Thursday, August 8, 2019

REVIEW OF "SIX CAPSULES" BY ALACHUA COUNTY PUBLIC LIBRARY

Here's a link to a blog post by the Alachua County Public Library describing my newest book, "Six Capsules."

MEMORIES OF WOODSTOCK ON ITS 50th ANNIVERSARY

I was running an errand to the grocery store this morning and as I was checking out, I saw a special edition of Life magazine celebrating the 50th anniversary of Woodstock. I thought it would be appropriate at this point in history for me to share my memories of Woodstock:


[NONE].


When Woodstock was going on, I was blissfully unaware of this milestone in popular culture. I was too busy listening to the Grand Ole Opry on Clear Channel 650, WSM, Nashville, Tennessee. In my mind, wood stock was what you put on a shotgun or rifle. 

For any modern day readers who don't know what I'm talking about when I say wood stock, here's a picture:

A Wood Rifle Stock on a Lathe


The first news I got of Woodstock was an article in the then-weekly Life magazine. What I remember most vividly about that article is a picture of a shapely young girl dancing topless and seemingly enjoying herself immensely. Pretty tame stuff by 21st century standards, but jarring at the time. Looking at the crowd pictures in Life, I remember thinking, "What a bunch of idiots." Maybe I was wrong to think that, but I was young and inexperienced at the time. My opinion hasn't changed. Maybe I'm old and out-of-touch with 21st century pop culture. I wouldn't walk across the street to go to a rock concert, much less go live in a tent in a far distant state. I still listen to the music I love at Willie's Roadhouse on Sirius XM.


The whole "love, peace, tranquility, and weed" movement of the 1960's left me cold. When they have the first war protest riots at the University of Florida my parents frantically called me to make sure I was okay. "What riots?" I asked. The riots were going on down on 13th Street in front of Tigert Hall, where I never went except under duress. I assume that the location of the riots was chosen to make it more convenient for the TV cameras. In the dormitories and classes, it was life as usual.


Despite being so out-of-step with the cultural trends of the last half of the 20th century, I survived. I didn't buy the special edition of Life at the grocery store. I saw enough of Woodstock back in 1969. 


And now I live in a world as fraught with discord as the 1960's. America survived that cataclysmic time and emerged a better place. I hope and pray it does the same in this present tribulation.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

BOOK TALK AT GAINESVILLE PUBLIC LIBRARY

The pictured notice was posted on the Gainesville Public Library website. I’ll be giving the talk at the main branch on 401 East University Avenue at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, August 25.


Wednesday, July 3, 2019

AN EARLY EXPERIMENT WITH SOCIALISM



One of the earliest experiments with socialism came in the First Century A.D. in a city known as Jerusalem. There was a group of people there who “had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.” (Acts 2:44-45). At first, everything was rosy. Everyone gave all they had to the leaders, and the leaders “distributed to each as anyone had need.” (Acts 4:32-35). Now it wasn’t long that there arose dissention among the group. It seemed that many folks thought the leaders weren’t distributing the wealth fairly. (Acts 6:1-4). The members of this group spread far and wide due to persecution, but there isn’t any indication that the members outside Jerusalem practiced socialism. The group grew outside of Jerusalem, but the parent group of socialists in Jerusalem stagnated. Eventually the Jerusalem group became poor. The Jerusalem group’s poverty became so bad that the non-socialist group members outside Jerusalem took up collections and sent the money to Jerusalem to support the parent group. (1 Corinthians 16:1-3). Eventually the Jerusalem group disappeared with the sacking of the city by the Romans in 70 A.D. 

These early socialists were the first Christians, imbued with the teachings of Jesus about turning the other cheek, going the second mile, and requiting good for evil. Because they were so close in time to the earthly Jesus, and personally knowing his disciples, it is reasonable to assume that they were exemplary Christians. But they couldn’t make socialism work. Probably the most generous, loving, kindest group of people ever to attempt socialism couldn’t make it work. I think that’s pretty good evidence for the proposition that socialism is a broken system.

The problems of the Jerusalem socialists were the problems of socialism today. As demonstrated by the Jerusalem church, confiscating the property of the rich and redistributing it to the poor only works for so long. As George Orwell once wrote, "The trouble with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people's money." Then, instead of "eating rainbow stew from a silver spoon underneath a sky of blue," you're going to be getting a bowl of gruel--if you're lucky. No matter how hard you work, you're never going to get anything more than that bowl of gruel. Sounds inviting, doesn't it?

TALK AT JACKSONVILLE PUBLIC LIBRARY


I will be giving a re-enactment of the final argument in the Ted Bundy case at the Jacksonville Public Library Main Branch on 303 N. Laura Street at 2:00 p.m. on July 13.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

EXTREMELY INACCURATE, SHOCKINGLY DISTORTED, AND WARPED


As a rule, I don’t like movie biopics. They come with the assurance “based on a true story,” and viewers get the impression that the stories they tell actually happened. Sadly, any time I have ever seen a biopic on a person I knew something about, I could see where the movie got important details badly wrong, transforming “based on a true story” into “pure fiction suggested by a true story.” What is even more distressing to me is that usually the important details were gotten badly wrong on purpose. Why? To make the story better. These embellishments often wind up making the story worse.

Thus, in the movie “Hurricane,” Rubin Carter handily defeated Joey Giardello for the middleweight championship but was robbed of the decision by racist judges. I was a fan of Rubin Carter at the time of the fight, and I was sorely disappointed when Joey Giardello beat him with such ease. The same sort of thing goes for the movie “Cinderella Man,” where Max Baer is portrayed as some sort of sadistic bully like Ivan Drago, who loved to send his opponents to the hospital or the morgue. It made for a stirring sort of a confrontation between the underdog James Braddock and the favored Baer, but it slandered the happy-go-lucky Baer, who was as kind a man as ever climbed into the ring.


Which brings me to “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile,” which would better be titled “Extremely Inaccurate, Shockingly Distorted, and Warped.” I get that they wanted to make an interesting story, but this is a situation where the truth is far more interesting that the fictive account the movie rendered up. Of course, the truth is always nuanced in shades of grey, whereas biopics like to portray things in stark black and white.


In rough chronological order, here are a few of the distortions in the movie (I  voice no opinion on the depiction of what happened out West. I wasn’t there and I purposely remained as ignorant of Bundy’s Western “exploits” as possible so that I could concentrate on the case at hand without being distracted by other things):


The Florida police were not portrayed as badly as though they were Keystone Kops, but their portrayal was not an accurate reflection of the highly professional work done to bring Bundy to justice.


When Bundy was arrested in Pensacola, he did not gut punch the officer and knock him breathless to the ground. As the officer was cuffing Bundy, he spun out of the officer’s grasp and ran. When the officer caught him, Bundy resisted violently and the officer used sufficient force to subdue him, producing my favorite booking photo of Bundy.


The depiction of the service of the search warrant for Bundy’s teeth impressions was highly inaccurate. A goon squad did not rush in on Bundy and pin him down while teeth impressions were forcibly made. When the warrant was read to Bundy, he voiced opposition to it, but did not resist in the least.


Most of the courtroom scenes looked like they were written by someone whose only knowledge of court proceedings came from watching “Matlock” reruns.


Almost every lawyer depicted in the movie came across as a nincompoop. The lawyers were not nincompoops. The scene where Bundy jumped up and objected when his lawyer wouldn’t, got his objection sustained, and then his lawyer stormed out of the courtroom never happened. The fall guy who was chosen for the role of nincompoop lawyer in this sequence was “Dan Dowd,” a made-up lawyer who, so far as I know, exists only in the imaginations of the screenwriters. Apparently, they were ashamed to foist this piece of nincompoopery off on an actual lawyer who was engaged in Bundy’s defense.

The tragedy of this flight of fantasy is that anyone with even minimal knowledge of the case will identify “Dan Dowd” with Public Defender Michael Minerva, who rendered distinguished service to the people of the Second Judicial Circuit of Florida for many years, Mike was (and still is) an excellent criminal defense attorney and an honorable man. If I were in trouble with the law, I wouldn’t hesitate to retain him as my counsel.


The only nincompoop in the courtroom was Ted Bundy. He was constantly doing things to hamstring his defense team. Like when he cross-examined one of the first responding officers to the Chi Omega crime scene and had the officer describe, in Technicolor every gory detail of the scene. Or when he fired attorney Robert Haggard in the middle of the Chi Omega trial. Or when he insisted that Margaret Goode, an appellate attorney who had never tried a case to a jury, give the final argument in the Chi Omega case.


I wasn’t there when Mike Minerva talked to Ted Bundy about pleading to escape the death penalty, but I know just as surely as if I were there that it didn’t happen the way the movie portrayed it. “Dan Dowd” came breezing in and discussed the plea in front of a room full of people and tried to strongarm Bundy into taking the plea. That never happened. I’ve presented probably a thousand or more plea offers to clients, and I know as well as if I were there how Minerva presented the offer. Minerva gave the details of the offer to Bundy, discussed the evidence against him, rendered his opinion about the strength of the evidence, and recommended that Bundy take the plea. No strongarm tactics whatsoever were involved. As I used to tell my clients, “It’s no skin off my nose if you reject the plea. You’re the one facing prison, not me. At the end of the trial, I’m going home no matter what happens.”


Bundy did not reject the plea offer; we withdrew it because of his antics in court when he tried to offer the plea. He was trying to set up a post-conviction attack on his plea for ineffective assistance of counsel by berating Michael Minerva. His plan was to give the plea, go to prison for a few years and wait for the cases against him to deteriorate to the point they could never be resurrected, and then withdraw his plea and win an acquittal at trial. What he accomplished was to drive away the most talented lawyer on his defense team. Minerva sent two of his top assistants to Miami to try the case, but he stayed in Tallahassee, and in Miami Bundy boo-hoo’ed in open court about Minerva abandoning him. If I had been Minerva, it would have been all I could do to keep from slugging him.


The marriage ceremony was farcical enough in real life, but the way they portrayed it in the movie was downright stupid. In real life there was a notary public in court who signed the marriage license when Bundy pronounced them man and wife. Gary Oldman’s John Malkovich's “ruling” that all you have to do is stand up in a Florida courtroom and say, “I do,” and you’re married was ludicrous. And the marriage occurred in Orlando during the penalty phase, not in Miami during the guilt phase. [I keep mixing up Oldman and Malkovich for some reason].


The “conjugal visit” in the Orange County Jail never happened. Bundy impregnated his wife with a crude form of artificial insemination in the Death Row visiting park at Florida State Prison. I will spare readers the details of how it was accomplished.



The tragedy of biopics like “Extremely Inaccurate, Shockingly Distorted, and Warped” is that people will watch the movie and think that things actually happened as portrayed in the movie. They didn’t. Something somewhat similar to the events depicted in the movie happened. The actual events were more complex, more nuanced, and cast Bundy in a far less glamorous light.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

"SIX CAPSUES" GETTING NOTICED

In the first ten days after publication, "Six Capsules" has gotten a lot more notice than I am used to getting on the launching of one of my books. Perhaps this means I'm getting better at writing, or more likely it means that I randomly chose a case which seems to resonate with a lot of current issues: #Metoo, abortion, women's rights, and "celebrity" killers to name a few. Whatever the cause, I'm glad that the book is getting noticed, because I think it tells an interesting story about an important case from long ago. Here are some of the mentions:

A&E Real Crime Blog -- The Murder of Helen Potts: How Carlyle Harris, a Wealthy Med Student, Poisoned His Secret Wife

Ten Random Pages Book Review of "Six Capsules"

Ten Random Pages Preview of Six Capsules

Clouded in Mystery Webpage Book Review of "Six Capsules"

New York History Blog Mention of "Six Capsules"

I also did a podcast interview on the book. I will post a link to the podcast when it is published.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

"SIX CAPSULES" PUBLISHED

Six Capsules is officially published now, and Amazon has apparently sold out already. They began by offering it at a steeply reduced price, and the next thing I knew, the price was back up and they were saying that they only had one copy left. Now if you go to the Amazon page for the book, they have an announcement saying that they will deliver the book within one to two months. I'm pleased that the book seems to be selling well, but disappointed that Amazon didn't begin by stocking more books.

We've gotten some notice of the book on the web. The website "Clouded in Mystery" has written a nice review of the book [SEE REVIEW HERE], and the New York History Blog has published an article on it. [SEE ARTICLE HERE].

I'm lining up some book talks, and the first is going to be at the Alachua County Library District's headquarters, which I believe to be located at 401 East University Avenue in Gainesville. I'm slated to give the talk on August 25 at 2:30 PM.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

SIX CAPSULES PUBLICATION DATE


My latest book, Six Capsules: The Gilded Age Murder of Helen Potts, comes out on May 14, 2019. Here is the language from the back cover of the book:


“Very few historical nonfiction writers capture the essence of an era. Fewer do that with the grace and talent of a novelist. George Dekle not only presents the story of what could be the first #MeToo moment in American history—complete with deception, psychopathy, murder, and justice—but elevates his narrative by compassionately showcasing victim Helen Potts’s role in American history as a forgotten martyr for women’s rights. An incredible book, Six Capsules is the first must-read of the spring 2019 season ... teeming with vitality, integrity, insight, new information ... delving into the dark elements of a society long forgotten. A stimulating, lavish and page-turning narrative.”—New York Times bestselling author M. William Phelps


“‘Was an innocent man murdered by the State of New York?’ Dekle deftly, and broadly, addresses that question on two fronts—yesterday, through a detailed deconstruction of the late 19th century trial proceedings, and today, from his perch as both prosecutor and law professor emeritus.”—William L. Tabac, author of The Insanity Defense and the Mad Murderess of Shaker Heights: Examining the Trial of Mariann Colby


As Ted Bundy was to the 20th century, so Carlyle Harris was to the 19th. Harris was a charismatic, handsome young medical student with an insatiable appetite for sex. His trail of debauched women ended with Helen Potts, a beautiful young woman of wealth and privilege who was determined to keep herself pure for marriage. Unable to conquer her by other means, Harris talked her into a secret marriage under assumed names, and when threatened with exposure, he poisoned her.


The resulting trial garnered national headlines and launched the careers of two of New York’s most famous prosecutors, Francis L. Wellman and William Travers Jerome. It also spurred vigorous debate about Harris’s guilt or innocence, the value of circumstantial evidence, the worth of expert testimony, and the advisability of the death penalty. Six Capsules traces Harris’s crime and his subsequent trial, and highlights what has been overlooked, the decisive role that the second-class status of women in Victorian Era culture played in this tragedy.


George R. Dekle Sr. served as a legal skills professor at the University of Florida, where he directed the Prosecution Clinic. His most recent book, Prairie Defender: The Murder Trials of Abraham Lincoln, won a Superior Achievement Award for Scholarship from the Illinois State Historical Society and Gold Medals for Biography and Politics from the Florida Authors and Publishers Association.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

ZAC EFRON'S PONTIFICATION ON TED BUNDY

Zac Efron has announced that Ted Bundy got away with murder because of "White Privilege." No matter how thinly you slice his words, they are still baloney. White privilege had nothing to do with Bundy's getting away with 27+ murders. I am going to explain how Bundy (and other serial killers) got away with so many murders, and I am going to do it in words of one or two syllables. In order to do this, I'm going to have to use SK to mean "serial killer" because "serial" has three syllables:

Bundy got away with so many murders because he killed strangers. SK's kill people they don't know. When you kill someone you don't know, it's hard for the police to connect you to the murder. When the police got enough to connect Bundy to a murder, they nailed him. Bundy's skin color had nothing to do with him getting away with 27 murders.

I'm going to start using bigger words now: The fact that Bundy was a good looking, articulate white guy may have contributed to his celebrity, but it did not give him any sort of advantage when he became ensnarled in the criminal justice system.

I'm going to stray from the main subject now: The myth of "Bundy the criminal mastermind" is as big a pile of organic fertilizer as "Bundy the benificiary of white privilege." Bundy was a cunning psychopath, but far from a criminal mastermind. At his two trials in Florida his nincompoopery and grandstanding in court served in no small measure to help ease the burden of proof on the prosecution. That's not a criminal mastermind, that's a criminal dumb@$$.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

"SIX CAPSULES" PUBLICATION DATE: MAY 14, 2019



I haven't posted much in the past few months for a number of reasons. I've resolved to post more regularly in the future, and I can't think of a better post than to announce the publication of my latest book, Six Capsules: The Gilded Age Murder of Helen Potts. You can visit the Kent State University Press webpage for the book by clicking on the title. The publisher describes the book in the following language:

The permanent solution to a wife’s chronic headache
As Ted Bundy was to the 20th century, so Carlyle Harris was to the 19th. Harris was a charismatic, handsome young medical student with an insatiable appetite for sex. His trail of debauched women ended with Helen Potts, a beautiful young woman of wealth and privilege who was determined to keep herself pure for marriage. Unable to conquer her by other means, Harris talked her into a secret marriage under assumed names, and when threatened with exposure, he poisoned her.
The resulting trial garnered national headlines and launched the careers of two of New York’s most famous prosecutors, Francis L. Wellman and William Travers Jerome. It also spurred vigorous debate about Harris’s guilt or innocence, the value of circumstantial evidence, the worth of expert testimony, and the advisability of the death penalty. Six Capsules traces Harris’s crime and his sub­sequent trial and highlights what has been overlooked—the decisive role that the second-class status of women in Victorian Era culture played in this tragedy.
The Harris case is all but forgotten today, but Six Capsules seeks to recover this important milestone in American legal history
It was a lot of fun to write this book, in part because the lawyers involved in the case were such larger-than-life characters. Francis L. Wellman, author of the venerable Art of Cross-Examination, was the lead prosecutor; and William Travers Jerome, who later went on to be one of New York City's most celebrated District Attorneys, defended. William F. Howe, whom history remembers as a thoroughgoing scoundrel, handled the case on appeal. 

The defendant was Carlyle W. Harris, who had a drunkard father, a temperance crusader mother, and an insatiable appetite for sexual conquest. Harris was a truly brilliant medical student, and he was charismatic and handsome to boot. Most women readily succumbed to his charm, but Helen Potts was made of sterner stuff. He had to talk her into a secret marriage to get what he wanted from her, and the romance went off the rails when her mother found out about the marriage.

Although nobody remembers the case today, it was a nationwide sensation at the time, and it sealed Francis Wellman's reputation as a deadly cross-examiner. I particularly enjoyed critiquing Wellman's strategy as he systematically destroyed almost every witness called by the defense. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

A CHARACTER SKETCH OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN

The following comparison of Abraham Lincoln with his colleague, Kirby Benedict, comes from pages 39 & 40 of Kirby Benedict: Frontier Judge. It is a direct quotation of an article in the Danville Illinois Citizen of May 29, 1850:


Abraham Lincoln and Kirby Benedict are the direct antitheses of each other and are as widely separated as heaven and earth. Benedict is easy, graceful and fascinating. Lincoln is rough, uncouth and unattractive. The former is kind, affable, and courteous ; while the latter is stern, solemn, and unfamiliar.


Benedict has never been a deep thinker and, in his arguments, he depends almost entirely upon the resources of a rich and powerful imagination. As far as oratory is concerned, he transcends, by far, any member of the Bar on the Circuit; and it is perhaps true that he possesses more than all the others combined.


At one moment he dissects the testimony of a witness and over some trivial flaw, vents all the gall and bitterness of his invectives; then suddenly the mockery ceases and he solemnly and earnestly pleads for his client as his tones range from dulcet to fortissimo or the thunder of Niagara.


Yet with all his brilliancy and wit, the fascination of his eloquence and the sparkling joyousness of his disposition, he is never happy when alone. He lives only when his mind can be on the wing and like a caged eagle, pines when his pinions are fettered.

How different is Lincoln! He is gifted with a mind deeply imbued by study. His style of reasoning is profound; his deductions logical and his investigations are acute. In his examination of witnesses, he displays a masterly ingenuity and a legal tact that baffles concealment and defies deceit. When he addresses the jury, there is no false glitter or sickly sentimentalism. In vain we look for a rhetorical display of sublime nothings. His argument is bold, forcible, and convincing.

Such are some of the qualities which place Lincoln at the head of the profession in this state and although he may have his equal, it would be no easy task to find his superior.


Sunday, March 17, 2019

LIMITATIONS ON ATTORNEY-CLIENT PRIVILEGE

Thursday, January 31, 2019

SPANISH & GENDER NEUTRALITY

Pity the poor Spanish speaking SJW. Almost all nouns in Spanish are either masculine or feminine. Spanish speaking SJW's are tying themselves in knots trying to figure out how to be gender neutral in Spanish and other Romance languages with gendered nouns and pronouns. See here: GENDER NEUTRALITY IN SPANISH - WIKIPEDIA.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

THE WORM TURNS: BABY BOOMERS ARE NOW RESPONSIBLE FOR ALL THE EVIL IN THE WORLD

When I was a college student, it was trendy for people my age to complain that the world was going to Hell in a handbasket and that "the older generation" was responsible for it all. The watchword was "Never trust anyone over 30!" Things were horrible, but just wait until the Baby Boomer generation came of age and took over! Utopia would blossom forth and we'd all be eating rainbow stew from a silver spoon underneath a sky of blue.

Well, Baby Boomers are of age now, and it appears that the world is still going to Hell in a handbasket, but it's doing so for reasons that hardly anyone dreamed of back in the 1960's. The older generation which my contemporaries lambasted for screwing everything up has become "The Greatest Generation," and now it seems that the generation responsible for wrecking America is--you guessed it, the Baby Boomers!

I've read quite a lot of rants about Baby Boomers over the past few months, and most of them were so off the mark that they were laughable. The latest rant I saw is typical of the lot. It deals with how we Baby Boomers screwed up Social Security. It says:

Saving up for retirement is a good idea, but when you guys empty out all the money Social Security has, the rest of us will never be able to retire. Since you helped set these systems up, that hardly seems fair.

Here's a little history lesson for youthful bellyachers about how Baby Boomers screwed up Social Security:

Do you have any idea why, when Social Security was first instituted in 1935 (10 years before the first Baby Boomer was born), that they set the retirement age at 65? Because that was the age by which most people were dead. Social Security began as a scheme to separate people from their money with little or no hope of ever getting it back. As healthcare improved and life expectancies increased, the cash cow that was Social Security became a Ponzi scheme because people were expected to live too long. And when did the actuaries figure out that this was going to happen? Back in the 1960's, when the oldest Baby Boomers were just graduating from college and fighting a thankless war that no Washington politicians seemed interested in trying to win. When was the time to fix Social Security? Before most Baby Boomers were old enough to vote!

When I started paying Social Security on the paychecks from my part time jobs as a teenager, I resented it. Why? I fully expected to never get a cent back. Over the years, the politicians have applied Band Aids to the Social Security system to keep it staggering along, and I'm actually getting some of my money back. Amazingly, I'll probably live long enough to get it all back and a little extra, too, before the whole system crashes and burns. 

The Social Security mess may not be fair, but it was not created by Baby Boomers. It's been festering for decades. It's like the story of Somebody, Anybody, Everybody, and Nobody. For years, fixing Social Security has been something that Everybody has expected Somebody to do. Anybody could do it, but so far Nobody has done it. And Nobody can blame Anybody because it hasn't been done, because Everybody shares part of the blame for the mess.

I probably won't live to see it, but I predict that when the Millennials get to be the age of Baby Boomers, their children will be blaming them because America is going to Hell in a hand basket.

Every generation inherits problems from previous generations. Every generation passes problems on to subsequent generations. Blaming the immediately preceding generation for all the problems in the world was dumb when Baby Boomers were doing it, and it's just as dumb now when Millennials are doing it.


Friday, January 18, 2019

AN AMAZON REVIEW OF "PRAIRIE DEFENDER: THE MURDER TRIALS OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN"

Review by Able Devildog:

January 16, 2019

BEING A LONG TIME LINCOLN RESEARCHER AND A VETERAN TRIAL LAWYER, I FOUND 
THIS BOOK MOST INTERESTING, PARTICULARLY BECAUSE THE AUTHOR DEBUNKS 
CRITICISM OF LINCOLN BY SEVERAL WRITERS ABOUT HIS ABILITY AS A TRIAL LAWYER 
WHICH I HAVE ALWAYS CONSIDERED QUESTIONABLE BASED UPON MY OWN RESEARCH.