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?

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Tom Fitzpatrick