Showing posts with label Jerry Giesler. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jerry Giesler. Show all posts

Friday, April 4, 2014

April 4th, 1944: Chaplin is acquitted in Mann Act case

Charlie during a break in closing arguments. April 4th, 1944

After two and a half hours of closing arguments, the jury deliberated from 11:00am until 6:00pm. Chaplin later recalled that he thought it should have taken no longer than ten minutes to reach a verdict. A few moments before the jury came came back, a "tense" Chaplin was discovered alone by a reporter before a "dial telephone" in the corridor of the federal building:
In one brown freckled hand he clutched a dime, and in the other a bit of paper torn from a yellow legal pad and bearing his home telephone number.
Apologetically, with the humanity of a man facing a possible ten years in prison, and with the humanity of a man who rose from a child vaudeville trouper in England to the French Legion of Honor, Chaplin asked: "I don't know much about these telephones. Would you dial this number for me?"
The reporter obliged and, nervously, Chaplin took the receiver in his hand.
"May I speak to Mrs. Chaplin please?" There was a pause. "The jury is still out, darling. I think I'll be here quite a while, but I just wanted to let you know I was thinking of you."
Then Chaplin returned to the second floor, on which Judge J.F.T. O'Connor's court was located, and joined his attorney, Jerry Giesler, in a virtual lock-step pacing, each with his hands folded behind his back.
The nervous march was broken only when an elderly man screwed up his courage and approached Chaplin, a rabbit's foot in his hand.
"Rub this for luck, Mr. Chaplin," he beamed self-consciously. Chaplin put out his hand at once, almost eagerly, and rubbed, the fuzzy token of luck.  The old man backed away in embarrassment, but bounded back at once--this time holding out a box of aspirin tablets.
Chaplin grabbed a couple and shook the old man's hand. It was then--just before 6 p.m.--that word came that the jury had reached a verdict.
Chaplin returned to the courtroom "scratching his nose" and took a seat at the defense table. He remembered later that his lawyer warned him: "Whatever the verdict is, don't show any emotion."

As the jury filed in, Giesler sat with his head down, staring at his feet, nervously muttering under his breath: "If it's guilty, it will be the worst miscarriage of justice I have ever known!" And he kept repeating, 'This will be the worst miscarriage of justice I have ever known!"

As the court clerk read the verdict, Chaplin's lips trembled and he clutched the knot of his necktie. The jury of seven women and five men found him not guilty. Chaplin rapidly patted Giesler's hand.

Prosecutor Carr shakes Charlie's hand.
Yells of "hurray!" went up from the jammed spectator section along with a burst of applause. Chaplin later wrote that he never knew he had so many friends.  After the judge brought the courtroom back to order he addressed Chaplin: "Mr. Chaplin, your presence will no longer be required by the court, you are now free." He then offered his hand from the bench and congratulated him, so did the prosecuting attorney, Charles H. Carr.

Giesler told Charlie he should now thank the jury. One by one, he shook each juror's hand. "I thank you," he said repeatedly with tears in his eyes.

"I'd almost like to kiss him, " said one woman juror.

Courtroom spectators throw their arms around Charlie. 

"I had faith in the American people," Chaplin said. "I believe in American justice. I've had a very fair trial."

Juror R.T. Segner was asked by the prosecuting attorney how the verdict was reached. He said that the deliberations centered mostly on the transporting of Barry to New York in October 1942 and whether there was intent to indulge in immoral purposes.

"We felt that he was more or less through with her," Segner explained, "and that he gave her the money because he was a good fellow."

Informed of the verdict at her home, Joan Barry had "no comment one way or another. After all, I was just a government witness and testified the best I could remember. If the jury believed him, that is their privilege."

Chaplin's wife, Oona, who was four months pregnant, fainted when she heard the news on the radio. Asked about the verdict later, she said, "I'm so glad I can hardly speak. I knew he was innocent."

That night, Charlie and Oona dined quietly at home. "We wanted no newspapers, no telephone calls. I did not want to see or speak to anyone. I felt empty, hurt, and denuded of character. Even the presence of the household staff was embarrassing...That night I reeled off to bed with the happy thought of not having to get up early in the morning to attend court."


Daily Journal Gazette (Mattoon, IL), April 5, 1944
Daily Boston Globe, April 5, 1944
Freeport Journal Standard, April 5, 1944
Chaplin, My Autobiography, 1964

Read the complete story of Chaplin's Mann Act trial "as it happened" here.

Friday, February 14, 2014

70 years ago today...

Chaplin with his attorney Jerry Giesler.

On February 14th, 1944, Charlie was booked and fingerprinted for violation of the Mann Act (transporting a woman across state lines for immoral purposes)1 and conspiracy to deprive Joan Barry, his former protegé, of her civil rights. Clad in a yellow sweater, white coat with purple handkerchief, and brown pants, Charlie looked nervous and annoyed and at first refused to be fingerprinted with cameramen in the room, declaring, "I'm exercising my prerogative; if I do, it's under duress."

Prints were eventually made of all ten of his fingers, a lengthy process which took twenty minutes. Afterward, he fumbled as he dipped his pen in ink to sign his arrest card.

He emerged shaken and was lead quickly to the washroom. His attorney, Jerry Giesler, following him with a gasoline-soaked towel. As Charlie removed the ink from his fingers, Giesler told reporters: "He doesn't have anything to say."

After the formalities, Charlie walked out of the building, past hundreds of curious onlookers & reporters. One elderly woman turned to her companion and said audibly: "The rat!" Charlie ignored her, proceeded to his car, and drove away with his attorney.


1The indictment stated that Chaplin "feloniously" transported Joan Barry to New York in October 1942 "with the intent and purpose of engaging in illicit sex relations." As Chaplin's lawyer pointed out during the trial, Joan would have willingly had sex with Charlie at any time without having to schlep her to New York to do it.  

New York Times, Feb. 15th, 1944
Des Moines Register, Feb. 15th, 1944

Read the complete story of Chaplin's Mann Act trial "as it happened" here.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Attorney Jerry Giesler consoles Charlie who wept on the witness stand describing the night Joan Barry came to his house with a gun, March 1944

Charlie was on the witness stand for 2 hours and 20 minutes.  Below he describes the night in December 1942 when Joan confronted him with a pistol at his Beverly Hills home:

"I came home rather late. I was in my bedroom. I heard a disturbance and there was Joan with a gun pointing at me. She half-circled around the bed and said 'I am going to kill you.'"

"I was scared. I tried to reason with her and said to her 'What of this supposed love for me? It is all a pretense and a sham or you wouldn't act this way!"

"She phoned me night after night and this led to intimacies. I asked her why she would embarrass me night after night in front of servants and help with her scenes and tantrums."

"I told her of my belief in her as she stood there with the gun. I told her of my faith in her ability. I told her how I'd bought a play for her and how it would cost $250,000 just to stage the production."

"Finally she said to me, 'I don't think you're worth it,' and then she added, 'I'm going to kill myself and I'm going to do it here in your room.'"

Charlie choked up and began to cry.

"I heard Edward [his butler] and my two sons out in the hall. I called out to the boys, 'Sons, there is a little trouble, you had better go home to your mother. They couldn't go. They didn't have a car."

"I told Joan she would have to go home. She said, 'I am destitute. I am going to stay here.' I said, 'you can't stay. I'm going to throw you out.'"

"She said if I came near her she would kill herself. I went downstairs."

Charlie finally agreed that she could sleep in the guest room. The next morning, Charlie gave her money and his butler drove her home.

After a recess, Charlie's attorney, Jerry Giesler, asked him:

"Now Mr. Chaplin, that night in your home did you in your bedroom have an act of sexual relationship with Miss Barry after she had laid the gun on the table and after which she picked up the gun?"

"I did not," replied Chaplin.

"Did you have any act of intimacy that night with Miss Barry?"

"I did not."

(Milwaukee Sentinal & Pittsburgh Post Gazette, March 31st, 1944)