THE PLUMBER'S LAWYER ACQUITTED HIM WELL
It was 10 a.m. Prosecutor Warren Granville had just concluded with the first part of his final argument.
Granville had forcefully told the jury why it must find Jimmy Robison guilty.
The lawyers in the crowded, 11th-floor courtroom of Judge Norman Hall nodded to each other. Granville's argument had been first-rate.
To those courtroom junkies who have followed the Don Bolles murder story for years, it was every bit as convincing as the final argument that convicted Max Dunlap several months before.
Judge Hall glanced toward the defense table. His face betrayed no emotion.
"Mr. Henze," Judge Hall said in his resonant voice. The judge did not have to say more.
Defense attorney Tom Henze took a deep breath. Then he rose from his chair and carefully adjusted his tweed sport coat.
Slowly, Henze walked toward the jury box. He was about to begin the most difficult closing argument of his 20-year legal career.
For five days, Henze had been pondering what to say. He was thinking about it all the time. He worked on it in his office and at his two-story brick home on Manor Drive, just a ten-minute drive from the courthouse.
But he realized there was no way to commit all the information and the turns of phrase to memory.
These days, some lawyers videotape themselves to see how their argument will look to the jury. Henze is still old-fashioned. He delivered portions of it to his long-suffering wife, Kathleen, at home.
He divided it into what he figured were manageable sections. First, he must convince the jury that the testimony of the prosecution's star witness, John Harvey Adamson, was not to be believed.
To do this, he must convince the jurors Adamson was too slick. Henze's strategy was to use Adamson's very expertise as a weapon to destroy his credibility. But in order to do this, Henze had to allow Adamson to appear to best him during the days that Henze conducted his cross-examination.
This is a hard thing for a lawyer to do. Given the choice, most lawyers would have insisted on winning the courtroom exchange with Adamson and losing the case. Henze allowed Adamson the Pyrrhic victory that lost the war.
Second, Henze had prepared a word picture of Robison's activities on the day and period of time he was supposedly taking part in the bombing at the hotel parking lot in central Phoenix.
To do this, Henze cited the testimony of other witnesses who swore under oath that Robison was far from the hotel parking lot.
Henze spoke until noon, when Judge Hall called for a luncheon recess. Henze came back after lunch to talk to the jury for still another hour. He spoke a total of three hours.
He finally cautioned the jury:
"Remember what Don Bolles said to the lady who came upon him as he lay there on the ground. He begged her to remember what he was saying, because he was not going to make it.
"He told her three things:
"Mafia . . . Emprise . . . Adamson.'"
All through Henze's argument, the eyes of Robison, 72, the man they call "Jimmy the Plumber," were riveted upon his back. The death penalty was always on Robison's mind. The words of Henze were the only thing that was keeping him from that terrible date with fate.
This was not the kind of trial upon whose outcome you place a friendly wager. The odds would have to be 1,000 to 1 for acquittal.
But, against the odds, the jury listened to Henze. That's not surprising. His closing arguments are always works of art. No one knows how to become one with a jury as Henze does.
Before a case is over, the jurors have become so boggled by his folksy approach that they can't wait to invite him to the next family picnic.
No matter what crime his client is accused of, Henze can give a jury cause to find reasonable doubt. What he needs from the defendant is the ability to appear friendly and nonthreatening.
Several years ago, he represented Dr. Stephen Bieterman. The gynecologist was accused of having sex with nine patients while they were under light anesthesia and being examined in his office. The women all testified about their experiences as the doctor huddled uneasily at the defense table. He looked sneaky.
Despite the women's testimony, Henze's closing argument was so strong, it came close to hanging the jury. The doctor was found guilty, but was sentenced to only six years.
A former Marine pilot named Earl Morris shot his wife in the head and then covered the wound with a baseball cap and drove her body to San Diego. Once there, he put her body on the family boat and set it on fire.
Henze delivered another barn burner of a final argument for Morris. But Morris proved to be an arrogant witness with a jet-black toupee. The jury never warmed up to him. Morris got 25 years.
But there have been countless cases in which Henze's courtroom skills paid off. There was Keith Begay, a Navajo tribal official, who was captured on film taking bribes. Henze got him off. To this day, Begay and John DeLorean are the only two defendants captured on film taking money who have been known to gain acquittals.
Courthouse regulars recall a long-ago case in which Henze's ability to charm judges worked to the benefit of his client. Legend has it that Henze made such a favorable impression on then-Superior Court judge Sandra Day O'Connor that every important ruling went his way. His client was acquitted because of the rulings.
It is a part of Henze's approach that he also charms the prosecutors who oppose him as well as the judges.
Upon occasion, he has shown up as the defense lawyer for prosecutors who have fallen afoul of the law themselves.
"He never tries to embarrass anyone," says lawyer Don Moon, who worked with Henze at one time. "Most defense lawyers are abrasive. It's part of their personality. That's not Tom Henze.
"Watch what happens when he walks into a bar and stands around drinking from a bottle of O'Doul's, the nonalcoholic beer. People gravitate toward him. He genuinely likes folks."
It turned out that Robison was somebody Henze could work with. Now an old man, Robison wore a dark-blue suit to court every day. He could have been a retired schoolteacher. He actually did appear harmless.
When Robison took the witness stand, he showed no arrogance. He willingly admitted to the error of his ways. He was somebody a jury could like.
And, after all, the Bolles killing was 17 years in the past. That had to play a part in the decision.
Robison even admitted that he had entertained thoughts of having Adamson killed in prison. So he appeared truthful to the jury. For that admission, he now faces more trouble from the feds, who have indicted him once again.
But Robison had no choice. His words had been captured on tape.
It was several hours after the closing argument that Henze began entertaining thoughts that he might actually get Robison off.
"You never want to jinx yourself by giving yourself false hopes," Henze says. "But even when I first got done with the final argument, I thought we had a chance.
"And then, you could tell the jury was focusing on our alibi by the questions they sent out to the judge to answer."
The questions all related to where Robison was rather than at the Clarendon Hotel. It was obvious the jury did not believe Adamson. He had testified he had placed the bomb under the car and then waved to Robison, who detonated it from another car. The gamble with Adamson paid off. He had outsmarted himself.
"There was the work of a lot of people in this case," Henze says. "Perhaps I had the glamour part, because I cross-examined Adamson and Neal Roberts and gave the opening and closing arguments.
"But Jim Logan, my co-counsel, did an excellent job that I think was equally important. Rhonda Russo did a fantastic job of putting 80,000 documents and 17 years of information into a laptop computer. She made certain the correct information was always right at our hands in the courtroom.
"Attorney Jordan Green, another defense lawyer, had developed a lot of new information while he was working for Max Dunlap's defense. He willingly supplied it to us, and it was extremely helpful."
Henze believes that the entire focus of the Bolles murder case was askew from the start in 1976, because there was so much public pressure to solve the case as quickly as possible.
"They didn't look at all the theories. They just took the first one that came along and bought it wholesale."
And now we are left with this. After 17 years, Robison has been acquitted. That leaves us with a dilemma. If Robison is innocent, how can Dunlap be guilty? Quite frankly, I believe this jury voted wrong. But this is something the jurors will have to live with.
And what about Jimmy the Plumber's future? He will probably spend the rest of his life behind bars. This is so because he is presently serving a 30-year sentence for assault.
"I'm an old man," he was overheard to say the other day. "What will I do if they do set me free? I have no place to go. I'd just become another one of the homeless.
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