Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods


Revelations Heard

On June 6, 1983, at approximately 9:15 a.m., the trial for accused mass murderer George Banks began at the Luzerne County Courthouse behind locked doors. A prosecution team consisting of District Attorney Robert Gillespie and Assistant District Attorneys Lawrence Klemow and Michael Bart was chosen to represent the state.  Public Defender Basil Russin and two assistants, Joseph Sklarosky and Al Flora, Jr., were present to represent Banks. 

The prosecution had many advantages during the trial: Banks partial confession, the murder weapon, over 100 photographs of the victims, and more than 40 witnesses.  Banks attorneys, against their clients wishes, had prepared an insanity defense and planned to bring up Banks peculiar lifestyle and abnormal behavior.

One of the first to testify was Dr. Michael K. Spodak, a psychiatrist for the defense.  Spodak testified that during his first interview with Banks, the defendant appeared paranoid, delusional, and suicidal.  Throughout that interview, Banks indicated to Spodak that he was a victim of a conspiracy in which the district attorney, judge, police, defense attorneys, and city officials were involved.  During the cross-examination, Gillespie asked Spodak if he felt Banks was faking a mental disorder.  Spodak replied, I have confidence he was not trying to be deceptive in the interview. 

George Banks in Court (FilePhoto/Citizens Voice, Wilkes-Barre, PA.)
George Banks in
Voice, Wilkes-Barre,

During the trial, Banks continued to insist that he was not mentally ill and demanded to testify.  Banks attorneys worried that the jury would consider him sane if he testified.  Still, Banks ignored them and took the stand, saying his testimony was the only chance he had to pull the mask off the devil.

Sometimes standing, sometimes sitting, Banks coolly and comfortably launched into a rambling, disjointed account of the night of the killings.  He voiced his opinion that the police, in a racist conspiracy against him, fired the fatal bullets into some of the victims after he had left them wounded.  To prove this theory, Banks wanted to exhume the bodies of the victims for forensic examination.  Then he showed the jury the gruesome photographs of the victims, photographs that his attorneys had fought to keep out of the jury's view.  The pictures, Banks said, would prove my theory of a police conspiracy.  During Banks testimony, Assistant Public Defender Al Flora, Jr., lowered his head and wept in frustration.

Before wrapping up, the defense called upon Banks mother, brother, and religious advisor, in an attempt to show the jury that George was, in fact, suffering from mental abnormalities, and did not understand the consequences of his actions.  This testimony, however, came a little too late following Banks own damaging admissions to the jury.

When it came time for the prosecution to present its side, James Olsen, sole survivor of the bloody shooting spree was called to the stand.  Olsen testified that George Banks was the man that shot him on September 25, 1982 and left him for dead.  Following Olsens testimony, the prosecution called detectives and medical examiners to further strengthen the case against Banks.  Each detective present at the crime scenes came forward and recounted his/her version of the events.  At one point, County Coroner Dr. George Hudock, Jr., while describing the murder scene, said, Im still sick to my stomach.



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