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Cheryl Christina Crane Inquest: 1958

Tale Of Star-crossed Lovers, Cheryl's Statement Introduced

Defendant: Cheryl Christina Crane
Crime Investigated: Homicide of Johnny Stompanato
Chief Defense Lawyer: Jerry Geisler
Chief Prosecutor: William B. McKesson
Coroner: Theodore J. Curphey
Place: Los Angeles, California
Date of Inquest: April 11, 1958
Verdict: Justifiable homicide

SIGNIFICANCE: The explosive plot and star-studded cast of this particular Hollywood spectacle once again showed that the celluloid screen is no match for real life. Movie stars and mobsters-and a 14-year-old girl facing possible charges of murder kept America hanging on the verdict of a Los Angeles coroner's inquest.

Late on Good Friday, April 4, 1958, police were summoned to 730 North Bedford Drive, the Beverly Hills, California home of screen goddess Lana Turner. The report said that someone had died. Lights blazed in the Moorish mansion as two detectives entered. In the bedroom they came across a small group of people trying to pump some life back into the unreceptive body of Johnny Stompanato, latest in a long line of Turner's lovers and bodyguard to notorious gambler Mickey Cohen. All of their efforts were in vain. A single stab wound had severed the aorta. Police Chief Clinton B. Anderson was irked to see Jerry Giesler, the "attorney to the stars," already in attendance. Giesler's reputation as a high-priced lawyer with a knack for winning difficult cases was legendary around Hollywood. Anderson asked to see Turner. Clearly distraught, her first words to him were, "Can I take the blame for this horrible thing?"

"No, not unless you have committed the act, Miss Turner," said Anderson. After more soul-searching she mumbled, "Okay, it was my daughter."

Fourteen-year-old Cheryl Crane, Turner's daughter by a previous marriage, was taken down to the police station. The next day District Attorney William B. McKesson proclaimed himself dissatisfied with Turner's version of events and announced an inquest for the following week, to determine if Cheryl Crane should be charged with murder. Although still a minor, Cheryl faced life imprisonment if found guilty of murder.

Later, Mickey Cohen, looking every inch the mobster in a felt hat and wide-lapeled suit, provided a bizarre interlude when he was asked to identify the body of his former bodyguard. Chewing on a mouthful of gum, the gambler drawled, "I refuse to answer on the grounds I may be accused of this murder," an odd response that nobody understood and nobody bothered to question.

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1954 to 1962