|George R. (Bob) Dekle, Sr.|
Bob Dekle’s new book proves once again that Picasso’s statement that “great artists steal” is a verity. Dekle’s new book is Six Capsules: The Gilded Age Murder of Helen Potts, Kent State University Press(2019). Six Capsules tells the story of Wellman’s prosecution of Carlyle Harris for the murder of Helen Potts. Dekle’s book revealed, to me at least, that Charles Manson’s prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi stole from Wellman.
“I wonder if any of you folks have read Victor Hugo’s account of the octopus. He tells us of how it doesn’t have any beak to defend itself like a bird, no claws like a lion, nor teeth like an alligator. But it does have what could be called an ink bag, and to protect itself when it is attacked it lets out a dark fluid from this bag, thus making all of the surrounding water dark and murky, enabling the octopus to escape into the darkness.
“Now I ask you folks, is there any similarity between that description of the ink bag of the octopus and the defense in this case? Has the defense shown you any real, valid, legitimate defense reasonably based on the evidence, or has it sought to employ the ink bag of the octopus, and by making everything dark around Mr. Simpson, tried to let him escape into the darkness.
“I intend to clear up the water which defense counsel have sought to muddy, so that you folks can clearly see the evidence, the facts, the issues in this case, so that you can behold the form of the retreating octopus and bring this defendant back to face justice.”
Now, that’s a compelling analogy that Bugliosi modified slightly to fit a situation where the other side has set out to confuse and confound.
Little did I know when I wrote the article that Bugliosi had stolen it from another great artist—Francis Wellman. Bob’s Six Capsules, on page 152, describes Wellman’s summation in the prosecution of Carlyle Harris:
“I think that counsels’ problem is that they misconceive what circumstantial evidence is all about. Circumstantial evidence is not, as they claim, like a chain. You could have a chain spanning the Atlantic Ocean from Nova Scotia to Bordeaux, France, consisting of millions of links, and with one weak link that chain is broken.
“Circumstantial evidence to the contrary, is like a rope. And each fact is a strand of that rope. And as the prosecution piles one fact upon another we add strands and we add strength to that rope. If one strand breaks – and I’m not conceding for one moment that any strand has broken in this case – but if one strand does break, the rope is not broken. The strength of the rope is barely diminished. Why? Because there are so many other strands of almost steel-like strength that the rope is still more than strong enough to bind these two defendants to justice. That’s what circumstantial evidence is all about.”
At page 160 in Six Capsules, Dekle notes: “Wellman argued that ‘Circumstantial evidence, gentlemen, is not like a chain, where one weak link can weaken the entire chain. It is like a rope or cable; each fact is a strand of that rope; and as we pile one circumstance on another, one fact on another, so we add strands and strength to the rope until we get a cable strong enough to bind the prisoner to justice.'”
Where can you find the artwork of great trial lawyers? Here are some resources for great opening and closing arguments: