Shhh… Let’s Keep This A Secret

When you’re in trouble with the law, it helps to have a lawyer who’ll fight like hell. By December of 1983, that’s exactly what Robert Hansen had. Fred Dewey took the fight to the prosecution in no uncertain terms. His strategy was simple: keep as much of the mounting evidence out of the courtroom and out of the case. Keep it a secret. Bury it deep.

As it was, Dewey was fighting a many-headed monster. When Hansen was indicted, the charges included the rape and kidnapping of Cindy Paulson. Oh, and five counts of being a felon in possession of a firearm. And several counts of gun theft (the latter charges stemming from the large cache of stolen firearms they found at his house).

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Hansen’s Cache of Stolen Rifles (courtesy AST)

What Dewey wanted to stop in its tracks, however, were reports that his client was a suspect in the murder of (at least) two women. Dancers Sherry Morrow and Paula Goulding, whose bodies were found along the Knik River, were now widely thought to belong to Bob Hansen. In a hearing before Superior Court Judge Ralph Moody, Dewey asked how it was possible for his client to get a fair trial, “if the newspapers are trying to connect him with an uncharged group of murders?”

A Simple Secret

Dewey’s immediate asks were dead simple. Fundamental, even. Keep court papers and proceedings away from the public. That, he reasoned, would ensure an impartial jury for Hansen’s pending trial. Dewey further proposed that those records be opened only at the start of Hansen’s trial.

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Fred Dewey 2004 (courtesy ADN)

Assistant District Attorney Frank Rothschild countered that the likelihood of having to move the trial was low. “I have been involved in much more sensational cases,” Rothschild said, including the recent Lowry fireplace murder. “With all of that publicity… with all of that fanfare… we were able to pick a jury without a problem.”

Keep Speculation At Bay

Judge Moody ultimately ruled that the request to keep things secret was inappropriate. He said closing doors and keeping secret files “would cause more speculation than keeping them open.”

Superior Court Judge Ralph Moody

More to the point, there was already an order in effect, put there by District Court Judge John Mason. That order prohibited all law enforcement officials and prosecutors from talking about Hansen’s case. Moody’s immediate solution said, in essence, “let’s keep that order in effect.”

Hopes & Dreams

Dewey’s ultimate hope, however, was far more sweeping. He wanted to, intended to, raise Constitutional questions about the search of Hansen’s properties. It was, Dewey would argue, evidence obtained in an unlawful search. He wanted it ruled inadmissible.

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Snippet Memorializing Hansen Search Warrant

That included the bear rug where he allegedly raped Cindy Paulson. The chains he allegedly used to immobilize her. The gun they’d seized that matched the firearm Hansen had allegedly pointed at Cindy during her abduction. And, of course, the mini-15 they’d found in his attic. The alleged murder weapon.

With those inconvenient bits of evidence out of the way, the murder charges against Robert Hansen threatened to fade like a phantom. Or at least that was Dewey’s hope. He was doing his damnedest to defend his client. And, like so many people before him, he believed Robert Hansen’s steadfast denials. This was, as Hansen put it, simply a beef with a prostitute. The word of a woman of the street against that of an upstanding businessman. No contest.


Copyright Leland E. Hale (2022). All rights reserved.

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