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He has taught hundreds of trial lawyers how to successfully try cases.  In a career spanning more than 30 years, he has served as lead trial counsel in more than 350 jury trials.  The most famous of those trials was the successful prosecution of serial killer Ted Bundy.  In this issue, we ask Five Questions with...  George R. (Bob) Dekle


1. What was your most memorable trial?

My most memorable trial had to have been State of Florida vs. Theodore Robert Bundy.  It was my first Murder I prosecution, and I learned more about being a lawyer from that case than I did from 3 years of law school.  Of course, it took longer to complete the case (from indictment to execution) than it did to complete law school.  After completing the trial of that case, I was (with one exception) never daunted by the prospect of any trial I ever had.


2. What was your most memorable moment in a trial?

I've had so many memorable moments in trial that it's hard to single out any one incident.  There was the time I cross-examined the capital murder defendant into confessing on the witness stand.  And then there was the time (when I was a public defender) that I steadfastly cross-examined a robbery victim from refusing to identify my client as the robber to positively identifying him as the robber.  Then there was the time that a defendant (a weight lifter) expressed his displeasure with my cross-examination by jumping out of his chair and trying to beat me to a pulp.   If I had to pick out one, though, it would have to be the presentation of the fiber evidence in the Ted Bundy case.  Each day of the trial we would ask one of the bailiffs how we were doing.  Each day the bailiff would say "You haven't shown me anything yet."  When we got to the scientific evidence, he got a little more encouraging.  "You're doing some better, but you're not there yet."  When we finished the fiber evidence, the judge called a recess.  I went to the bailiff and asked, "Alex, how are we doing?"  "You're over the top," he replied.


3. What was the hardest lesson you've learned as a trial lawyer?

The hardest lesson that I ever had to learn was this:  You can disagree without being disagreeable.  The first few years of my career as a prosecutor, I was not a very cordial person.  Rude, antagonistic, uncooperative, I saw opposing counsel as an enemy to be defeated.  I was quite proud of my reputation as being the biggest SOB in the State Attorney's Office.  Slowly, the light began to dawn on me:  you should try your case, not fight opposing counsel.   Cordiality to opposing counsel usually makes it easier to try your case.  Sometimes opposing counsel won't allow you to be cordial, but whenever you can you should try your case with an air of collegial professionalism.


4. Who or what inspired you to become a trial lawyer?

My inspiration to be a lawyer and a prosecutor came from two sources: 


1.)  Once when I was 9 or 10, my parents took us on a trip to visit relatives in Virginia.  Early one morning we stopped for breakfast in a small town.  Across the street was an office with a large picture window.  In the office I could see row upon row of bookshelves laden with more books than I had ever seen outside the school library.  I asked my father what type of office that was, and he told me that it was a lawyer's office.  Even at that age, I was a bookworm, and I thought it would be wonderful to have a job where you worked with so many books.


2.)  When I was in the 7th or 8th grade, two deputy sheriffs were murdered in the small town where I lived.  I skipped school to go and watch final arguments in that case.  The 50's were a time when oratory was somewhat more bombastic than now, and arguments consumed the better part of the entire day.  I sat and listened with rapt attention.  At the end of the day, I came away knowing that I wanted to be three things:  a lawyer, a trial lawyer, and a prosecutor.


5. What lesson can you pass on to new trial lawyers that you wish you had known when you started?

I would like to pass two closely related things on to all young prosecutors.  The first is something I said in an off the cuff remark to a newspaper reporter which wound up being repeated by Paul Harvey on his radio show and quoted in Michaud & Aynesworth's The Only Living Witness.  The reporter said to me that she just couldn't imagine how anyone as wholesome looking and personable as Ted Bundy could ever commit murder.  I responded by saying "People think that a criminal is a hunch-backed, cross-eyed little monster slithering through the dark leaving a trail of slime.  But they're not, they're human beings."  Despite my poor grammar, I spoke an important truth.  Not only are defendants human beings, but their families are humans also.  And the family members usually haven't done anything wrong.  The second is a corollary of the first:  "Prosecutor" is spelled "PROsecutor" not "PERsecutor."  You have a job to do as a prosecutor, and sometimes the people and incidents you deal with aren't very pretty.  But you should never lose sight of the fact that a prosecutor is a minister of justice, not a vigilante avenger. 


EDITOR'S NOTE: Mr. Dekle has compiled two valuable lists of books for trial lawyers, and has written a new book especially for prosecutors.  If you are serious about improving your trial skills, you will find several worthwhile ideas in these books:



WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR EZINE, WEBSITE, OR BAR ASSOCIATION PUBLICATION? You can, as long as you include the following blurb with it: Elliott Wilcox publishes Trial Tips Newsletter, a free weekly e-zine for trial lawyers that reveals simple, effective, and persuasive techniques to help you win more trials, guaranteed.  Sign up today for your free special report: “How to Become the Best Trial Lawyer in Your Courthouse – The Top Ten Tips for Trial Lawyers,” at

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