Trial and Tribulations Begin — January 11, 1943

12 Jan

“Actor Errol Flynn, left, sits at his counsel’s table with defense attorney Robert E. Ford, awaiting the start of his trial on Jan 11, 1943 in Los Angeles, on charges he committed statutory rape upon 17-year-old Betty Hansen, seated at left behind Flynn, and Peggy Larue Satterlee, 16-year-old Hollywood night club entertainer. At the left of Ford is Mickey Satterlee, Peggy’s sister. (AP Photo)”

Defendant: Errol Flynn
Crime Charged: Statutory Rape
Chief Defense Lawyers: Jerry Geisler and Robert Neeb
Chief Prosecutors: Thomas W. Cochran and John Hopkins
Judge: Leslie E. Still
Place: Los Angeles, California
Dates of Trial: January 11-February 6, 1943
Verdict: Not guilty

SIGNIFICANCE: Despite the outcome, the Errol Flynn trial focused national attention on Hollywood’s sexual mores, which both titillated and shocked many Americans. The trial also put the phrase “In like Flynn” into the American language.

In 1942, Errol Flynn was at the height of his swashbuckling Hollywood career. In 10 years, the handsome native of Australia had made 26 movies—among them such overnight classics as Captain Blood, The Adventures of Robin Hood, and The Sea Hawk. Flynn lived a boisterous, daring life that was also devil-may-care. He worked hard, drank hard, loved hard. Women everywhere had fallen for his splendid physique, his cleft chin, and his enticing dimples, and women everywhere were available to him.

At a party in September 1942, Flynn met 17-year-old Betty Hansen, who arrived with a studio messenger and who dreamed of moviedom fame and fortune. By dinnertime, Hansen had thrown up from too much drinking.

The next day, Hansen told her sister that Flynn had taken her upstairs to clean up, then seduced her in a bedroom. A complaint was filed with District Attorney Thomas W. Cochran, who recalled a similar complaint by one Peggy Satterlee after a voyage aboard Flynn’s yacht. That charge had been dropped.

Flynn’s stand-in stuntman, Buster Wiles, later said Satterlee’s father had earlier approached Flynn with a demand for money, or, said Wiles, “he would lie to the police that his underage daughter had sexual relations with Flynn.”

Flynn was arrested in October. He hired Hollywood’s ace lawyer, Jerry Geisler.

Fans and sensation seekers thronged Flynn’s neighborhood, spying through binoculars, prowling over his 11-acre property, mobbing the courthouse at his preliminary hearing, pulling at his buttons and shoes.

Selecting the jury on January 11, 1943, Geisler purposely took nine women, gambling that the females’ attraction to the movie star would outweigh concern over the seduction of innocence.

Prosecutor Cochran opened with the Betty Hansen charge. Geisler’s crossexamination proved that her testimony was confused and that she was currently awaiting action on a possible felony charge with her boyfriend, the studio messenger.

Above trial history from:…

— Tim


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  1. Karl

    January 12, 2019 at 12:30 pm

    Ahoy “Legal Beagle” Tim!

    I see that you are, once again, hot on the “trail”~ which only “begs” the question… does there exist an original trial transcript or has it been “buried” (under seal by the Judge)?

    As to whether it exists or not has always been a “bone” of contention, and have never heard of a successful “retrieve”, “flush”, or even “point”.

    As someone who is WELL TRAINED in the “field” of “herding”,”trailing”, tracking”, or just even picking up on “the scent”, I wonder… has your “dogged” determinism, in this regard- ever produced a “reward”?

    • twinarchers

      January 15, 2019 at 12:28 am

      He must have felt awful but then there is the story of Linda Christian which I love.

  2. shangheinz

    January 19, 2019 at 2:28 pm


    If you look close enough, Courtmartial Tim, you`ll notice widened pupils in that far away eyes of Freddie McEvoy on the stand, while testifying that Errol never left his sight more than five minutes. I suspect Suicide Freddie of driving a Mercedes Benzedrine there.

  3. shangheinz

    January 19, 2019 at 2:32 pm


    • Gentleman Tim

      January 19, 2019 at 5:26 pm

      You must not be one of Millennial Love Expert Samantha Burn’s pupils, eyeshaveitheinz. Sexy Freddy may just be excited by all the female Flynn fans in court. (Especially the ones that look like they have the biggest allowances.)…


  4. Gentleman Tim

    January 19, 2019 at 7:18 pm

    Still on the trail of the trial transcript, Karl! I’ve searched a number of portholes, but only traces of daylight so far No moonlight at all. Will report back once I am granted an adjournment.


    • shangheinz

      January 20, 2019 at 6:14 pm


      An indebt coverage of the court events and excerpts of the cross examination can be found in the Jerry „Get me“ Giesler autobiography, Supremejudge Tim.

      • Gentleman Tim

        January 20, 2019 at 7:07 pm

        Yes, Geisler’s memoir is a very good source for key parts, stenoheinz, especially for his cross examinations of Peggy and Betty, who the state should have never so selfishly brought into such a public exhibition.

        The problem with Geisler’s account (IMO) is that it is incomplete and apparently one-sided. Years ago, in an ancient legal volume buried in the bowels of a California research library archive, I read portions of the trial transcript not included in Geisler’s legal memoir, but I’ve never seen that tome on the internet, and it too was surely incomplete. There are also some good contemporaneous press accounts of testimony, but very truncated.

        The vast majority of most U.S. trials not appealed do not result in published transcripts. The rape trial of Errol Flynn, however, would be a MAJOR exception! I imagine Geisler may have had the court stenographer transcribe every word, either day by day, or for his book or legacy. For that reason, I’m trying to determine if Geisler or his family donated his papers to any collection, such as a law school or library.