Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Sabotage: The Downing of Flight 629

Trial TV

The sensational confession of Jack Graham was reported nationwide. "Youth Admits Planting Bomb in Airliner," reported the New York Times on November 15. "FBI Says Suspect Put Dynamite Bomb on Plane," said the Longmont Times-Call on November 14, 1955. Details of Graham's statements were leaked to the press and provided the public with a frightening glimpse into the mind of a mass murderer. His indifferent demeanor and lack of remorse continued to astonish police. In his confession, Graham seemed anxious to explain every minor detail of his crime.

"I then wrapped about three or four feet of binding cord around the sack of dynamite to hold the dynamite sticks in place around the caps," he told police. "The purpose of the two caps was in case one of the caps failed to function and ignite the dynamite ... I placed the suitcase in the trunk of my car with another smaller suitcase...which my mother had packed to take with her on the trip," he told police.

Jack Graham (left) with Attorney John Gibbons
Jack Graham (left) with Attorney John
Gibbons

Graham was arraigned on murder charges in a Denver courtroom on December 9. District Attorney Bert Keating announced that the prosecution would be ready for trial after the first of the year and would seek the death penalty. News media representatives immediately appealed to the court to allow live television broadcast of the proceedings. This had never been allowed before, but the press said that interest in the case was so intense that the public demanded it. After all, the media pointed out, a trial is in the public forum. District Judge Joseph M. McDonald ruled on the appeal. He denied the request but not completely. The judge recognized the public's right to know but at the same time, said it "must be remembered at the outset that the concern of everyone involved...is that all parties should be afforded a fair trial." Judge McDonald was concerned about the intrusive nature of television cameras and the disruptive presence of reporters. But he struck a compromise. He granted permission to local television crews to film the proceedings and make their broadcasts at a later time. The judge also allowed still photography as long as no flash was used and the taking of pictures did not affect the proceedings. It was the first time television was allowed in the courtroom.

Meanwhile, Graham immediately recanted his confession to police and said that he only confessed to the crime because the police had threatened him. He said that he never put a bomb in his mother's luggage and had no idea what happened to flight 629. In a jail cell interview, which took place on November 17, he said he didn't even remember signing a written confession. "I'm not in the habit of doing anything like that!" he told reporters, "I respect people's lives as much as my own."

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