Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Richard Speck, Born to Raise Hell

The State Prepares for Trial

The most important thing for Assistant State's Attorney William Martin was the hope that Speck would be found competent to stand trial. Martin carried on a vigil outside of Speck's room at Cook County Hospital to make sure no one got a drug-induced statement from him.

Martin graduated from Loyola's Law School where he was elected the outstanding law student of his class. In 1962, he received his law license. He applied to work for Gerald Getty, a liberal public defender of the poor and exploited. Martin never was asked to join Getty's office. Impressed with Getty's work, Martin modeled his own career after the famous Chicago lawyer. Shortly after, he obtained a position in the municipal division of police court as a Cook County assistant state's attorney. A shy man, Martin started out petrified of speaking in public. Assigned to the lowliest court cases, Martin soon became astute at arguing cases. For two years, he worked diligently, supplementing his education after hours.

Prosecuting Speck began with one important factor; keeping the witness Cora Amurao from cracking up or fleeing back to the Philippines in fear. Martin kept Cora out of the limelight. He brought her mother, Marcario, and her 27- year- old cousin, Rogelio, to Chicago for moral support. He put them up in a secret apartment with a 24-hour guard. Everybody in the media wanted to get to Cora. Hundreds of thousands of dollars could be made on book deals, articles, appearances. Even the Philippine government wanted to control Cora's future. 

Corazon (Cora) Amurao
Corazon (Cora) Amurao

She steadfastly stayed away from the temptations until her court appearance.

Speck, recuperating in the hospital, was unaware that Martin had arranged for Cora to identify him. Dressed in nurse's attire, she went on rounds with another nurse, eventually arriving in Speck's room. For a full 3 and 1/2 minutes, she observed the man she saw that night her friends were brutally murdered. Leaving the room, she met Martin and several detectives. "It's really him," she blurted as she collapsed in an emotional heap, as if all the horrible experiences hit her for the first time. The case grew: fingerprints, Speck unable to tell his whereabouts during the murders, Cora's identification, witnesses that put him in the area, the knife recovered from Calumet River, T-shirts worn by the Speck left at the crime scene and sperm identified as Speck's.

Speck did not admit he did the murders. During interviews by Marvin Ziporyn, the psychiatrist, Speck told him many times, 'I must have done it if everybody says I did.' Speck claimed he blacked out from booze and dope that night. A group of psychiatrists found him competent to stand trial. Speck was declared sane, but a sociopath.

Martin asked Jim Gramenos, a former FBI agent and then an assistant public defender, to question Cora. For months, Cora was handled with the utmost care and it would soon pay off. Gramenos punched questions at Cora, leaving not one bit of information undiscovered. Cora, unemotional, answered each question thoroughly. At the end of the pretrial interview, Cora gave 133 pages of testimony about her night of horror. Martin, pleased at the testimony, knew his months of protecting Cora were worth it.


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