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Raymond Bernard Finch and Carole Tregoff Trials: 1960 & 1961

Stunning Verdict

Courtroom observers thought that, at a minimum, Tregoff's performance had guaranteed a berth for Finch in the gas chamber. But after eight days of wrangling, the jury members announced that they were unable to agree on a verdict and a mistrial was declared. It later transpired that racial tension—one jury member was black, another Hispanic—had led to ugly scenes in the jury room, when neither minority juror would yield to pressure exerted by the white Jurors.

A second trial began June 27, 1960, and again ended in deadlock November 7, 1960, despite an extraordinary admonition to the jury by Judge LeRoy Dawson, who told them, in no uncertain terms, that they ought not to believe the evidence of either defendant.

The State of California tried for a third time, opening its case January 3, 1961 before Superior Judge David Coleman. By now much of the earlier sensational coverage had dissipated, leaving a noticeably calmer courtroom atmosphere. It showed in the jury deliberations. On March 27 they convicted Finch of first-degree murder, while Tregoff was found guilty in the second degree. Both were sentenced to life imprisonment.

In 1969 Tregoff was paroled. She changed her name and found work at a hospital in the Pasadena area.

Finch, released two years later, practiced medicine in Missouri for a decade before returning to West Covina in 1984.

Given the lurid ingredients, it was hardly surprising that the trials of Finch and Tregoff assumed national prominence. And yet two juries deadlocked over what was almost surely premeditated murder. How much their indecision was prompted by the defendants' attractive appearance and social standing will remain a matter of conjecture.

Colin Evans

Suggestions for Further Reading

Ambler, Eric. The Ability To Kill. New York: The Mysterious Press, 1987.

Gaute, J.H.H. and Robin Odell. The Murderers' Who's Who. London: W.H. Allen, 1989.

Kilgallen, Dorothy. Murder One. New York: Random House, 1967.

Wolf, Marvin J. and Katherine Mader. Fallen Angels. New York: Ballantine, 1986.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1954 to 1962Raymond Bernard Finch and Carole Tregoff Trials: 1960 1961 - Fatal Struggle, Dying Words, Stunning Verdict