Tag Archives: Dominique Dunne

One Death and Potentially a 2nd One Shakes the Press Corps

I wrote two haiku on this date 20 years ago because of two events that never made onto the main stage of the trial. One was momentously tragic, the other the prelude of what could have been parent’s worst nightmare — and a less violent echo of the reason for the trial.

Robin Clark was here.

No promise of tomorrow.

Empty courtroom seat.


Here’s the lead in as I included in Anatomy of a Trial. The day was Friday, August 4, three days before I wrote the above haiku:

“I didn’t get to the courtroom until the mid-morning break. When court reconvened, a woman I hadn’t seen before was sitting next to me. She wore the proper badge for the seat, so I figured she had worked a deal with Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Robin Clark, who normally sat there. Strange, I thought. Clark never missed a day in court.”

It turned out, he never sat there or in any other courtroom seat again.

Neither did the woman in Robin’s courtroom seat that Friday. She was a friend of Robin’s cousin. Both she and the cousin were visiting from out of town. After court that day, Robin took the women sightseeing. All three were killed in an automobile crash in Malibu.

It hit all of the media covering the trial hard. Robin was very well liked. I also wrote in Anatomy about the moving memorial gathering members of the media held for him. Another very well liked member of the media, magazine writer/book author Dominick Dunne didn’t attend the gathering.

He was the subject of the second haiku I wrote on August 7, 1995, which was.

His son was missing

Gone for a mountain bike ride

More Dunne tragedy?


I picked up the story in Anatomy: 

” The answering machine in my office the following Monday was jammed with messages making sure I knew about Robin. Then Dominick Dunne called who had a crisis of his own. His son, an experienced cyclist, hadn’t returned from a weekend ride in the Arizona mountains. Dunne was frantic and planned to stay by the phone rather than come to court. He might even go to Arizona, he said. He wanted Ito to know why he wasn’t there and hoped it wouldn’t be held against him and take away his courtroom seat.

“Dunne didn’t lose his seat, but because he was still waiting for news about his son, he did miss the memorial service. ”

The “More Dunne tragedy?” reference was to the fact that his daughter, the actress Dominique Dunne, was murdered in the early 1980s, and his ex-wife was crippled with multiple sclerosis.

Dunne’s son returned from his ride several days later, unharmed and unaware of the ruckus he had caused.

The Katz was Out of the Bag

A courtroom talker

That’s against the courtroom rules.

A Katz wife expelled.


Courtroom spectators routinely ignored the court order banning them from talking while court was in session.  One of two women kicked out for talking on this day was the wife of a former Los Angeles judge, Burton Katz.

Of greater interest to me was that Burton Katz was the judge who presided over the trial of the killer of actress Dominique Dunne, who was in the movie Poltergeist and whose father was author, Vanity Fair magazine correspondent and high-profile trial watcher. Dunne developed a vitriolic hatred of Katz after Katz sentenced his daughter’s killer to what Dunne thought was an outrageously light six years. That trial was the catalyst for Dunne to attend and write about high-profile trials. Dunne had a media seat at the Simpson trial, writing about it for Vanity Fair and for a book he said he was writing. I was concerned some kind of a confrontation might break out when Katz showed up at the trial. I needn’t have worried, though, as the two ignored each other.