give it another try–and they did.  The next time the foreman reported to the judge he said that the jury was at eleven to one and it appeared a verdict was likely. There was still no hint of whether the lone juror was holding out for acquittal or conviction.

Doris Dazey

Doris Dazey

At last the jury announced that they were ready to render a verdict. They filed into the courtroom and George D. Hale read the final verdict:

Dr. Dazey had been acquitted.

One of the prosecution witnesses, a maid named Nancy Bates who had been employed for a short time by the Dazey’s, had testified to the doctor’s dislike for the baby and his contempt for his wife. Damning testimony indeed, until Jerry Giesler produced documentation which proved that the maid had given false evidence. She had lied when she testified that she’d been in the Dazey’s employ immediately prior to Doris’ death.  Bates got four months in county lock-up for perjury.

Dr. Dazey won custody of his son Walter. Dr. and Mrs. Schuchow had a new will drawn up which specified that George would never get a dime of their money. A portion of their estate was to be placed in trust for Walter’s benefit.

Three years following the murder trial Dr. Dazey was back in court–but not for murder. His third wife, Dorcas Dazey, had sued him for a divorce alleging extreme cruelty.

In October 1943, less than one year after Dorcas had filed for a divorce, George Dazey’s obituary appeared in the Los Angeles Times. Either Dorcas had withdrawn her divorce suit or it wasn’t completed by the time of George’s death because he was described as her “beloved husband”. Services were held at the Little Chapel of the Dawn in Santa Monica.

This is one of those cases where I’m not sure if I agree with the jury or not. How about you? Do you think justice was denied in this case, or did the jury get it right?

Justice Denied, Part 3

Jury selection in the trial of 41-year-old Santa Monica physician Dr. George Dazey for the 1935 slaying his actress-wife Doris began in early February 1940. Guilty or innocent, George Dazey did one thing right–he hired Jerry Geisler to defend him in court.

“Get Me Geisler” (pronounced Geese-lar) was a cry that went up routinely in Hollywood circles. Over the course of his half-century of practicing law Geisler defended Errol Flynn, Robert Mitchum, Charlie Chaplin, Lili St. Cyr and many, many  others.

attorney-jerry-geisler-with-client-everett

Jerry Geisler w/Robert Mitchum

Geisler’s practice wasn’t limited to Hollywood luminaries; he also defended Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel as well as the odious Dr. George Hodel (for incest). Hodel is well-known for having been a suspect in the 1947 murder of Elizabeth Short, the Black Dahlia.

During the voir dire Deputy District Attorney Hugh McIssac questioned potential jurors on their attitude toward circumstantial evidence and capital punishment. The case against George was entirely circumstantial–which isn’t to say weak; after all, most cases are won on circumstantial evidence. Jerry Geisler’s questions to the possible jurors were very different; he wanted to know:

“If it is brought out here that the deceased might have ended her own life, would you be willing to take that into consideration in the matter of reasonable doubt as applied to this defendant?”

The final jury was composed of three women and nine men. The proceedings hit a snag when on the day after empanelment one of the jurors became too ill to attend the trial. The alternate jurors had not yet been sworn in which led to a legal dispute over when a trial actually begins. Is it when the jury is sworn; when the first witness is called; or when the first witness opens testimony? Opposing counsel agreed to stipulate that the sick juror, Mr. Gieschen, should be discharged and that selection of a jury should continue on the basis of an incomplete panel.

Unconcerned by the minor legal hiccup, Dr. Dazey spent his time working on a crossword puzzle.dazey crossword

George Dazey’s trial opened with a very unusual situation.  George Merritt, a major witness in the case, admitted to being a personal friend of both the defendant and Deputy District Attorney McIssac.  When Merritt took the stand he testified that Dr. Dazey had called him to the death scene shortly after he claimed to have discovered his wife dead on the garage floor.  But his testimony didn’t go as the prosecution had believed it would–Merritt was suddenly unable to recall the doctor making damaging, self-incriminating, statements.

The Deputy D.A. was not pleased:

“Didn’t you tell me at a lunch we had together within recent months that Dr. Dazey kept repeating, ‘Why did I do it?  Why did I do it?’”

Merritt said he wasn’t certain.

Peeved with his recalcitrant witness McIssac continued:

“Didn’t you tell me that although Dr. Dazey appeared hysterical and incoherent that  you and your friends decided that he was putting on an act?”

Merritt said no.

McIssac told the court that he was taken by surprise. He had every reason to believe that Merritt would testify at the trial the same way in which he’d testified to the grand jury several weeks earlier. At the grand jury hearing he was asked if Dr. Dazey had blurted out, “Why did I do it?” and Merritt had responded: “It might have sound like that.”

Part of the problem faced by the prosecution was that Doris’ death had occurred four years earlier and witnesses are notoriously unreliable even moments after a crime has occurred.

Jerry Giesler made sure to mention that even the police officers who had originally been called out to the scene had to refer to reports they had made at the time of the incident.

After the first day or two of testimony I’d have called the contest between the prosecution and defense a draw. Geisler had made a point about the dim memories of the witnesses, but the prosecution scored a point in refuting the notion that Doris had been suicidal with the testimony of Joe E. Burns, a Frigidaire repairman.

Burns had been called to the Dazey’s home on the day prior to Doris’ death to repair their fridge. He had to return the next day to make further adjustments and he testified that on both occasions Doris seemed to be in a good frame of mind and perfectly lucid when they spoke. That testimony would make it more difficult for Geisler to sell the defense theory that Doris was unstable and suicidal.

Winifred Hart

Winifred Hart during the silent era.

The most flamboyant of the witnesses to testify was a former neighbor the Dazey’s, Mrs. Wiinifred Westover Hart, the ex-wife of silent film cowboy superstar, William S. Hart.

Winifred was an actress during the silent era, which is how she met her ex-husband. Her first screen appearance was a small role in D.W. Griffith’s 1916 film, Intolerance, but her movie career was over by 1930.

The ex-Mrs. Hart arrived at the murder trial wearing dark glasses and holding a magazine up to shield her face. Her first comment upon taking the witness stand was that she was nervous.

On the night of October 3, 1935 Mrs. Hart said she heard screams coming from the direction of the Dazey home. Deputy District Attorney McIssac asked her:

“Did you tell anyone about hearing these screams after you learned of Mrs. Dazey’s death the next day?”

Mrs. Hart said:

“Oh, I told everybody, I was so upset!”

McIssac asked her if she had received any threats and she answered that she had, but she didn’t recognize the voice over the telephone. There was no way to corroborate her testimony about the threatening calls and on top of that it was difficult for the jury to take her seriously because she was so theatrical. According to the L.A. Times the former silent film actress had a flair for the histrionic.

When it was Jerry Geisler’s turn to question Mrs. Hart he opened with:

“Now don’t get nervous at me.”

Mrs. Hart went on to testify that in the late afternoon of October 3, 1935 she and her mother, Mrs. Sophie Westover, had been listening to the radio when they heard screaming and crying. Hart testified:

“It sounded like a boy being teased—boys used to play in a vacant lot next to us–and after a while I got up and shut the window and turned up the radio.”

Hart knew what time they heard the ruckus because she and her mom were listening to a scheduled program featuring Rudy Vallee.

Winifred Hart c. 1940s

Winifred Hart c. 1940s

Another witness, Douglas O’Neal, 17, lived near the Dazey’s home and he testified that had seen Dr. Dazey’s car parked by the Dazey residence hours before the doctor said he’d arrived home to find his wife dead.

Jerry Geisler established that the boy couldn’t be certain it was Dr. Dazey’s car because he hadn’t seen the license plate numbers and the car was a popular make and model.

Mildred Guard, sister of the dead woman, testified that she’d visited her sister many times while she was married to Dr. Dazey. She recalled one occasion, a short time prior to the birth of the couple’s child, when there was some rather disturbing breakfast table conversation:

“George [Dr. Dazey] was talking and he said, ‘If the baby looks like_____’ and here he mentioned the name of a certain man–I’ll kill both Doris and the baby.”

Prosecutor McIassac asked Mildred how Doris had replied. Mildred said that her sister had admonished George, asking him not to talk like that.mildred guard.jpg

The mystery man was referred to in court only by his first name, which was Carl. During questioning by Jerry Gisler, Mildred testified that she knew that her sister had been going out with Carl up to the time she began dating Dr. Dazey. When asked if Doris had quit seeing Carl after starting a relationship with George, Mildred admitted that she had no idea.

Geisler said:

“Well, you know the baby didn’t look anything like Carl?”

To which Mildred replied that the baby didn’t bear the slightest resemblance to Carl. Mildred’s testimony concluded with her description of an incident that had occurred on a night when she was staying at the Dazey home.  She said she heard Doris scream then call out her name:

“I went to her room and she was partly sitting up in bed and had a frightened look on her face.  The doctor was standing about three feet from the bed, fully dressed and apparently sober.  He looked very mean.  His hands were clenched, his face was purple and he was grating his teeth.  She had a look of terror on her face.”

Dr. Dazey allegedly told Mildred he was “only fooling” and asked her to leave the room.  Doris never explained the incident to Mildred.

As George Dazey’s trial entered its second week the prosecutors offered their version of Doris’ death–they contended that the doctor had incapacitated his wife in some way then carried her body into their garage and placed her head near the car’s exhaust pipe. In fact Doris’ face was so near to the exhaust pipes that she received burns which the prosecution declared would have been highly improbably if she had committed suicide as had been suggested by George’s defense team.

spectators dazey trial

Unidentified women queued up to watch the trial of Dr. George Dazey.

Everyone who came to the courtroom on February 13, 1940 was there to hear the testimony of Dr. Dazey’s former nurse, and occasional “social companion”, Miss Frances Hansbury.  Frances had testified at the grand jury hearing that George had confessed to her that he had murdered Doris.

If the jury believed Frances it could be all over for George Dazey–he might dance into eternity at the end of a hangman’s noose.

NEXT TIME:  The trial and verdict.

The Woman in the Window [1944]

woman_in_the_window

Welcome! The lobby of the Deranged L.A. Crimes theater is open. Grab a bucket of popcorn, some Milk Duds and a Coke and find a seat.

Tonight’s feature is THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW [1944] starring Edward G. Robinson, Joan Bennett, Raymond Massey and Dan Duryea.

TCM says:

After seeing his wife and children off on a summer vacation, Richard Wanley, a middle-aged psychology professor, heads to see his friends, District Attorney Frank Lalor and Dr. Barkstane, at their men’s club. On his way to the club, the professor passes a portrait of a woman displayed in a gallery window and, mesmerized, pauses to admire the model’s beauty. While seated with his friends at the club, the professor confides that his life is stodgy and devoid of adventure, prompting Lalor to tease him about his wife’s absence and to warn him of the dangers of committing the slightest indiscretion.

What are the chances that Dr. Barkstane will heed his friend’s advice? How about zero to nil.

Enjoy the flm!

Justice Denied, Part 2

doris parentsDoris Dazey’s parents, Dr. and Mrs. Walter B. Schwuchow, had spent the four years since their daughter’s death investigating their former son-in-law, Dr. George K. Dazey.

In 1935 Doris was found in the garage of the Santa Monica home she shared with George. She was wearing a night gown and her face was only inches away from the car exhaust–she expired from carbon monoxide poisoning. The authorities ruled her death a suicide, but there was no note and seemingly no cause for her to have taken her own life.  Her parents never believed that she would kill herself, not with a four month old child depending on her, so they undertook an independent investigation of the circumstances surrounding her demise.

In bits and pieces the Schwuchows began to assemble a picture of their daughter’s marriage to Dr. Dazey, and it was very different from the public face the couple presented to the world. After speaking with Doris’ friends, and her former neighbors, the Schwuchows learned that her marriage to George was not ideal; in fact Doris had been contemplating divorce even though she’d been married to George for only a year.

As soon as George got wind of the Schwuchow’s statements he issued an immediate denial regarding their accusations:

“We were always happy, never quarreled. Sometimes Doris thought I was working too hard, but you couldn’t call that a quarrel, even when she protested my professional labors.”

“Once in a while she complained that she felt she was not doing her share because of ill-health, but I said we could keep all the servants necessary to aid her.”

If George had murdered Doris and then staged the scene in the garage, what was his motive? Doris had been an actress–she played the lead in “Ramona” for several years in the annual Hemet pageant–what if Doris planned to return to her career sans husband? She’d consulted with attorney Russell Parsons about a divorce, but it wasn’t clear if she had talked to George about it. If she had spoken with George he may have decided that one expensive alimony payment was enough–he was still paying off his first wife. In fact his ex- had taken him to court for back alimony and they’d had an acrimonious courtroom encounter not long before Doris died. It may have been enough sour George on another divorce and drive him to murder. Even though he made a bundle as a physician supporting two ex-wives, one with a child, would have been a financial burden.ramona

The money motive was a strong one, but then the Schwuchow’s revealed a secret that upped the ante even further and provided Dr. Dazey with a very compelling motive for murder. They said that Doris had told them the baby boy she’d had four months before she died may not have been George’s child.

George pooh-poohed the notion:

“Our boy was born two months prematurely.  I am a physician and know a premature baby when I see one.  The boy is in splendid health and looks just like me.”

Even if the baby was George’s as he contended, Miss Frances Hansbury, a nurse and personal friend of his, said that he had bragged to her about having committed “the perfect crime”.  Oh, and then there was a former watchman, Roland Seal, who said that on the fatal day he saw Dr. Dazey carrying what he thought was a woman’s body into the garage.

hansburyDr. Dazey continued to deny any responsibility for Doris’ death and said that the Schwuchow’s were trying to frame him:

“Dr. and Mrs. Schwuchow have been trying to get the boy for themselves and because I won’t let them have him they are stirring up all this trouble.”

A grand jury was convened to delve into the circumstances of Doris Dazey’s death. The D.A. posited that the forty-one year old doctor had killed his wife in a domestic dispute. Seal, the former watchman, said that he had heard screams coming from the Dazey residence on the day Doris died. It was around dusk, he said, that he saw the physician carry the limp form of a woman from the house to the garage.

If we take Frances Hansbury’s and Roland Seal’s statements at face value they beg the question: why the hell didn’t one of them ever go to the police?

District Attorney Buron Fitts was satisfied with the case against Dr. Dazey, in fact he believed it might be strong enough to seek the death penalty. Dazey was indicted for murder.

George had no intention of giving his accusers the last word:

“Doris was the best wife any man could want—why in God’s name would I want to kill her?”  Not long before I found her dead, apparently a suicide from monoxide poisoning in our garage, a boy was born to us and we had everything to be happy about.”

Dazey continued:

“Why should she take her own life I do not know.  There is a far-fetched possibility that someone else may have done her harm, but the idea is so remote and I can think of no reason for it that I scarcely give credence to the thought.”

The doctor dismissed the accusation of his former nurse, and occasional dinner companion, by saying:

“As for Miss Frances Hansbury, who says I boasted to her of the ‘perfect crime,’ I can say nothing except that she was a friend–or I thought she was–and am at a loss to understand her action.”

“I knew Miss Hansbury about four years before my wife died.  I went out with her once or twice socially before marrying Doris and I think that once after I found my wife dead.  She is a nurse and I had employed her.  Our relationship was friendly, but also professional.”

As for the watchman, Roland Seal, Dr. Dazey seemed to be completely mystified by his involvement in the case:

“Roland Seal is a man I have never met, nor ever talked to to my knowledge.  Just what his interest in the case is I may never know, but he is not telling the truth when he says he saw me carry the body of my wife–or any woman–from my house to the garage on the day Mrs. Dazey met her tragic death.”

Dr. Dazey’s trial began in February 1940. The prosecution called its two star witnesses to the stand to lay the foundation for the case against him.

Roland Seal testified that:

“On the day Mrs. Dazey was found dead in the garage of her home I had occasion to pass her house several times.  Once I heard a scream, and just at sunset I saw Dr. Dazey carry a scantily clad woman from the house to the garage.  I paid no attention, thinking she was ill, and he might be taking her to a hospital.  Since then a friend of Dr. Dazey’s warned me that the physician would ‘take care of me’ if I talked.”

Interestingly, Seal’s memory seemed to improve with each retelling. At first he’d stated that he’d seen Dr. Dazey carrying something that he thought may have been a woman’s body into the garage. In court he said that it he definitely saw observed Dr. Dazy carrying a woman’s limp body and that she was “scantily clad”.

Miss Frances Hansbury was also an interesting witness for the prosecution.  She testified that she’d known Dr. Dazey for nine years and she still thought of him as a friend. She said:

“Dr. Dazey once confided in me he had committed the perfect crime.  Then, apparently fearful I might talk out of turn, he threatened my life and said he would ‘frame’ me as a dope addict.  I feel very sorry for Dr. Dazey and never would do anything to hurt him.  But I was in fear of my life and was forced to leave here and go to New York City.”

Dr. and Mrs. Schwuchow reiterated what they had always believed: “We feel now as always that there was no cause for our daughter to take her own life. Beyond that, we have nothing to say.”

And Russell E. Parsons, Doris’ attorney (who became Deputy District Attorney in the years following her death) said:

“While a private attorney, Mrs. Dazey consulted with me about marital difficulties she said she was having with her husband.  Naturally, I cannot disclose publicly the nature of our conversation.”dazey and son

Even as he was preparing to face a jury on a murder charge, George Dazey went to court to battle his former in-laws for custody of four-year-old Walter who may, or may not, have been his biological son. Juvenile Judge W. Turney Fox denied the Schwuchow’s petition to have the child declared a ward of the court. There was sufficient evidence that Walter was devoted to his stepmother, Hazel Dorcas Dazey, and that it was in his best interests to let him stay where he was–Hazel was awarded custody of the little boy while George sorted out his legal problems. Dr. and Mrs. Schwuchow were given the right to take Walter for a visit every other weekend.

Would George Dazey’s murder trial go as well for him as the custody hearing had?  Maybe. If Hansbury and Seal were the D.A.’s best witnesses it would likely be an uphill battle to put the doctor in prison.

NEXT TIME:  Dr. Dazey’s murder trial.

Film Noir Friday: The Chase [1946]

ChasePoster2

Welcome! The lobby of the Deranged L.A. Crimes theater is open. Grab a bucket of popcorn, some Milk Duds and a Coke and find a seat.

Tonight’s feature is THE CHASE [1946] starring Robert Cummings, Michele Morgan, Steve Cochran and Peter Lore.

Enjoy the film!

TCM says:

Returning a lost wallet gains unemployed veteran Chuck Scott a job as chauffeur to Eddie Roman, a seeming gangster whose enemies have a way of meeting violent ends. The job proves nerve-wracking, and soon Chuck finds himself pledged to help Eddie’s lovely, fearful, prisoner-wife Lorna to escape. The result leaves Chuck caught like a rat in a trap, vainly seeking a way out through dark streets. But the real chase begins when the strange plot virtually starts all over again…