Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Lana Turner and Johnny Stompanato - Hollywood Homicide

'Get Geisler'

Jerry Geisler (CORBIS)
Jerry Geisler
In Hollywoods Golden Age, the criminal defense attorney everyone used was Jerry Geisler. The precursor to celebrity lawyers like Robert Shapiro and Johnny Cochran, Geisler had successfully defended Charlie Chaplin and Errol Flynn on rape charges. He represented Marilyn Monroe in her divorce from Joe DiMaggio four years earlier. He was expensive and worth every penny. No one in Los Angeles could match Geislers skill before a jury.

Get me Geisler. That was one of the jokes at the time, Lana wrote in her tell-all book. If you were in trouble, you knew whom to call. Only now it wasnt a joke, it was something unspeakable; all too real.

Lana did a very smart thing in the moments after Stompanatos death. She called a lawyer and then had him contact the police. Geisler was on the scene before the cops.

Soon the Beverly Hills Police descended on Turners home and with them came the press. It was inevitable that the media would be tipped to the story by police sources. The next morning, crime scene photos of Johnny Stompanato lying dead in Lana Turners bedroom were on the front page of hundreds of newspapers.

Cheryl Crane in custody (CORBIS)
Cheryl Crane in custody
Lana and Cheryl rode to the Beverly Hills Police Station in Geisler's limousine. There had been some questioning at the homicide scene, but formal statements were not taken until after Lana and her daughter had time to strategize with Geisler. That opportunity to confer helped spur rumors that Lana had killed Johnny and tried to blame Cheryl.

Under questioning by authorities, with her mother present, Cheryl recounted the story of Stompanato's death.

"I think that they were so careful to make sure they dotted all their I's and crossed all their T's," Cheryl told Larry King. "And they didn't want anyone to show say they showed favoritism, you know, a star's kid or anything like that, because they kept me overnight at the Beverly Hills police station in a cell."


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