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The "Son of Sam" Trial: 1978

Cases Consolidated

Throughout the proceedings again, David Berkowitz remained determined to plead guilty, a decision he insisted was his own in spite of the advice of his "demons." His attorneys unsuccessfully tried to persuade him to plead not guilty by reason of insanity. Expectations of a guilty plea were so high that a special agreement was reached to consolidate all of the legal proceedings to a single trial venue for security and to save court costs.

On May 8, 1978, in a Brooklyn courtroom, Judge Corso accepted Berkowitz's guilty pleas for the Moskowitz-Violante shooting. Justice Corso then signed a special administrative agreement allowing Justice William Kapelman of the Bronx to come to the bench. Justice Kapelman similarly turned the proceedings over to Queens Justice Nicholas Tsoucalas after accepting Berkowitz's guilty plea for three murders in the Bronx. Like the other judges, Justice Tsoucalas asked Berkowitz if he was making the guilty pleas of his own free will and wanted to know if the defendant had meant to cause serious injury to two young women he had wounded in Queens. "Oh, no, sir," Berkowitz replied. "I wanted to kill them." Judge Tsoucalas accepted Berkowitz's guilty pleas for two murders and five attempted murders.

The three judges returned to Brooklyn on May 22, but postponed sentencing when Berkowitz struggled with deputies and screamed, "I'd kill them all again!" On June 12, 1978, he was sentenced to the maximum term of 25 years to life imprisonment for each of the six murders, plus additional terms for assault and attempted murder. The life terms were to run consecutively, but the New York state practice of "merging" sentences would make him eligible for parole as if he had committed only one murder.

David Berkowitz during an interview in Attica prison. (AP/Wide World Photos) David Berkowitz during an interview in Attica prison. (AP/Wide World Photos)

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1973 to 1980The "Son of Sam" Trial: 1978 - Insanity Issue Arises, Cases Consolidated, Case Inspires New Law, Suggestions For Further Reading