Jerry Giesler

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With Marilyn Monroe in her 1954 divorce from Joe DiMaggio.

Jerry Giesler (November 2, 1886 – January 1, 1962)[1] was an American criminal defense lawyer.

For more than half a century, Jerry Giesler was a household name across the United States. He was the first president of the Criminal Courts Bar Association in Los Angeles.

Early career[edit]

Jerry Giesler as a child, c. 1888

Giesler was born in Wilton Junction, Iowa. Harold Lee “Jerry” Giesler arrived in Los Angeles in 1907 and entered law school at the University of Southern California the next year, but dropped out of law school to finish his studies with renowned attorney Earl Rogers. In 1910 he was admitted to the bar. Giesler cut his teeth by assisting Rogers in the defense of the nation’s top criminal defense attorney, Clarence Darrow. In some of his early cases, he practiced under the name, "H. L. Giesler",[2] and later as "Jerry Giesler".[3] Jerry Giesler eventually became the "highest paid attorney"[citation needed] according to the Guinness Book of World Records (Year Unknown).

Famous Cases & Clients[edit]

Giesler garnered attention in the 1920s by defending a woman involved in the infamous “Love in the Loft Case”, but became truly famous by defending theater mogul Alexander Pantages. Errol Flynn relied on him to win acquittal on charges of statutory rape. Other famous clients included actor Robert Mitchum, and director Busby Berkeley. After the first two trials for murder ended in hung juries, Berkeley was acquitted in a third.

Giesler also won acquittal for Lili St. Cyr, Charlie Chaplin, gangster Bugsy Siegel, producer Walter Wanger–accused of shooting an agent who was paying too much attention to actress Joan Bennett, Wanger's wife, and Buron Fitts, a district attorney accused of improper conduct. In the “White Flame Murder” case, Giesler won his client freedom with a temporary insanity defense.

In December 1949 Giesler won an acquittal for Dr. George Hodel, accused of incest against his daughter Tamar from the time she was eleven years old until he got her pregnant when she was fourteen. Hodel was later the prime suspect in a series of murders of women in LA, including the so-called Black Dahlia. Hodel, by way of Giesler, reputedly paid DA William E. Simpson $15,000 to get an acquittal on the incest charges, while the evidence against Hodel in the serial murder case was "lost." [4]

In 1958, Giesler defended 14-year-old Cheryl Crane, actress Lana Turner's daughter, who was accused of fatally stabbing her mother's abusive lover, gangster Johnny Stompanato. The killing was eventually ruled justifiable homicide.[5]

Following the apparent suicide of actor George Reeves, Giesler was hired by Reeves's mother to prove that her son had been murdered. Giesler made a number of public statements supporting the mother's viewpoint but eventually dropped the case for lack of sufficient evidence, stating that he was satisfied with the suicide verdict.[6] Unlike his other high-profile cases, Giesler made no mention of the Reeves case in his autobiography.[7]

Jerry Giesler handled civil as well as criminal cases. He represented Marilyn Monroe in her much publicized 1954 divorce from Joe DiMaggio. In an ironic coincidence, Giesler and Monroe both died the same year, 1962.


Jerry Giesler died at age 75 on New Year's Day in 1962 and was interred in a crypt in the Great Mausoleum of Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.


  1. ^ "Jerry Giesler, 75, lawyer, is dead". New York Times. January 2, 1962. 
  2. ^ example: People v. Tufts, 167 Cal. 266, February 1914
  3. ^ example: People v. Pantages, 212 Cal. 237, April 1931
  4. ^ Black Dahlia Avenger: The True Story, by Steve Hodel, Harper 2004, page 500
  5. ^ Paiva, Fred Melo (2008-04-06). "Go, Johnny, go". O Estado de S. Paulo (in Portuguese). p. J8. 
  6. ^ Los Angeles Mirror-News, June 24, 1959
  7. ^ Giesler, Jerry, The Jerry Giesler Story, Simon & Schuster, 1960

External links[edit]