Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Ted Bundy

The First Trial

Bundy meeting in court with lawyers
Bundy meeting in court
with lawyers

Theodore Robert Bundy faced two murder trials, both spaced within three years. His first trial date was set for June 25, 1979, in Miami, Florida. The court case centered on the brutal attacks on the Chi Omega sorority sisters. The second trial was to take place in January 1980 in Orlando, Florida, where Ted was to be tried for the murder of Kimberly Leach. Both trials would result in less-than-favorable outcomes for Ted, however it would be the Chi Omega murder case that would seal his fate forever.

Florida  v. Theodore Robert Bundy

The opening of the Chi Omega murder trial sparked immense public interest and a media frenzy. After all, Ted had been suspected of at least 36 murders in four states and his name elicited nightmarish images to thousands, perhaps even millions around the world. He was considered by many to be evil reincarnate, a monster, the devil and his murders initiated the biggest and most publicized trials of the decade.

Ted Bundy in court
Ted Bundy in court

During the Chi Omega murder trial, Ted acted as his own defense attorney. He was confident in his abilities and believed he would be given a fair trial. The jury, made up mostly of African-Americans, looked on as he defended himself against the murder charges. It became clear early on in the trial that Ted was fighting a losing battle.

There were two events in the trial that would sway the jury against Ted. The first was Nita Neary's testimony of what she had seen the night of the murders. While on the stand, she pointed to Ted as the man she had seen fleeing down the stairs and out the door of the Chi Omega House. The second event that swayed the jury during the trial was the testimony of odontologist Dr. Richard Souviron.

Dr. Souviron described the bite mark injuries found on Lisa Levy's body.
Dr. Souviron described the bite mark
injuries found on Lisa Levy's body.

While on the stand, Dr. Souviron described the bite mark injuries found on Lisa Levy's body. As he spoke, the jury was shown full-scale photographs of the bite marks that had been taken the night of the murder. The doctor pointed out the uniqueness of the indentations left behind on the victim and compared them with full-scale pictures of Ted's teeth. There was no question that Ted had made the bite marks on Lisa Levy's body. The photos would be the biggest piece of evidence the prosecution had linking Ted to the crime.

On July 23rd, Ted waited in his cell as the jurors deliberated over his guilt or innocence. After almost seven hours, they returned to the courtroom with a verdict. Showing no emotion, Ted listened as one of the jurors read out "GUILTY." On all counts of murder, Ted was found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Bundy's reaction to verdict
Bundy's reaction to verdict

In the state of Florida, it is customary to have a separate sentencing trial. Ted's sentencing took place one week later on July 30th before the same jury that had found him guilty. During the brief hearing, Ted's mother testified and tearfully pleaded for her son's life. Ted was also given a chance to address the court and refute the recommendation from the prosecution for the death penalty.

Ted professed his innocence, claiming that the prejudice of the media was responsible for his alleged misrepresentation. He also suggested that the entire proceedings and verdict was nothing short of a farce, which he was unable to accept. According to Larsen, Ted told the hushed courtroom that it was, "absurd to ask for mercy for something he did not do," yet he would "not share the burden of the guilt." Judge Cowart, who presided over both trials, handed down his final judgment following Ted's statement. He affirmed the recommendation and imposed the death penalty twice for the murders of Margaret Bowman and Lisa Levy. The method of execution Ted faced was the electric chair.

 

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