Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Charles Schmid: The Pied Piper

The Trials, Part 2

His lawyer was interested in what might happen with F. Lee Bailey's Supreme Court appeal, filed in the case of Dr. Sam Sheppard, based on pretrial publicity. The issue had yet to be decided, but on that basis, he wanted to get the Alleen Rowe trial postponed, and Judge Mary Ann Richey granted it. The trial was rescheduled for October 4, 1966. However, Smitty was sentenced to be executed on June 17, by lethal injection. He demanded to be able to testify under sodium pentothal, but the court had no power to grant it. They postponed his execution date, pending appeal.

Smitty contacted another lawyer, Percy Foreman, who could not take the case but who criticized Tinney for not using psychiatric testimony. After hearing an interview by Smitty on a radio station, he contacted F. Lee Bailey to see if he might be interested. He was.

He figured he could crack this case open the way he had with the Sheppard case; there appeared to be just as much publicity involved. He recommended that Smitty take a lie detector test with a qualified expert. He also met with Tinney and asked why there was no psychiatric testimony. Tinney reportedly said, "there had been psychiatric examinations, and the results would scare the pants off any lawyer."

Bailey then left town, seeing no reason to become involved. Then he said he'd do it, but only with Tinney as co-counsel, and only if funds could be raised to pay him. They managed to raise $36.

Then Diane Schmid sued for divorce, on the advice of her mother.

In June, Bailey accepted a retainer from Schmid's parents and entered the case. Shortly thereafter, the U. S. Supreme Court ruled on the Sam Sheppard case, saying that he had not received a fair trial, due to all the prejudicial publicity. It was a major victory for Bailey, and he entered Schmid's trial with confidence.

Bailey brought in a polygraph expert, the best he could find, stating that if Smitty lied, he would just turn the results over to his mother and forget about it. After seeing the results of ten hours of testing, he announced that he would take the case.

He and Tinney attempted to get the U. S. District court to take over jurisdiction and move the case out of the state; they managed only to postpone the Rowe trial until April 3, 1967, then continued it to May 10. Bailey flew in on May 9, prepared to defend Schmid on the basis of the absence of a body, implying there was no murder.

The two defense lawyers tried to get the charges reduced to second-degree murder, but Schafer wouldn't budge. They asked again, and he accepted the deal. Bailey then tried to convince Schmid to plead guilty to lesser charges, because the jury was completely prejudiced, and Smitty decided to fire both Bailey and Tinney. His father persuaded him against it.

The trial went forward, again with Mary French telling her story, but John Saunders refused to participate. The judge said that, as a substitute, he would admit Saunder's preliminary hearing statements. This alarmed the defense lawyers.

Bailey did not show up the next day, claiming to be ill. Tinney informed Charlie's parents that they would accept the deal that Schafer offered. They went and found Bailey, who did not seem ill to them, and he said that the jury was set to hang him. This deal was the only way to save his life. Charlie resisted, and then reconsidered. Finally, he pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. Bailey asked that he receive psychiatric treatment. He later told interviewers that he had believed Schmid to be guilty before the trial had even started, despite the results of the lie detector test. Yet there were many people who believed the famous lawyer, seeing that he could not win, had just bailed out.

Schmid wrote to the judge, asking for another trial, because his lawyers had coerced his guilty plea. He said he could produce the body and thereby prove that she was not killed by a blow to the head.

The judge agreed to hear Schmid's request on June 12. A lawyer was appointed by the court and two psychiatrists were to examine him, but he refused to submit to testing. Then Schmid abruptly withdrew his motion for a new trial. Judge Roylston gave him a sentence of fifty years to life in prison. Schmid said he'd prefer death.

On June 23, Schmid told the sheriff whom he had taken into his confidence that he wanted to lead them to the grave of Alleen Rowe. After a couple of failed attempts, he located the grave.

Alleen Rowe's skull
Alleen Rowe's skull

An autopsy indicated that, contrary to Smitty's claim, there were fractures and dried blood at the base of the skull. The fractures were induced while she was still alive. A rock examined by him that had lain near the remains had specks of blood on it. Smitty was stunned by these findings, but taken back to serve his time. The case of Alleen Rowe had come to a close.


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