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A word about judges from Vincent Bugliosi

May 23, 2010 By: John Kindley Category: Uncategorized

On the recommendation of B. W. Barnett in this post at Liberty and Justice for Y’All, I’ve been reading And the Sea Will Tell by Vincent Bugliosi. Bugliosi, of course, is the famed prosecutor of Charles Manson et al., but in this book he describes his defense of a client charged with aiding and abetting her lover in the murder of another couple on Palmyra, a deserted atoll in the Pacific, in 1974. Not to spoil the ending (which I haven’t actually reached yet), but Bugliosi’s client was acquitted, while her lover, Buck Walker, was convicted in a separate trial. Walker (who now goes by the name Wesley Walker) was paroled in 2007, and his take on Bugliosi’s rendition of the case and events on Palmyra is here.

As Barnett promised, the book is amazing, and while “entertaining,” also has great value as almost a how-to manual by a legend on trying and preparing to try a criminal case.

In my reading thus far (I’ve reached the beginning of Bugliosi’s direct examination of his client), I found this aside worth highlighting:

The American people have an understandably negative view of politicians, public opinion polls show, and an equally negative view of lawyers. Conventional logic would seem to dictate that since a judge is normally both a politician and a lawyer, judges would be perceived by the public as being lower than whale waste. But on the contrary, the mere investiture of a twenty-five-dollar black cotton robe elevates the denigrated lawyer-politician to a position of considerable honor and respect in our society, as if the garment itself miraculously imbues the person with qualities not previously possessed. . . .

It’s always a great relief and pleasure to walk into court and find a judge who has had trial experience, knows the law, is completely impartial, and hasn’t let his judgeship swell his head. There are, of course, many such admirable judges in this country, but regrettably they are decidedly in the minority.

For whatever reasons (undoubtedly the threat of being held in contempt of court ranks high), the great run of lawyers are intimidated by judges and continue to be outwardly respectful even when publicly humiliated by them. The lawyers’ complaints are made in private to each other and to their families. . . .

The judge’s obligation in a jury trial is to be totally impartial, the decision on guilt being the exclusive province of the jury. But time and time again a judge makes it very clear to the jury which side he prefers. This is a corruption and bastardization of our system of justice by the very people whom the law entrusts with the responsibility of ensuring that it works properly and equitably.

Unfortunately, jurors usually assume that whatever the judge says or does in court is correct and justified. . . .

5 Comments to “A word about judges from Vincent Bugliosi”


  1. Nice to know somebody took my advice. Great book. Believe me, his closing argument will not disappoint!

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  2. John Kindley says:

    Definitely thanks for the pointer. I take it you got here from a pingback to your post. I’m waiting for Buck Walker himself to show up by the same route!

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  3. Yep. Let me know if Buck ever shows up. Don’t accept any sailing invites from him!

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  4. Norm Pattis says:

    Thanks for posting about this book. I will read it.

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    • John Kindley says:

      I’ve since finished reading it, and as B.W. Barnett indicated, the closing argument was awesome. What was especially noteworthy were some very compelling inferences from the evidence Bugliosi drew for the jury, inferences which had not occurred to me despite my familiarity with the evidence from the first part of the book. In that important sense the closing argument presented a “surprise ending” in line with the best detective stories. Something that was staring you in the face all along is finally revealed in its true significance. Of course, I like to think if I had lived with and thought about the case for as long as Bugliosi did these inferences might have occurred to me at some point too.

      5

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