An interesting trial became a sensation when it was learned that a dictograph purchased by Mrs. Carman for her husband and deliberately left on by her was transmitting what was being said in the examining rooms to her bedroom.
A maid, Celia Coleman, claimed Mrs. Carman had run through the house, adjacent to the examining rooms, with a revolver exclaiming she had shot him.
Many thought the bullet was intended for the Doctor.
At trial George attacked the maid’s credibility and gave a stirring summation:
“Gentlemen of the jury,” he said, “let me share with you my greatest fear. You may feel that you cannot decide between myself and my worthy opponent, the district attorney, and so might find that there has not been a major guilt, but only a minor one. Well, let me disabuse you of that notion. Mrs. Bailey has been murdered. Either Mrs. Carman killed her, or she did not. There can be no compromise on that point. You must either free Mrs. Carman,” he said, his voice
rising as his finger swung to his client,
“or you must send her to the electric chair!”
Mrs. Carman was found not guilty and George was on his way to a successful career.
A pictorial portrayal of the trial can be found at:
George had an unusual path to the law in that he had been playing semi-pro football and baseball after high school. He attended New York University Law School at night.
George enjoyed Cuban cigars and poker. In the1920’s he was involved in poker games where as much as $2,000 to $3,000 would be involved.
George gained respect as a man of his word. Owning some land for development he made a verbal deal in 1929 with William Fox, the movie mogul, and two others to work on the development. In New York state a verbal deal is not binding in a land transaction. Before he signed an agreement George had an offer from Edward West Browning to buy the land for a sum that would have made George a $1,000,000 profit. George, honouring the agreement with Fox and the other investors, put the deal to them and, when they voted against it, accepted the decision. When the Great Depression hit the next year the whole development collapsed and George instead of a $250,000 to $1,000,000 profit ended up owing $100,000. He said he was content because he had honoured his word.
In the spring of 1936 George received a call from Moses Polakoff, a lawyer for Lucky Luciano, asking George to lead the defence team in the trial Luciano was facing of a criminal conspiracy to monopolize prostitution in New York City. What made the Thursday evening call dramatic was that the trial was to begin the next Monday. Despite the absurdly short time frame before the trial George accepted the case lured by the opportunity to be a part of one of the most famous cases of the 1930’s.
George provided a solid defence. In one crucial area Luciano rejected his advice. Readers will need to read Tom & Lucky and George and Cokey Flo to find out about Luciano’s choice. After reading the book I doubt Luciano could have been found not guilty had he followed George’s recommendation but it was certainly the wrong decision to reject George's opinion.
In an interesting note the author, Chuck Greaves, explained how he been able in 2004 to obtain access to 15 file cabinets of case files of George including the Luciano file. He used that information in writing the book and has provided on his website (http://chuckgreaves.com/levy-files) copies of several documents related to the defence. They vividly add to the story of the Luciano trial.
To history George is barely known for his skill in the courtroom. He is far better known for his participation in harness racing which he entered in 1939. He was a developer of Roosevelt Raceway on Long Island and the George Morton Levy Memorial Pacing Series is still taking place.
I wish I could have known George. He was an excellent trial lawyer who prepared well and clearly impressed juries with his integrity through how he conducted himself in the courtroom.