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Richard Franklin Speck Trial: 1967

Mistaken Identity?

It had been Getty's contention throughout that Richard Speck was completely innocent, that Corazon Amurao, in her traumatized and hysterical state, had identified the wrong man. But he had to tread carefully. Amurao had obviously impressed the jury and won their sympathy as well, any suggestion of bullying could backfire badly. But no matter how he tried, Getty could not shake the young Filipino nurse. She steadfastly continued to insist that Richard Speck was the killer.

There was plenty of other evidence to support her claim. Two T-shirts found at the crime scene were of the type that Speck was known to wear. And then there were the fingerprints. Three experts testified that prints found in the townhouse matched Speck's, a pronouncement hotly disputed by assistant defense counsel James Gramenos. He avowed that the prints were too smudged for positive identification. The experts disagreed. Gramenos persisted, though he was conspicuously unable to provide his own expert to back up this claim.

But the defense was not finished yet. Murrill and Gerdena Farmer, both workers at Kay's Pilot House, a tavern several blocks away from the townhouse, swore that Speck was in the bar until 12:30 A.M. on the night in question. Prosecutor Martin sought to demonstrate that the couple had made an honest mistake, but he could not budge them.

Richard Speck remained a spectator to all of this, choosing not to testify on his own behalf. Earlier he had told his attorneys that the events of July 13-14, 1966, were a blur of drugs and alcohol; he could remember nothing.

On April 15, 1967, after just 49 minutes of deliberation, the jury found Speck guilty and recommended death. Confirmation came June 6, 1967, when Judge Herbert C. Paschen sentenced Speck to the electric chair. When U.S. Supreme Court rulings in other cases called into question all death sentences recommended by trial juries, Speck's sentence was commuted to eight terms of life imprisonment.

Speck maintained his innocence until 1978 when he was quoted as telling a newspaper, "Yeah, I killed them. I stabbed them and choked them." After spending 24 years in prison, Richard Speck died of a heart attack on December 5, 1991. He was 49 years old.

Colin Evans

Suggestions for Further Reading

Altman, Jack and Marvin Ziporyn. Born to Raise Hell. New York; Grove Press, 1967.

Crimes And Punishment. Vol. 13. England: Phoebus, 1974.

Felsher, Howard and Michael Rosen. Justice, U.S.A. New York: Crowell, Collier & Macmillan, 1967.

Wilson, Colin and Donald Seaman. Encyclopedia of Modern Murder. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1983.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1963 to 1972Richard Franklin Speck Trial: 1967 - Trial Moved, Mistaken Identity?