Friday, April 21, 2017


I saw today that the Gainesville Sun is running an essay contest to choose a nurse of the year for Nurse’s Week beginning May 6. I clicked on the link to the page containing the full rules for the contest and was disappointed to find that the contest was limited to nurses who were currently working in the nursing profession and the essays were limited to 300 words. That presented two problems. The person I had in mind for nomination is now retired, and 300 words is not enough to describe what an excellent nurse she was and still is.

She set her sights on becoming a nurse at an early age and never wavered from pursuing that goal. In high school she worked nights as a telephone operator to save money for college, and continued to work through two years at Lake City Junior College and Forest Ranger School, now Florida Gateway College. There was an Associate Degree nursing program at LCJC, but she wanted a bachelor’s degree. Upon graduating LCJC she enrolled in the University of Florida and entered the nursing program. Before she graduated from UF she had married, and as soon as she graduated she went took a job at the VA Hospital in Lake City and began working on her P.H.T. (Putting Husband Through) degree from the University of Florida Law School.

Rotating shifts and the strenuous physical labor of being a hospital nurse did not mix well with rearing a young child, and when the second came her husband talked her into leaving her profession for full-time motherhood. I don’t recall how long that lasted, but it wasn’t long. She and her husband disagreed about her going back to work, but they reached a compromise with the agreement that she would try to find a job with reasonable hours and weekends off.

She found that job at LCJC on the faculty of the Associate Degree Nursing Department, where she served for the bulk of her career. Beginning as the most junior and least experienced member of the nursing faculty, when she left the college she was the Director of the Associate Degree Nursing Department.

During the time she taught at the college, her husband had the opportunity to get a P.W.T. degree as she earned a Master’s Degree in Allied Health. I tried to talk her into going ahead and studying to become a Nurse Practitioner, but she was satisfied with what she was doing at the college.

One of her accomplishments while at the college was to put together an A.D.N. to B.S.N. (Associate Degree Nursing to Bachelor of Sciences in Nursing) program at what had by that time become Lake City Community College. I recall how tirelessly she worked putting the program together, and how many obstacles she had to overcome, but she finally got the program in place and began the process of turning A.D.N.’s into B.S.N.’s. More than a few B.S.N.’s today obtained their degree through that program. My only complaint is that she worked the program in conjunction with F.S.U. (Just kidding).

One incident from the early days of that program exemplifies her dedication to duty, compassion, level-headed good judgment, and coolness under fire. She was leading a caravan of students over to Tallahassee for a class on the F.S.U. campus when they drove up on a horrific wreck on I-10. A prison bus loaded with chained female inmates had overturned. Almost all of the prisoners had been seriously injured, and the injuries had been magnified by the fact that they had been manacled. The wreck had occurred so recently that no emergency vehicles had arrived on the scene. The caravan of nursing students stopped and went into action as first responders rendering whatever aid they could.

With no equipment of any kind, and nothing but their knowledge and their bare hands, she and her students began rendering what aid they could. When E.M.S. personnel arrived they continued to assist until the situation had been completely handled. When it was all over, she called F.S.U. and advised that they would not be coming to the Crisis Management Class that night, they had held their class on the side of I-10.  She later wrote a letter to the Secretary of the Department of Corrections about how the use of manacles in transporting the prisoners had compounded their injuries and cost some of the prisoners their lives. Her plea to unshackle prisoners once they had been locked into a transport bus fell on deaf ears.

She taught hundreds of students over the course of her career, and not a week goes by that we don’t encounter one of her former students. Seeing so many of her former students who have done so well in the nursing profession gives me a sense of great pride that she has made a significant contribution to the betterment of society.

Sometimes seeing former students can be amusing. The lead-in to this story is a little long, but bear with me: Lane (yes, I’ve been talking about my wife) used to have bad migraine headaches. They had come out with a shot for migraines that was very painful to administer, and they had given Lane some syringes to take home. She got a migraine so bad that she couldn’t administer the shot to herself, so she told me I would have to do it. I’d given shots to cows back in my days as a farm boy, but never a shot to a human being. I didn’t want to do it. I also didn’t want her to suffer, so I screwed up my courage and gave her the shot. She screamed. I nearly fainted. I told her the next [expletive deleted] time she needed a migraine shot we’d just have to go to the emergency room.

Sure enough, not long after that she got another bad migraine. I packed her up and took her to the emergency room, and the doctor prescribed a shot. (So far I’ve neglected to mention that this shot did not go into the arm). The job of giving the shot devolved onto the E.R. nurse, a man whom Lane had taught in nursing school. My reluctance to give my wife a shot was nothing compared to his reluctance to give his former professor a shot that wasn’t going into the arm. His hand was actually shaking a little bit as he approached to give it. He somehow accomplished the task of giving her the shot. Lane didn’t scream. And I bit my tongue to keep from laughing because I knew neither he nor Lane would see any humor in the situation.

After she left the college, Lane worked as the Associate Director of Nursing at Northeast Florida State Hospital for a few years before finally retiring completely. In retirement she’s nursed our parents and our children, our grandchildren, and a multitude of other friends and relatives. And when I say nursed, I don’t mean just giving them a Band-Aid and an aspirin—I’m talking about roll-up-your-sleeves, carry-the-bedpan, etc., etc. nursing. More than once I’ve been a bachelor for weeks at a time while she has gone to a distant city to nurse a sick friend or relative. She has accused me of enjoying my occasional stints of bachelorhood, but I’m always glad to meet her at the airport and take her home.

I’ve tripled the Gainesville Sun’s word limit already, and I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of all the good things Lane has done as a nurse. Suffice it to say that she has my vote for Nurse of the Year, Nurse of the Decade, and Nurse of the Century. But then I may be just a little bit prejudiced.

Monday, April 10, 2017


Southern Illinois University Press just sent me the copy for the dust jacket of the book, Prairie Defender, asking me to look it over and see if I approved of it. I read the copy and thought "Dad gum, that sounds like a good book. I'd like to read it." And I really would like to read it again--even though I've read it countless times already getting it ready for printing. That's the way I am with a book I really like, I read it and re-read it numerous times. When I was a kid, I read my grandmother's copy of Swiss Family Robinson until the covers fell off.

I thoroughly enjoyed writing Prairie Defender, and I thoroughly enjoy every re-reading of it. I certainly hope the reading public gets as much pleasure out of it as I do. Here's the copy that's going to be on the inside flap of the dust cover:

According to conventional wisdom, Abraham Lincoln spent most of his law career collecting debt and representing railroads, and this focus made him inept at defending clients in homicide cases. In this unprecedented study of Lincoln’s criminal cases, George Dekle disproves these popular notions, showing that Lincoln was first and foremost a trial lawyer. Through careful examination of Lincoln’s homicide cases and evaluation of his legal skills, Dekle demonstrates that criminal law was an important part of Lincoln’s practice and that he was quite capable of defending people accused of murder, trying approximately one such case per year.

Dekle begins by presenting the viewpoints of not only those who see Lincoln as a perfect lawyer whose only flaw was his inability to represent the wrong side of a case but also those who believe Lincoln was a less-than-honest legal hack. The author invites readers to compare these wildly different stereotypes with the flesh-and-blood Lincoln revealed in each case described in the book, including an axe murder suit in which Lincoln assisted the prosecution, a poisoning case he refused to prosecute for $200 but defended for $75, and a case he won by proving that a supposed murder victim was actually still alive.

For each case Dekle covers, he first tells the stories of the feuds, arguments, and insults that led to murder and other criminal activity, giving a gripping view of the seamy side of life in nineteenth-century Illinois. Then he traces the course of the pretrial litigation, describes the trials and the various tactics employed in the prosecution and defense, and critiques the performance of both Lincoln and his adversaries.

Dekle concludes that Lincoln was a competent, diligent criminal trial lawyer who knew the law, could argue it effectively to both judge and jury, and would use all lawful means to defend clients whether he believed them to be innocent or guilty. His trial record shows Lincoln to have been a formidable defense lawyer who won many seemingly hopeless cases through his skill as a courtroom tactician, cross-examiner, and orator. Criminal defendants who could retain Lincoln as a defense attorney were well represented, and criminal defense attorneys who sought him as co-counsel were well served. Providing insight into both Lincoln’s legal career and the culture in which he practiced law, Prairie Defender resolves a major misconception concerning one of our most important historical figures.

Saturday, February 25, 2017


I'm between books right now, just having gotten the proof pages and index for Prairie Defender back to the publisher, and not quite being cranked up to jump on the big research project for my next book (working title--Attorney Generals: Martial Lawyers of the Civil War), so I decided to do a little experiment. I gathered together all the vignettes I have ever written about any of my cases and put them into book form and self-published them on The project took all weekend, and the finished product turned out to be a 130 page paperback and an ebook. Both books are now on sale on the Amazon website. If the book is well-received, I might be motivated to write some more stories about some of my other cases. Here's the table of contents from the paperback:

Introduction, 1
Chapter1: Deciding to Become a Lawyer, 4
Chapter 2: My First Murder Case, 9
Chapter 3: The Ballad of the Blind Victim, 21
Chapter 4: My First Capital Murder Case, 27
Chapter 5: The Wrong Man Murder, 37
Chapter 6: The Risks Associated with Being a Prosecutor, 41
Chapter 7: My Second Capital Murder Case, 49
Chapter 8: Genuine Self-Defense, 55
Chapter 9: Memories of Murder Weapons, 60
Chapter 10: Taxicab Confessions, 64
Chapter 11: Police Shootings, 71
Chapter 12: The “He Ran His Hand in His Pocket” Defense to a Charge of Murder, 77
Chapter 13: The Prosecutor’s Dictionary, 82
Chapter 14: Men Who Kill Police Officers, 87
Chapter 15: Jury Duty, 90
Chapter 16: Jurors and Jury Selection, 94
Chapter 17: Remembering 9-11, 97
Chapter 18: Thoughts on Police Shootings, 100
Chapter 19: The Hard Witnesses, 105
Chapter 20: Friday Night Fights, 111
Chapter 21: Ted Bundy—Celebrity Slayer, 114

Here's a link to the PAPERBACK;
and here's a link to the EBOOK.

Sunday, January 29, 2017


I'm doing a little research in contemplation of writing a book about lawyer-generals in the Civil War. When the war broke out, there were only four generals in the U.S. Army, but there were hundreds of generals on both sides by the time it was over. Where did they come from? The largest number of generals came from a military background. By one historian's count, there were 194 professional soldiers serving as generals for the Union and 125 for the Confederacy. That left a lot of amateurs to fill out the number needed. The second largest number of generals came from the ranks of practicing lawyers. There were 126 "attorney generals" serving Union and 129 serving the Confederacy. 

As I was researching to determine how the "attorney generals" performed in combat, I came across dual account of the Battle of Olustee written by two generals, one Confederate and one Union. Since the Battle of Olustee Festival is drawing near, I thought I would share the story of the battle. This account comes from  Volume 4 of the 1888 work, Battles and Leaders of the Civil War, pages 78-80. First, the account of Major-General Samuel Jones, C.S.A,:

And now for the version of Joseph R. Hawley, Brevet Major-General, U.S.V.:

Tuesday, January 24, 2017


According to the conventional wisdom, there are two types of chess players who like to play so-called chess variants (games of chess in which the normal rules have been altered in some way)—those who are very good at chess, like world champion Jose Raul Capablanca (who invented a chess variant), and those who are not very good at chess, like me (who invented several chess variants). There are thousands of chess variants, and most of them are very bad. Some, however, are very good. Shogi, or Japanese Chess, is an excellent game in its own right, and it is very different from Western Chess, with its flat, pointed pieces which can be parachuted back onto the board if they are captured. The pieces look like little boats or little arrowheads, and although the sides are called black and white as in Western Chess, the pieces are all the same color. You can tell which player has a piece by which way the piece is pointing.

One of my favorite chess variants is a game which is known by several different names—Neo-Chess, Drop Chess, Mad Mate, Reinforcement Chess, Turnabout Chess, Schizo Chess, and Chessgi. The game has been invented and re-invented several times, with the earliest incarnation of the game appearing in 1827 and the latest (Neo-Chess) being invented by Alex Randolph in 1972. It was supposedly re-invented under the name of Chessgi in the late 1960’s or early 1970’s by a group of college students who wanted to play Shogi but couldn’t find a Shogi set.

The name Chessgi is the most descriptive of all the names that the game has gone under. If you know the rules of Chess, the rules of Chessgi are simple. Chessgi is played exactly like Chess with the addition of the following rules: (1) A captured piece becomes the property of the player capturing it and may be parachuted back onto the board in a subsequent move. (2) If a captured piece is parachuted onto the board, no piece on the board can be moved. (3) A pawn cannot be parachuted onto the back row where it cannot move. (4) If a piece which has promoted from a pawn is captured, it does not lose its promoted rank.

Playing the game is cumbersome. You need at least two sets so that a captured piece can be replace it with a piece of the captor’s color before being parachuted back onto the board. You need a flow chart to keep up with what’s been captured and who has captured it. Neo-Chess, which is a proprietary game, solved the problem by replacing the pieces with cylinders. On one end of the cylinders would be the symbols for the pieces in one color and on the other end would be the symbols for the pieces in the other color. When a piece was captured, the captor could simply turn it over. Neo-Chess is no longer on the market, but you can occasionally find a used set on ebay.

I don’t know when I first became aware of Chessgi. I think it was shortly after I joined The Knights of the Square Table (NOST), a now-defunct postal chess club. When I read about the game in the pages of the NOST newsletter, I wanted to play it, but I didn’t want to fool around with two chess sets  and I had never heard of Neo-Chess. I had already made myself a Shogi set, so I decided to make a Chessgi set.

I had previously made a Shogi set using directions I found in a library book, so I decided to make my Chessgi set exactly as I had made my first Shogi set. Cutting out the little pointed pieces was easy. The hard part was figuring out how to put the symbols on them. When I made my Shogi set, I used a stencil to put the initials of the pieces on the wooden shapes, but I wanted real Chess symbols on the Chessgi pieces. Having no Chess stencil and no artistic talent, I decided to photocopy drawings of the pieces and glue them on the wooden arrowheads. I had black symbols on one side and white symbols on the other so that the pieces could be flipped over as in Neo-Chess, but I soon discovered that I only needed one color because it was easy to distinguish the sides by the way the pieces pointed. We’ve moved twice since I made that Chessgi set, and I have no idea where it is. 

Recently I got in the mood to play some Chessgi, so I made another set. This time I used a chess figurine stencil from to put the symbols on the pieces. Although it wasn’t necessary, I put black symbols on one side of the pieces and red symbols on the other. The set looks like this:

Now if I can just find someone to play against.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017


My friend Ron Clark, with whom I co-authored Cross-Examination Handbook: Persuasion, Strategies, and Techniques, maintains a blog on cross-examination. He recently posted a nice review of my book The Lindbergh Kidnapping Case to his blog. You can access the post with the following hyperlink or simply read the text which I have reproduced below.

Talbot Publishing recently released my co-author Bob Dekle’s book entitled The Lindbergh Kidnapping Case: A Critical Analysis of the Trial of Bruno Richard Hauptmann.  Although the Lindbergh kidnapping case has been written about innumerable times, never before has the trial of Bruno Richard Hauptmann been meticulously researched and analyzed. Bob and his co-author Jim Dedman have done just that.           

The book is somewhat reminiscent of Vincent Bugliosi’s book Outrage:The Five Reasons O. J. Simpson Got Away With Murder. In Outrage, Bugliosi, who had prosecuted Charles Manson, explains how he would have prosecuted Simpson, along with providing examples of what he would have done, such as what he would have said in closing argument.

The Lindbergh Kidnapping Case is instructive on how to conduct a cross-examination. For instance, one of the prosecution witnesses at the Hauptman trial was John Condon, an interloper who was involved in the negotiations over the ransom. This is how the book assesses defense counsel’s strategy in cross-examining Condon:

Reilly adopted the wrong strategy for the examination of Condon. Instead of attacking the implausibility of Condon’s testimony, he attacked Condon personally. What Reilly succeeded in doing by aggressive verbal sparring with Condon was to highlight Condon’s wit in repartee, which in turn masked the implausibility of his testimony. . .

Rather than merely criticizing the strategy, the book recommends effective techniques that could be utilized as follows:

Reilly should have attacked the plausibility of the testimony, not the personality of the testifier. Snide remarks and personal assaults proved counterproductive and resulted in this portion of the cross-examination being diverted down a rabbit trail of arguing over the meaning of words. He would have done better by asking a line of tight and controlling single-fact questions. Such a line of questioning might have gone thus:

Q: You attended a lineup at the Greenwich Street police station in New York? 
A: Yes.

Reilly should expect Condon to append a verbal barrage to his affirmation, but he should not take the bait. Rather he must relentlessly pursue the non-identification.

Q: The police asked you if anyone appearing in the lineup was the John whom you met in the cemetery? 
A: Yes.

Q: Bruno Richard Hauptmann was in the lineup? 
A: Yes.

Q: At that time you did not identify Mr. Hauptmann as John?  
A: I identified Mr. Hauptmann at that time but I made no declaration of identification.

The Lindbergh Kidnapping Case is the perfect read for anyone interested in the Lindbergh case, an insightful telling of the story of the Hauptman trial, and a superb tutorial on trial strategies and techniques with illustrations from this famous case.