Justice Denied, Conclusion

jennie schuchow

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?

The White Flame Murder, Conclusion

wright in courtAs Paul Wright’s trial continued his memory conveniently began to fail, and he substantively revised his original confession. When he first spoke to the cops he told them in vivid detail how he’d fired shots at his wife, Evelyn, and best friend, John Kimmel, in a “white flame” of passion; and he was able to describe exactly the position of both Evelyn and John on a piano bench in the living room of his home.

quiet shoesIn Paul’s revised statement he said that he no longer remembered from where he fired the shots, nor how many shots were fired. He substituted the original G-rated story of being awakened by Evelyn’s lilting laughter and then witnessing her embrace his best friend, with an X-rated tale that the newspapers called “a shocking and repugnant picture of passion”.

The lurid revelation of Evelyn fellating John on the piano bench had held trial spectators spellbound, but when less salacious testimony resumed they started to get restless and attendance dropped off. Why queue up for anything less than an orgy?

The prosecution went on the attack in its summation and characterized Paul Wright as a cold-blooded killer — not a man tormented by WWI demons, the aftermath of tuberculosis, and a vasectomy, which is how he was described by his defense team.

wright court head

Jerry Giesler, Wright’s attorney, passionately argued that his client should go free because he was unconscious when he shot and killed Evelyn and Johnny, on November 9, 1937.

The jury of eight men and four women found Paul Wright guilty on two counts of manslaughter — but in a separate hearing they also found that because he had been insane at the time of the double murders he was not guilty!


If the Lunacy Commission (no, I didn’t make that up) examined Wright and decided that he had regained his sanity, he would be freed! And that is exactly what happened!

Paul Wright would never have to serve a single day in prison!

Editorials were written about the absurdity of the insanity defense and the fickle outcomes. One of the articles compared the results of Wright’s trial to that of another in which the insanity defense had been employed:

“Wright went free as the result of an official finding that he had recovered his sanity after killing two people. Hansen, who also killed two people and who made an identical defense, goes to prison for from two to twenty years.”

“It’s a queer world.”

It sure as hell is.

The White Flame Murder, Part 3

Paul Wright in court. [Photo courtesy of UCLA digital collection.]

Paul Wright in court. [Photo courtesy of UCLA digital collection.]

In his opening statement in the trial of Paul Wright for double murder, defense attorney Jerry Giesler contended that Wright had no motive for murder until the sight of his wife and best friend in an unmentionable pose turned him into an unreasoning, raging avenger.

Giesler had conceived of a creative defense for his client — he said that Wright’s WWI service, during which he as gassed; a post-war tuberculosis attack, and a voluntary vasectomy combined to make him emotionally unstable, with more violent reactions to shock that normal men.

If the vasectomy defense failed Giesler had a Plan B, and he laid it out for the jury:

“When Wright strolled sleepily into his living room at 4 o’clock that morning, there was absolutely no reason for him to criminally and brutally kill.”

“What he saw there on the piano bench–which he will detail to you from this witness stand…that married man still there at 4 o’clock in the morning beside his beloved wife…that horrible situation was such an emotional shock that it rendered this defendant as unconscious as though he had been hit on top of the head with a tremendous mallet.”

“Under the written law of the State of California–not any so-called unwritten law–it is the plain duty of this jury to acquit Mr. Wright.”

The written law to which Giesler was referring is the crime of passion plea, known as the provocation defense. Historically, according to U.C. Berkeley’s School of Law, California defendants who have used the controversial plea have been able to reduce first and second degree murder charges down to manslaughter. Punishment has often been little or no jail time.

But would the defense strategy work for Wright? The prosecution produced evidence that had Wright sitting on his bed brooding, before arranging a chair in front of a mirror so that he could get a full view of his wife and best friend in a passionate embrace on the piano bench.

Giesler called witnesses to the stand who related a fairy-tale like courtship between Paul and Evelyn, resulting in a blissful marriage — at least for the first couple of years.

In 1936 Paul confided in a close friend that:

“I’m worried to the point of distraction. I’ve earned a fair salary ever since we have been married, but there doesn’t seem to be enough for the household and her demands.”

“I’ve always paid the bills, and it breaks my heart to see my credit go like this.”

I’ve done everything in my power to make her happy–even had myself sterilized, but it seems to be no use.”

The vasectomy had cost Paul one of his most cherished dreams — he’d always wanted a son, and that was never going to be possible for him.

Giesler continued to hammer home the impact of Paul’s “sex sacrfice” which the attorney
contended had destroyed Wright’s self-control when he found Evelyn and John in an intimate pose. Dr. Charles B. Huggins, a Chicago surgeon, described the vasectomy performed on Wright to save Evelyn from the danger of again becoming a mother. She’d nearly lost her life giving birth to Helen and a sterilization operation on her would have been much more dangerous.

From the witness stand, under Giesler’s skilled interrogation, Paul Wright gave his version of the events leading up to the double murder.

it cafePaul said that he and John had attended a club meeting, then gone out for a nightcap. By 2 a.m. they were at Clara Bow’s “It Cafe” preparing to go home. It was Paul who suggested that John accompany him home, ostensibly to provide back-up when Evelyn questioned him about where, and with whom, he’d spent the evening and early morning hours.

Paul went on to describe feeling fatigued and going to the bedroom for a nap. He told the hushed courtroom:

“I was awakened by some sort of sound–like the piano. It started me up out of my sleep. I went to the living room door and saw that the lights were still on.  Johnny was sitting at the piano. I could just see his head. He was looking downward. I couldn’t see Evelyn and I wondered where she was.”

I thought she was on the davenport and I looked, but she was not there. I thought she was in the kitchen. Then I turned–then I turned–I saw Evelyn on the piano bench with Johnny…They embraced and kissed each other.”

“Everything inside me exploded!” he shouted.

“Next thing I knew I was standing there with the gun in my hand. She was on the floor–Johnny was moaning. They were covered with blood.”

It wasn’t possible to know what the jury thought about what they’d heard, but a reporter for the L.A. Times was clear about how Wright had conducted himself: “Seldom in local court annals has a defendant appeared to such good advantage defending himself on the witness stand.”trump card

However the report wasn’t all admiration, Wright was accused of having “robbed his wife’s grave of decency and fidelity” in his attempt to save his own life. And the report went on with: “Johnny Kimmel, by inference was branded a depraved scoundrel by the man who killed him.”

Of course the only people whose opinions mattered were sitting in the jury box.

death gunWright emotionally and physically collapsed under Deputy D.A. Roll’s blistering cross-examination, and his earlier testimony started to come unraveled. He had maintained that he’d shot blindly at the pair from the bedroom doorway, but changed his story by declaring that when he pumped the final rounds into the two bodies he was standing with his gun in his hand beside the piano.

Also, little details began to surface about exactly what Paul had witnessed that had provoked him to commit double murder. Kimmel was immediately visible on the piano bench, but Evelyn was not.

Deputy D.A. Roll asked Wright:

“Was it in your mind that they had committed some unnatural act?”

To which Wright answered:

“Yes, it must have been.”

At last the prosecution was getting to the the truth of what Wright had seen. Evelyn wasn’t on the piano bench next to Johnny, she was in front of him on her knees! That explains Wright’s violent reaction a little better than what had at first been represented as a kiss and an embrace. From the beginning, Wright’s story made him sound like a Victorian husband who had stumbled upon his wife and a companion in a relatively innocent lip lock —  an act which should have merited nothing more than a shout demanding to know what the hell was going on.

Wright also admitted that he didn’t know whether he’d disarranged the clothing of his victims in the manner that they were found later by police!

Sounds to me like Wright had the presence of mind to set the scene of the crime to match his later statements to the cops. How would his conflicting testimony sound to the jury?

NEXT TIME: The verdict and aftermath of Paul Wright’s case.

The White Flame Murder, Part 2

ballisticsA quiet hilltop neighborhood in Glendale had been the scene of a violent double murder. Paul Wright, the president of United Airports Corporation of California, had confessed to the slaying of his wife, Evelyn, and his best friend, John B. Kimmel while blinded by a “white hot flame” of jealousy.

Wright may have been temporarily blinded by a white hot flame, but he’d regained his senses long enough to “Get Giesler” — that was Jerry Giesler the famed defense attorney. Giesler had obviously advised his client not to make any further statements; but Wright had already confessed, Giesler was going to have an uphill battle.

Paul Wright & Jerry Giesler [Photo courtesy UCLA digital collection.]

Paul Wright & Jerry Giesler [Photo courtesy UCLA digital collection.]

So far there were more questions than answers in the homicides; but at least the mystery of why Mrs. Wright had entered the Glendale mortuary as Mrs. Alta Vernon had been cleared up. Police announced that when she had first been taken in a fire department ambulance the driver, ignorant of her name, looked up the address in a directory and wrote down the name of a former tenant of the house. With the minor mystery solved, the cops could devote themselves to unraveling the larger conundrum of the piano bench killings.

Paul and Evelyn Wright had been having marital difficulties for months before the murders. Evelyn had written to her mother about her continuing estrangement from Paul. In her letters Evelyn revealed that money troubles and her fear that Paul was being unfaithful to her were driving a wedge between them.

Police detectives were attempting to reconcile the physical evidence at the scene of the murders to Paul Wright’s statement, and it was tough going. Wright stated that he was was about twenty feet away from Evelyn and John, who were in a clutch on a piano bench, when he started firing blindly — but tests showed that the bullets had entered the bodies at a 60 degree angle — in other words the shooter was practically standing over the couple.

As the investigators continued their examination of the crime scene a clearer picture of the night of the murders began to form, and it wasn’t pretty.helen wright

Wright’s story of being asleep on his bed for a while before he entered the living room and found his wife and best friend in flagrante delicto on a piano bench was refuted by investigators. Cops found a chair in the bedroom that was placed in front of a mirror which reflected the piano and bench that had been occupied by Evelyn and John. Also, the bed on which Paul was supposed to have been sleeping was undisturbed except for one side where police surmised he had probably sat and brooded before moving to the chair to watch the entire seduction unfold.

As Paul was being held in the County Jail awaiting arraignment he managed to make arrangements for Helen, his three year old daughter with Evelyn, to be sent to live with her uncle in Cleveland. Dr. Herbert Wright, brother of the accused, told reporters that Helen’s welfare was uppermost in her father’s mind, and that he considered it even more important than his own welfare.

gas chamberPaul’s future welfare was in jeopardy — he was going to be tried for double murder. On the advice of his attorney, Jerry Giesler, Wright entered a dual plea; not guilty, and not guilty by reason of insanity.

The prosecution demanded that Wright should be found guilty and his life snuffed out in California’s new lethal gas chamber. [The gas chamber had replaced the gallows in California in August 1937, just a couple of months before the murders of Evelyn Wright and John Kimmel.]

With Jerry Giesler mounting Wright’s defense the trial was going to be well worth watching — particularly when it was revealed that psychiatrists had been deposed concerning the possible effects on Wright’s mental condition of gassing during WWI, tuberculosis, and a sterilization operation he’d undergone in 1934 in order to spare Evelyn a second childbirth.

A vasectomy defense?

NEXT TIME: The White Flame Murder Case continues.

The White Flame Murder


Lana Turner and Jerry Giesler. [Photo courtesy LAPL]

From the 1920s until his death in 1962, Jerry Giesler was the best known criminal defense attorney in the U.S. Whenever people with money found themselves on the wrong side of the law they knew to “Get Giesler”.

Having the accomplished attorney on your side didn’t guarantee your acquittal, but it definitely improved your chances.

Over his fifty year career Giesler represented hundreds of clients from Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel to Lana Turner’s daughter, Cheryl Crane.

In November 1937, thirty-four year old Paul Wright, director of Union Air Terminal (now Bob Hope Airport) confessed to the murder of his wife Evelyn, and his best friend John Bryant Kimmel, United Air Lines operations manager. Wright said that he had committed the murders in the white flame of passion. Maybe. But once the white flame had dimmed to a flicker,  he’d still had the presence of mind to “Get Giesler”.

Bugsy Siegel and Jerry Geisler. [Photo courtesy of LAPL.]

Bugsy Siegel and Jerry Giesler. [Photo courtesy of LAPL.]

Giesler was going to have to work hard to earn his fee defending Wright — it seemed like a slam dunk for the prosecution. Wright had confessed, and in his initial statement to the cops he had stated that he’d fired his weapon blindly, making no attempt to aim it at either his wife or his best friend. But the physical evidence told a much different story — for a man who was firing in the white hot flame of jealousy he was a pretty damned good shot — eight of the nine rounds had found their mark in one or the other of his targets.

There were other troubling discrepancies in Wright’s confession. For instance Coroner Nance wanted to know why his office had not been notified of the crime until AFTER the body of Mrs. Wright had been embalmed. Nance also demanded to know why Mrs. Wright was registered at the Physicians and Surgeons Hospital in Glendale under the name of Alta Burnham.

violent death

Evelyn was already dead by the time her body arrived at the hospital where she was registered under a pseudonym  Joseph A. Zaremba of the Glendale mortuary was notified to collect the body. When he discovered that the dead woman had died as a result of gunshot wounds he asked the nurse if the Coroner had been notified, and he was assured that proper procedures had been followed. It wasn’t until four hours after the shooting that Zaremba was told by the Coroner that the victim of the shooting had been murdered and her name was not Alta Burnham.

Understandably Coroner Nance was not a happy man. He said:

“No one can delegate the duties of the Coroner.  I cannot have anyone disregarding the rules of this office.  Unless good reasons are show for this infraction of my rules and of the California Penal Code, I shall suspend the morticians responsible and take whatever steps I deem advisable in clearing up this situation.”

Giesler hadn’t gotten to Wright in time to prevent him from confessing, but once he took over the case Wright wasn’t doing any further talking. Giesler announced that:

“My client will not be a witness at the inquest nor at the preliminary hearing. He will enter a plea of not guilty. I am satisfied that when the true details all are disclosed there will be an entirely different light on this situation.”

A brief, but bizarre, tug-of-war erupted between Wright and his father-in-law, J. E. McBride, over possession of Evelyn’s body. Paul caved in quickly, but his request that Evelyn be buried in her favorite outfit, a two-piece black velvet suit, with a simple white collar, was respected. Her body was placed aboard a Santa Fe train bound for her hometown of Detroit.

Local L.A. newspapers speculated about the white flame that had burned so brightly in Paul that he was compelled to commit murder. What was it exactly that had set him off?

NEXT TIME: A piano bench ignites a murderous rage in Part 2 of the White Flame Murder.