SEQUEL: The Second Jury

Monday, May 18, 1953

When handsome Highway Patrolman Leonard Kirkes was convicted of second-degree murder at Carpinteria, Calif, (pop. 2,864), many of his fellow citizens felt that justice had triumphed over long odds. Kirkes was not brought to trial until eight years after the death of his supposed victim, 20-year-old Margaret Senteney, and the trial took place then only because Sheriff John Ross had painfully gathered up snippets and scraps of circumstantial evidence and had fitted them into a damning whole (TIME, Jan. 8, 1951).

As a prisoner at San Quentin, Kirkes set out doggedly to get a new trial—even though he would soon be eligible for parole and was exposing himself to a risk of being sent to the gas. chamber by a second jury. His request was finally granted. Once more citizens of Carpinteria crowded the courtroom. Once more bits and pieces of circumstantial evidence were fitted into place. But this time they sounded oddly different. Example: one key prosecution witness (who swore in 1950 that she had seen Margaret Senteney get into Kirkes's car the night of the murder) had since been sent to a mental institution, and doctors testified that she had been mentally disturbed even before her testimony. Last week Leonard Kirkes, a thinner, greyer man, heard the verdict of the second jury: not guilty. After two years of prison, he walked out of the courtroom a free man.