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EXPLOSIVE TESTIMONY

Max Dunlap's chair was squeaking. He signaled to the courtroom bailiff, who immediately came over and squirted WD-40 into the wheels.

Then Dunlap, impeccably dressed, sat down again. You could see the whites come up on his knuckles as he gripped the chair's arms. It was 9:12 on the morning of the day John Harvey Adamson would testify against him. Dunlap's eyes kept darting toward the side door of the courtroom.

Several times, Murray Miller, Dunlap's attorney, attempted to soothe him. In a murder trial, a defendant's body language sometimes speaks as forcefully as testimony from the witness chair. If there is one iron rule of courtroom decorum, it is that a defendant must never appear nervous. Juries are likely to think, many times unjustifiably, that a nervous man is a guilty man.

The courtroom was packed with people waiting to see John Harvey Adamson testify. Then he entered. Adamson wore dark, wire-rimmed glasses. He was greeted by a suppressed gasp from the packed spectator rows.

Surprisingly, Adamson seemed almost regal. Obviously, he relished his status as an anticelebrity. From his vantage point at the other side of the room, Dunlap stared at Adamson as though he were an apparition from a long-remembered nightmare. His fears were founded. Adamson, after all, was the man whose testimony had once sent Dunlap to death row, where he spent several years. It wasn't just Dunlap who stared. Every set of eyes in Judge Norman Hall's courtroom was riveted on the man who admittedly planted the bomb that killed Don Bolles on July 2, 1976. We are fascinated by bombers. How often do we actually see one in the flesh? It is so rare that they are ever apprehended. Will we ever know or lay eyes on those who set the bomb at New York City's World Trade Center?

And now, despite 17 years in prison, Adamson still seemed both arrogant and impudent. He cherished and delighted in this moment of optimal attention.

Someone from the Arizona Attorney General's Office with Ivy League tastes had taken Adamson to a secondhand clothing store for a tweed jacket and dark slacks, and matched them with a white shirt and tie. Adamson looked just fine. He might have strolled across Harvard Yard to the Widener Library without attracting undue attention.

Fred Newton, the six-foot-nine former college basketball player who is now the tallest and best prosecutor in the West, wore a dark-gray suit and a serious expression on his face.

It was all surface calm. Newton's moves and speech were controlled, deliberate. But he had been preparing himself for more than a year. He was like a man shooting the crucial foul shots in the game's final moments. It was now that the game would be won or lost. Newton's handling of Adamson's testimony would be the vital center of this trial. It would be all-important for Newton to remain in the background. Any attempt to showboat on his part would distract the jury. It would diminish the impact of the incredible story Adamson was about to tell.

"Do you know Max Dunlap?" Newton began.
"Sure do."
"Can you point him out to the jury?"
"He's sitting right there. He's the one with the gray hair and glasses in the dark suit."
Dunlap smiled and rocked back in his chair. It did not squeak.
Adamson told about his life before the bombing.

He had been graduated from North High School in 1962 and then gone to Arizona State University until 1966, majoring in business administration. He did not receive a degree.

With Newton's unobtrusive guidance, Adamson told about his life leading up to his encounters, first with Dunlap and then with Bolles.

"I towed vehicles with my impound service," he said, "and I drank."
His watering holes were places called the Ivanhoe Bar, the Phone Booth and Fat Fingers.

In addition to his auto-towing business, Adamson was an entrepreneur of crime. He boosted clothes from stores. He burglarized homes. He was a man for hire if you wanted to have someone beaten up or a building set afire or bombed.

And all the time, Adamson was consuming a quart of vodka a day and munching on Valium. But he had the organized mind of the business major, and so he kept his appointments in a Week At A Glance book. Many of the notes jotted down jogged his memory for his testimony. As you watch Adamson testify, you notice that, with his puffed cheeks and beaked nose, he resembles an owl.

Everyone has been waiting with bated breath for Adamson's appearance. With his record, it seemed impossible that any jury would believe what he had to say. How could he convince them he was now telling the truth?

 

Thirty minutes into his testimony, you could see the jury was hanging on his every word. Despite everything you have read about him before, Adamson is very smart. He is well-read and has an incisive wit. It may be true that he cut off the heads of small animals as a high school student, but you are inclined to believe his every word.

@rule:
@body:Adamson recalled a meeting at which Dunlap inquired whether it was possible to have two people killed. Only later would the number rise to three.

Dunlap was a protg of Kemper Marley, one of the richest and most powerful men in Arizona. Over the course of the years, beginning in Dunlap's student days at North High School, Marley had lent him money. The amount topped $1 million and, at that point, Marley forgave the loans. Dunlap had been led to believe he would inherit it all when Marley died.

Bruce Babbitt, then the state attorney general, had offended Marley because of the AG's intent to pursue Marley's liquor monopoly. King Alfonso Lisanetz was a former Marley employee who had been writing letters to the editor accusing Marley of criminal behavior.

Finally, Bolles made Marley's list when he wrote a series of articles that forced Marley's resignation from the state racing board.

"One day Dunlap came into the Ivanhoe Bar," Adamson said. "I was sitting in a booth along the west wall. It was about noon. He had a new fellow he wanted to add to the list. His name was Don Bolles."
"Did you quote him a price?" Newton asked.
Adamson said he didn't.
"Why not?"
"I wasn't certain I was going to do it. I wasn't sure how serious he was. But when you're 'in the life,' you don't mention things like this in idle talk."
"In the life'?" Newton asked.
"The street life," Adamson said, referring to people willing to take part in any dishonest moneymaking scheme that comes their way.

Adamson finally told Dunlap that he thought the killing of Bolles, then a well-known reporter for the Arizona Republic, would be worth about $15,000. But Adamson admitted that, at that point, he had never even read one of Bolles' stories in the newspaper.

"That's a little high for a reporter," Dunlap said of the price.
They settled for a package price. Bolles, Babbitt and Lisanetz would all be killed for a total of $50,000.

Adamson said, "I asked him for $5,000 up-front. Dunlap said he only had $2,000 with him. My memory is that he just reached into his pocket and handed it to me.

"He made it clear that Bolles was the first to go."
By this time, the heads of the jury members resembled those of fans at a tennis match. Their eyes darted from Adamson to Newton and back again. None of them watched Dunlap. If they did, they would have noticed the hard look in his eyes as he stared directly toward Adamson and rocked slowly in his chair.

Adamson told how he called Jimmy Robison, one of his regular partners in crime, and told him they had "a piece of work to talk about."

Adamson said he chose Robison because he was "real competent and we had already done some serious stuff together."

For the next hour, Adamson spoke of the planning required to construct the bomb and buy the detonator that would blow up Bolles' car. They stole the dynamite from a friend. Adamson drove to San Diego, where he would buy the detonator.

They agreed on the same division of labor they had set up on previous arson and bomb jobs.

"I did the powder and Jimmy did the timing device," Adamson said.
Finally, they were ready for the job.
"I called Bolles on the phone," Adamson said. "I told him I had information on Congressman Sam Steiger that he'd be interested in. There was a guy in San Diego who could tie Steiger in with Ned Warren, the land-fraud king. Maybe even the governor was involved."
"Was there any truth to this?" Newton asked.
Adamson grinned. "No, of course not," he said. Even at this remove, Adamson was proud of how clever he had been. "I was sure that would get his attention."

Bolles was willing to meet the man from San Diego.
Adamson made more preparations. He went to the Arizona Republic trying to learn what kind of car Bolles drove. He found out that it was a white Datsun B-210, a four-cylinder economy car.

Adamson then went to the Datsun dealership on Camelback and climbed under one of the cars on the lot to learn where he might attach the dynamite charge.

 

As Adamson grew closer to his account of the bombing, he shifted forward in the witness stand. He planted his elbows on the bench in front of him.

"I called Bolles on the phone and told him my guy from San Diego was in town. 'Where can we meet?'

"You pick a place,' Bolles said.
"How about the Clarendon House at 11:30?' I said.
"He said, 'How about making it closer to 11:15? I have to attend a journalism luncheon.'"
What Adamson did not count on was the fact that Bolles had made a note of the fact that he was meeting Adamson and had left it on his desk in the press room of the state capitol.

On the day of the bombing, Adamson showed up at the Ivanhoe Bar at 8:30 a.m. He drank a cranberry-juice cocktail. He had stopped drinking hard liquor several months before.

In the trunk of his Ford Capri, Adamson had placed the bomb, a pair of coveralls to wear when he climbed under the car, a hat and a pair of gloves.

From the Ivanhoe, he drove to the office of attorney Neal Roberts at 39 West Virginia. Dunlap and Roberts were in the office, Adamson said.

They did not talk about Bolles.
"I caught Dunlap's eye, and he met me outside Roberts' office on the walkway," said Adamson.

"What was said?" Newton asked.
"He approached me, and I told him, 'Don Bolles will be at the Clarendon House at 11:30. It will be all over then.' He said, 'Good.' That was the extent of the conversation."
Adamson went back to the Ivanhoe Bar. He drank another cranberry-juice cocktail. He waited until five minutes before 11 and then drove to a building at Third Avenue and Indian School. There was a parking lot under the building, and Adamson got out of his car and put on the coveralls and hat and gloves. He brought the gloves because they would help him get a good grip on the bomb as he placed it under the car.

Adamson smiled. "Also, the gloves wouldn't leave any fingerprints."
He got the bomb out of the trunk of the car and attached the dynamite to the device. He placed the bomb on the front seat next to him and drove to the Clarendon House to await Bolles' arrival.

Jimmy Robison's pickup truck was already parked in the back of the lot when Adamson pulled in.

It was 11:05 a.m., and Adamson turned the bomb's switch to the "on" position.
"I wonder if he'll be here?" Robison said.
"Don't worry, he'll be here," Adamson said.
"Do you have an alibi?" Robison asked.
"I'll be at the Ivanhoe," Adamson answered.
"Tell the jury what happened then," assistant attorney general Newton said.

"Bolles started to drive into the parking lot. We watched him driving around, looking for a spot. We were standing right next to Robison's pickup, and I had to duck down so Bolles wouldn't spot me.

"Bolles exited his car. He went up to an iron gate that led to the building, but it was locked. He couldn't get it open. He walked around the other way and went into the east-side door.

"The minute he got to the corner of the building, I left Robison and got into my car and drove and parked close to Bolles' car.

"The bomb was covered by a towel. I went to the driver's side of his Datsun and attached it underneath the area where his seat was with magnet clips.

"The bomb stuck to the undercarriage. I had a feeling I had not been noticed by anyone.

"My motor was still running. I drove out, and as I was leaving, I saw Jimmy Robison pulling up with his pickup. We drove right past each other. Our eyes met.

"I'll be at the Ivanhoe,' I yelled at him. Then I took off."
Adamson's part of the job was almost through. All that was left was for Robison to flick the switch on the detonating device when he saw Bolles get back into his car.

Adamson drove to Park Central Mall and pulled into the covered parking area. He jumped out of his car and removed his coveralls and hat and threw them onto the floor of the passenger's side.

He drove to the Ivanhoe Bar, a few blocks away. He took the coveralls, hat, gloves and towel and disposed of them in a trash can near the Ivanhoe.

He walked into the bar and ordered another cranberry-juice cocktail. There was still an important final step.

Adamson picked up the telephone on the bar and called the Clarendon House front desk and asked for Bolles.

 

"He got on the phone. I told him the person from San Diego was having second thoughts about the meeting. We had to call it off for the time being.

"Bolles said it was okay, and to just call him again if the guy changed his mind. As far as I was concerned, everything was over. All he had to do was get back in that car.

"I waited until about 11:30. I was getting anxious. Then I called the Phone Booth, a bar closer to the Clarendon, where they might have heard the bomb go off. They had heard nothing unusual.

"Maybe five minutes later, the phone rang at the Ivanhoe. It was Robison.
"Send Mr. Smith to the bank,' he said.
"Is it done?' I asked. 'Is he dead?'
"Eyeball to eyeball,' Jimmy said."
"What did that mean?" Newton asked.
"That he had seen the bomb go off and that Bolles was dead."
"And what did he mean by Mr. Smith going to the bank?"
Unaccountably, Adamson smiled.
"Mr. Smith was the name we used for Kemper Marley."

You might expect that Adamson would leave the area at this point. But in this time of his life, the Ivanhoe was his home. He remained at the bar, talking and kibitzing with the local lawyers and small-time criminals who were his buddies in what he calls "the life."

Then the first shock of recognition occurred. The car bombing was not to be a perfect crime. Don Bolles had been severely injured by the blast. He would die within days. Shortly after two in the afternoon, Dunlap entered the bar.

"Had you been expecting him?" Newton asked.
"No, I hadn't. We went to a booth and he drank a salty dog; that's a vodka with salt around the rim of the glass. He told me that Bolles didn't die. He said that Bolles had implicated me and that I should get out of town."
It was suddenly so quiet in the courtroom. Over at the defendant's table, Max Dunlap sat gripping the arms of his chair as though he were a passenger in a runaway car.


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