I normally enjoy "Judd for the Defense" very much, and my overall rating for the series as a whole is a "10". But this particular episode is a definite oddity, has huge holes in the plot, and gets very tedious for the viewer.
In the pre-credit sequence, we seen Clinton Judd showing up at a woman's apartment, played by Brook Bundy. An odd, disjointed conversation ensues, followed by the police busting in, frisking Clint, and arresting the woman (definitely "the Teaser"!). The rest of the story bounces between real time and flashback. Bundy plays a strange young woman, who is very nice and pleasant, but apparently has an extremely low I.Q. (according to the story) -- she's living in what they refer to as a "borderland". She comes off as what my folks would have termed (in the old days) "simple-minded". She has trouble with basic relationships, difficulty understanding what people tell her, and making herself understood to others, and seems to have big memory problems. I mean, we're definitely talking Lennie Small of Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men" here!
Anyways, Brooke's been sharing an apartment with her uncle, who basically has been her caretaker, but when he dies, she's left on her own. She apparently can function (just barely) in society, continues to live in the apartment, and goes to work (some menial job in a back-room, packing boxes). A young con man, with a prior for mail-fraud, meets and befriends her, basically so he can have his ill-gotten merchandise ordered from department stores (using other people's credit) delivered and stored there. Poor Brooke Bundy thinks this guy is in love with her, which he readily encourages, and that all these goods being delivered are his "presents" to her. She can't seem to figure anything out on her own, and much of her speech is made up of jargon, vapid slogans and the like -- simple phrases she can remember. While the role is well-played by Brooke Bundy, her character definitely becomes annoying to the viewer REAL fast! At any rate, she's accused, tried, and convicted of murdering the con-man "boyfriend".
The oddest thing about this whole episode is that this poor simpleton is so obviously mentally incompetent, yet no one seems to even pick up on that, or that it's the obvious defense to the murder charge, to which she readily plead guilty to! First, didn't her odd behavior catch the attention of the police who arrested her? Or the D.A. who indicted her? Clinton Judd, who's in the opening "teaser" apparently doesn't stay involved in any way, until called in later by the girl's attorney (???). There's not ever any mention of possible diminished capacity, or any procedures for determining her actual mental capacity. In one scene, the Judge (Jay C. Flippen) even states that he has no choice under the law but to sentence her to life imprisonment, even though she has never offered any reason for killing the boyfriend to anyone, and half the time doesn't seem to even remember the act. I mean, a trial has taken place, and neither the judge or the prosecuting attorney have noticed just how simple-minded this poor girl truly is?
The Judge angrily references an "unsatisfactory" probation report, which he infers is the fault of the defendant for being "uncooperative"? And since SOMEONE in the probation department interviewed her, we're left to believe that this probation department is either totally incompetent, or just plain lazy. Brooke Bundy's female attorney (Geraldine Brooks) stands as the most incompetent lawyer in "TV land" history. She lets it get to the sentencing phase of the trial, and only then thinks to call in Clinton Judd. Could she not think of ANY legal maneuver to try and save Bundy from the threatened life imprisonment charge, like maybe "diminished capacity" (or even innocent by reason of insanity)? It takes Clint Judd to come into court and persuade the judge to give him a few days to work on the case and try to get Bundy to reveal WHY she killed the boyfriend. Of course, in all fairness to the woman attorney, Mr. Judd also seems to miss the legal "basics" of Bundy's condition, as well!
Okay, I know this episode aired in 1969, and there have been some changes in legal matters and court procedures since then. But are you telling me that, by the late 1960s, there was no question of someone's mental capacity to even stand trial? Or to enter a plea? No reports by psychologists, or case workers, or experts in this field??? Did those in the legal profession have no idea of the whole concept of "diminished mental capacity" which this poor girl so evidently displays? Thankfully for her, Clinton Judd and his associate (Stephen Young) heroically stick with the case, and finally manage to get her to remember and vocalize what actually happened in her apartment that led to her killing the boyfriend. (Basically, he made some flippant remark like "you'd have to kill me to..." and she actually took him literally, stabbing him in the chest!). They report this to the judge, who only then seems to "get it" -- and he gives her probation for the killing, instead of the life imprisonment he was going to slap her with! I mean, OMG, how this case even got as far as the D.A. indicting her, let alone going through a trial, I'll never know... EVEN in 1969!
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