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John Marshall Branion Trial: 1968

Illicit Love

To establish motive, the state argued that Branion was conducting an affair with nurse Shirley Hudson and wanted to be rid of his wife. Questioning of Maxine Brown, who had allegedly overheard a compromising conversation between Hudson and Branion one day after the murder, produced the following, seemingly fruitless, exchange:

Prosecutor: Who is Shirley Hudson?

Defense Counsel: Objection.

The Court: Sustained.

Prosecutor: Do you know what, if any, relationship Shirley Hudson bore to the defendant?

Defense Counsel: Objection.

The Court: Sustained.

And so it went: an endless string of improper questions, countered by an equal number of objections, all of which were upheld by the court. But the damage was immense. By such tactics the prosecution was able to establish the likelihood of an illicit relationship, if not the certainty.

Declining to testify on his own behalf, Branion remained mute while the jury convicted him of murder and Judge Reginald Holzer passed sentence of 20-30 years imprisonment. Defense counsel Maurice Scott immediately argued that the trial had been prejudiced by Chicago's recent racial disturbances and vowed to appeal.

Released by Judge Holzer on an unusually low bond of $5,000, Branion took his case to the Illinois Supreme Court. On December 3, 1970, while conceding that the evidence against Branion was wholly circumstantial, the court held that it was sufficient to uphold the guilty verdict, stating:

To support a conviction based on circumstantial evidence it is essential that facts proved be not only consistent with defendant's guilt, but they must be inconsistent with any reasonable hypothesis of innocence; but the People are not required to establish guilt beyond any possible doubt.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1963 to 1972John Marshall Branion Trial: 1968 - Imperfect Alibi, Illicit Love, On The Run