Buzz and Gertrude posed for acquittal photos for the Associated Press. The accused wore suit, tie, and artfully folded handkerchief; Mother was decked out in hat, brooch, and spectacles, looking very much like a doting grandmother. The grueling hours between court and set weighed heavily on Buzz. Stage Struck was shooting on an inflexible schedule when the superfluous third trial was under way. A Dick Powell sequence wrapping at 2:00 a.m. was followed by a look-your-best appearance in front of judge and jury at 9:00 a.m. sharp. But Buzz looked at his oppressive schedule in a positive light: “I was lucky that I had so much work because it helped keep my mind off the accident. Even though I was found innocent, it was a shocking and terribly depressing thing to have been involved in the death of three people. I think it was the heavy work commitment that saved my sanity.”
The legal expense, the pages of billing minutiae to the quarter hour, came due on the heels of Buzz’s $95,000 settlement. Giesler’s fees amounted to almost six figures—worth every penny to keep Buzz from losing his sanity and facing hard time for murder.
No one snapped pictures or took statements of the victims and their relatives. The cash settlements may have come with restrictions against on-the-record comments. To learn their feelings about Berkeley’s final verdict would have been enlightening, if not profoundly saddening. Judge Burnell’s unusual ouster never attracted much attention, and he and the threatening voice that led to his reassignment disappeared from public consciousness. The identities of the caller and the one who hired him were never revealed.
When it takes three highly charged murder trials to affirm innocence, human nature is loath to accept the final verdict. Those pronounced innocent can’t return to the state they inhabited one second before the alleged transgression. Just ask Fatty Arbuckle. Found innocent of scan-