Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Sabotage: The Downing of Flight 629

The Trial

Prospective jurors waiting
Prospective jurors waiting

On April 21, 1956, promptly at 9:30 a.m., Jack Graham, then 24, looking pale and emaciated, entered the courtroom in downtown Denver to fight for his life. Looking a lot less than the 185 pounds he claimed when arrested, Graham walked slowly to the defense table and took his seat. The room overflowed with spectators and dozens of newsmen. Outside, a long line of people extended down the hallways and out into the street. City police were posted throughout the building and on nearby street corners. Dressed in a blue suit that seemed too big for his wiry frame, Graham sat passively at the table while the proceedings began. Anticipation was high that the accused killer would take the stand in his own defense.

Jack Graham with wife Gloria in court
Jack Graham with wife Gloria in court

The prosecution called to the stand dozens of expert witnesses, technicians, crash analysts, scientists and law enforcement personnel. In often riveting testimony they described in detail the catastrophic explosion on board flight 629 on the fateful night of November 1, 1955. CAB investigators explained to the jury how they concluded rather quickly that the cause of the crash was a bomb that was detonated in cargo bay #4. Crime scene technicians reviewed their findings at the Longmont site and presented evidence of a homemade bomb discovered in the debris of the DC-6B. Agents testified to their discovery of incriminating evidence found at Graham's home during a search of his bedroom. D.A. Keating presented Graham's 20 page written confession, which provided the exact time line of how and when he placed the bomb in Daisie King's luggage. It was damning to the point of being overwhelming.

Graham's attorneys were unable to mount any type of meaningful defense. They called a few witnesses to dispute testimony that Graham had purchased dynamite in a Colorado hardware store. Another witness challenged the prosecution's contention that wire found in Graham's house was identical with samples found at the Longmont crash site. The entire defense testimony lasted less than two hours. When asked to take the stand in his own defense, Graham refused. He also requested that his wife not testify in his behalf. In his charge to the jury, Judge Joseph McDonald warned the panel not to assume anything by Graham's refusal to take the witness stand. He said, "the defendant's failure to testify shall not be considered by the jury as in any way detrimental."

The jury deliberated one hour and twelve minutes. Graham was found guilty as charged of murder in the first-degree. The conviction required an automatic death sentence. The defendant accepted the verdict in much the same way he viewed the proceedings, with a benign indifference. "I'm innocent!" he told the press after the verdict was announced.

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