‘Sworn to Silence’ isn’t enjoyable, but should be read | News, Sports, Jobs | #childabductors


How far should a defense lawyer go in protecting his client? This is the question posed by Jim Tracy, author of “Sworn to Silence: The Truth Behind Robert Garrow and the Missing Bodies Case.” Tracy was an 8-year-old boy living in the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains, where he still lives, when Garrow terrorized the people of this area. He recounts the horrific crimes Garrow committed and discusses the lawyers’ questionable adherence to attorney-client privilege. Subsequently, almost 50 years later, this question is answered much differently now in law schools and courts of law than it was in 1973.

Prior to Garrow’s killing spree in 1973, Frank Armani, a liability lawyer, had been representing him for several years. In 1961, Garrow confessed to knocking out a teenage boy and raping his girlfriend in order to avoid going to prison as a child molester convicted on a previous charge. Garrow served part of his sentence in Dannemora Correctional Facility, located in the town of his birth, and finished the sentence at Auburn Correctional Facility. He served seven years of a 10- to 20-year sentence, with early release because he was a model prisoner.

Armani believed Garrow had changed after prison, even though he was still on parole when he was arrested again for abducting two Syracuse University students. The students escaped and reported the crime to police but because they had left a bag of marijuana in Garrow’s car, Armani and the police believed Garrow’s accusation of a frame-up and no charges were filed. Time and time again, Garrow committed crimes and escaped punishment because Armani believed his stories of innocence. Every time he was arrested, he was so well-behaved that he was given many breaks and privileges.

Francis Belge, another lawyer, joined Armani after Garrow’s arrest for killing Phil Domblewski in 1973. While awaiting trial, Garrow drew a map so Armani and Belge could find the bodies of two of his other victims, Sue Petz and Alicia Hauck. The lawyers drove to each location, took photos of the dead women, and hid them again. They never told the families or the police where the women were hidden, but the information came out during Garrow’s 1974 trial, when Belge asked the defendant to describe his crimes, which he did in detail. Garrow confessed to several other rapes and murders during his testimony.

To people who don’t practice law, attorney-client privilege followed to this extreme degree by Armani and Belge is a difficult concept to justify. However, Garrow’s case is now taught in law schools and both lawyers are held up as heroes. Belge, who died in 1989, eventually quit law but Armani re-built his practice and began touring law universities to speak about this case and has received many awards.

“Sworn to Silence” isn’t an enjoyable book, but it might be a book that should be read and discussed.


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