Archive of of five original oversize photographs of Frank Avilez, the San Francisco "Black-Gloved Rapist," 1947

San Francisco: San Francisco Examiner, 1947. Archive consisting of five vintage oversize narrow margin photographs of Frank Avilez, the San Francisco "Black Gloved Rapist," 1947. All five with dated San Francisco Examiner Library Stamps on the verso, one "July 13 1947," three "July 14, 1947," and one "Aug 8 1947," four with "Frank Avilez" stamps on the verso, one with the stamp of photographer "Joe Farrell" on the verso, and two with San Francisco newspaper clippings of the same photographs affixed to the verso.

In the first seven months of 1947, serial rapist Frank Avilez terrorized the San Francisco community, breaking into his victims' homes at midnight, wearing black gloves and carrying a pencil flashlight (seen in the July 13 booking photograph), earning him the moniker of the "Black-Gloved Rapist" in the San Francisco press. On July 12, he was apprehended, and after several hours of questioning from police inspectors and assistant district attorneys, confessed to fourteen rapes and attempted rapes. When asked about his motive by the San Francisco Chronicle, the married 24 year old Avilez simply replied, "I just didn't like staying home nights." Avilez had an IQ in the 70s and, according to his psychiatric records, had a mental age of a ten year old. The case would prove to be a pivotal one in regards to the role of the public defender in California courts.

Avilez's family hired the young trial lawyer Melvin Belli to represent Avilez, who notified the district attorney of his representation, and asked the case be held over until the family arrived for the next day's arraignment. The D.A. informed the judge of Belli's representation, but no one told the defendant or the public defender, Gerald Kenny, who assumed Avilez was his client. After a brief discussion in which Avilez told Kenny he wanted to plead guilty to the 32 charges, Kenny and Avilez appeared before the municipal court judge, who asked Avilez if he wanted to be represented by the public defender, he responded "yes." Avilez plead guilty to seven counts of rape, four counts of attempted rape, one assault, and ten counts of burglary and robbery. He was bound over to superior court for sentencing when Belli arrived, who moved to have Avilez's plea withdrawn. The superior court judge denied the motion, and sentenced Avilez to 440 years in prison, the longest jail sentence in San Francisco court history, at which point Avilez flew into a rage and was restrained (seen in the August 8 photograph).

The case was appealed and the sentence overturned by the First District court, on the grounds that Avilez had been denied "a fair opportunity to secure the aid of counsel" and that "the aid of counsel furnished was not effective and substantial." The sentence was cut to 220 years.

In the 1940s the function and ethical responsibilities of a public defender in San Francisco was under debate. Was it the duty of the public defender to zealously advocate for the defendant, or is the public defender more of a partner to the prosecutor, collaborating with the D.A. to develop the facts and propose a fair resolution, not just in the defendant's interest but the needs and safety of the community? The appellate court rejected the latter view, following the direction of the 1932 Supreme Court case, Powell v. Alabama, which issued a robust defense of the adversary process in the right to counsel.

Melvin Belli would become a prominent US lawyer, as well as an author and actor, known as "the King of Torts," he was the attorney for many celebrity clients over his legal career.

3 Photographs 14 x 11 inches, 1 Photograph 12 x 11 inches, with the right edge cropped. Near Fine to Very Good, with faint creasing overall to one, and two with light creasing, some rippling, retouching by the San Francisco Examiner, and cropping annotations in the margins. One with a small chip to the top center margin.

[Book #155607]