Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Murder of Bonnie Garland

The Verdict

Judge Daronco
Judge Daronco

Inside the Westchester County Courthouse, a monolith structure that still dominates the City of White Plains skyline, the jury panel struggled with the trial evidence for four days. Judge Daronco had instructed them to find the defendant "guilty or not guilty, or not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect, or guilty of manslaughter in the first degree." Psychiatric testimony weighed heavily on their minds and some members of the jury later said Herrin's state of mind at the time of the murder was the most important point in trying to arrive at a verdict.

On the afternoon of Sunday, June 19, the panel announced that they had come to a decision. As they filed into the courtroom, the Garlands sat quietly in their seats. The prosecutor and defense assembled their people and gathered at their tables. Judge Daronco asked the jury for their verdict.

"How do you find Richard Herrin under the first count, murder in the second degree?" he asked.

"Not guilty your honor," said the jury spokesperson. On the next count, manslaughter, the jury found Herrin guilty. In her usual seat in the second row, Sister Ramona began to cry. The Garlands cried as well but for different reasons. Paul Garland later spoke to reporters about the verdict. "At the beginning of this case I said the question would be one of equal justice whether someone with a Yale education and a $30,000 smokescreen defense fund would receive the same type of justice as everyone else," he said. "The verdict in this case clearly indicates that special treatment has been given to a privileged defendant" (Connell).

"We considered the evidence and the law involved," said one jury member to the press. "There was never any consideration given to the man's background...it became very emotional in the jury room" (Zuckerman).  Following the verdict, Herrin, who had been free for nearly a year on bail, was handcuffed and transported to the Westchester County Jail by court officers.

If Herrin had been convicted of murder, he would have faced a twenty-five year to life prison sentence. On the manslaughter charge, he faced as little as one year in jail, with a maximum of twenty five. Paul Garland told the press, he was "sick to his stomach" about the verdict.  Litman said the jury "has spoken and by its verdict clearly announced that there were mitigating circumstances in this tragedy" (Connell). The Garland family appeared on television and urged the public to write letters to the judge to let them know their feelings on the case. "I'm going to read the letters," said Judge Daronco, "but if we are going to decide the sentence by polls, it won't be synonymous with justice" (June 21, 1978, Reporter Dispatch).

On July 27th, Herrin was brought back to the court where Judge Daronco gave him the maximum sentence under the law: eight to twenty-five years. He would be eligible for parole in just eight years. Sister Ramona left the court with tears in her eyes and asked reporters that she and Linda Ugarte not be disturbed by questions. "I was absolutely smashed by Richard's imprisonment," she said later, "I knew it was going to happen, but it still doesn't change the emotional smash" (Gaylin 147).    

 

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