The Murder Trial of Judge Peel Author:Jim Bishop To most peolle, tourist and cracker alike, Fort Pierce is just another red light on the long, lonely, flat stretch of Route 1 between Jacksonville and Miami. It is sedate and sleepy, a remnant of old Florida where people still sit on wooden front porches in the evening and local courthouse is a comfortable whitewashed rococo, rather than an ast... more »ure pristine cube easily mistkaen for the local A&P.
Then on March 7, 1961, Jospeh A. Peel went on trial for his life, accused of complicity in a murder so vicious and bizarre that it suddenly catapulted Fort Pierce onto the front pages of newspapers all over the country.
Five years earlier, Judge C. E. Chillingworth, of the Circuit Court in Palm Beach, along with his wife, Marjorie, had disappeared under most mysterious circumstances. Neitehr had been seen since, nor had their bodies ever been recovered. Now the sate of Florida, in the person of aggressive, tough, burly State Attorney Phil O'Connell, was prepared to prove, even in the absence of "corpus delicti," that both had been done in on orders of the defendant to protect his interests in the bolita and moonshine rackets, in which he was heavily involved with two unsavory accomplices, already behind bards.
To many, Joe Peel just didn't look the part. In his early thirties, he was handsome and winning in his ways, given to white linen suites, heavy horn-rimmed sunglasses and an air-conditioned Cadillac. Until recently he had been a municipal judge in West Palm Beach, then had given up the law to go into business - a gyp, dummy corporation, the state claimed, set up to bilk senior citiznes out of their retirement capital.
On the first day of the trial, public opinion was pretty evenly divided. When Joe Peel announced that it was all part of a dastarly plot, a political frame to ruin an innocent, there were, in local parlance, as many "fer him as agin him."
But come and attend, with America's favorite reporter and best-seller authoer, Jim Bishop, as he vividly re-creates, in nuances that ranger all the way from comic irony to a serious consideration of distilled evil, a trial taht is likely to become an American classic.« less