"He [Bundy] also turned down the plea bargain I got for him. Nobody would ever believe you could get a plea bargain for Ted Bundy, but I did with one other lawyer… He turns around and says, ‘I’m not going to do it.’ That’s when we told him we weren’t going to help him anymore."
There are two problems with this statement. As I recall, (1) John Henry Browne didn't get a plea bargain for Bundy, Mike Minerva did; and (2) Bundy didn't refuse to accept the plea agreement; the prosecution vetoed his offer of plea. I was there for the plea fiasco, and my memory of it varies significantly from Browne's.
I think it was John Barth who wrote something to the effect that everyone is a hero in his own biography, meaning that we sometimes remember our roles in an event as being more significant than they really were. Browne's role in the plea agreement was significant for one reason, and it had nothing to do with negotiating the plea bargain. Chi Omega prosecutor Larry Simpson, Second Circuit State Attorney Harry Morrison, my boss Third Circuit State Attorney Jerry Blair, and I were on the other end of the abortive plea bargain, and if I ever spoke to Browne while we were negotiating the plea bargain I don't remember it. As I recall the subject of the plea bargain was first broached to me by Public Defender Mike Minerva as we had lunch during a deposition break in Tallahassee. I took Mike's overture to my boss Jerry Blair and we went with it to Larry Simpson and Harry Morrison. Mike may have also made overtures to them, but if he did I don't remember it.
After a lengthy process of discussing the matter with family members of the deceased parties, law enforcement officials working the case, and lawyers whose judgement we trusted, we eventually took a deep breath and agreed that 100% certainty of keeping Bundy off the street for the rest of his life was better than going for the death penalty, losing, and turning him loose on society again. Jerry and I agreed that taking the plea might very well end our careers as prosecutors, but that would be a small sacrifice if we could make sure Bundy never killed again.
As we were working out the details of the plea, Mike Minerva told us that in order to sell Bundy on the plea bargain they brought in John Henry Browne to convince him to take the plea. Would we mind Browne being involved in the taking of the plea? We didn't. If it would grease the skids and expedite the plea, we had no objection. We strongly urged Mike to make Bundy understand that we would tolerate no antics at the plea hearing. Bundy would have to behave himself if he wanted the plea. We drafted a written plea offer which Bundy was to sign, and scheduled the hearing.
It was a fiasco. When we got to court, Bundy immediately took center stage and began berating Mike Minerva and proclaiming his innocence. As his tirade progressed, I spoke with Jerry and Larry about the advisability of going ahead with the plea in light of his antics. We all agreed that we could not under any circumstances take a plea from Bundy in light of his complaints about how Mike Minerva didn't have Bundy's best interests at heart.
I was sitting next to Mike Minerva, who was in turn sitting next to Bundy. Bundy was standing as he ranted about Mike. His tirade seemed to go on forever. Finally, he picked up the plea offer up off the table in front of him, and it looked to me like he was about to announce that in light of the sorry service he was getting from Mike Minerva, he was being forced to plead guilty. I leaned over to Mike and asked "That silly b@st@rd isn't fixing to plead, is he?" Mike said that he thought Bundy was about to plead. I replied "Tell him to sit his @$$ down, we ain't taking no plea." Mike tugged on Bundy's coat sleeve and whispered in his ear. Bundy looked surprised and distressed. Then he sat down. And thus ended the one of the most painful court hearings of my career as a lawyer.
We couldn't take the plea because it would be subject to collateral attack as being involuntary. Apparently Bundy thought we'd be dumb enough to take his "involuntary" plea; he could wait in prison a few years until the case against him had had deteriorated beyond repair; and then he could move to vacate his plea and walk free.
Which is the second misconception fostered by the above Fox news article. Bundy didn't refuse to plead. The prosecution refused to accept his carefully stage-managed "involuntary" plea.
A third inaccuracy in the article has to do with David Lee, the man who arrested Bundy in Pensacola. Of Lee's arrest, Browne is quoted as saying:
"He [Bundy] gets caught by a 300-pound older police officer when Ted was in the best physical shape of his life."
There are very few Southern law enforcement officers who fit the mold of Sheriff Buford T. Justice from "Smokey and the Bandit," and David Lee was not one of them. When Lee arrested Bundy, Lee was young, strong, and in excellent physical shape. Good enough shape to pound the tobacco juice out of Bundy when Bundy violently resisted arrest. Here is a "Reader's Digest" account of the arrest: Lee stopped Bundy and placed him under arrest for loitering and prowling. Bundy broke free and began to run away. Lee fired a shot at Bundy. Bundy fell to the ground. When Lee approached Bundy and began to examine him to determine if he was wounded, Bundy attacked him. Lee beat Bundy into submission. My favorite photo of Bundy is his booking photo from the Escambia County Jail.