Warren Burnett for the Defense

Winning isn’t everything, it just almost is. 

In the days that preceded the trial, the touts at the Travis County Courthouse came to call it “The Case of Inadequate Foreplay.” It might have been called “The Beautiful People Rape Caper,” the word caper referring not to what went on that fateful night in the apartment of a University of Texas freshman law student but to the manner in which the legal adversaries would dance and cavort with the law six months later. It was their caper, the prosecutor’s and the defender’s, and the defender was a legendary Texas criminal defense lawyer.

This was the accusation:

That in the early morning hours of September 30, 1973, approximately four hours after the Texas-Texas Tech foot­ball game and following a Beautiful People’s party, one Robert Campbell, a 26-year-old Vietnam veteran from an upper middle class family in Odessa and an honor graduate of the UT school of accounting, did by force and without consent take the sexual pleasures of one Heidi Krupp [not her real name], a 20-year-old UT English major from Europe.

The case went virtually unreported. It is not unreason­able to speculate that perhaps a dozen vicious assaults took place that same night in Austin, one or two perhaps in Memorial Stadium while the football game was in progress. The Daily Texan, which had been crusading hard for wom­en’s rights, passed over the story in a few paragraphs, and the remainder of the Austin media overlooked it entirely.

This real or imagined rape might have been swept under the nearest docket as are so many similar cases, except for one thing—Warren Burnett of Odessa had agreed to undertake Robert Campbell’s defense. Why? It was not a case designed to exercise Burnett’s considerable talents. This was a lawyer who once won acquittal for an 18-year-old “model boy” athlete and scholar who kissed his pretty 15-year-old girl friend goodbye in the moonlight beside a remote West Texas pond, then blew her head off with a shotgun. It was called the “Kiss and Kill Murder Case.” Burnett convinced the jury that his client, being “temporari­ly dethroned of reason,” finally gave way to the young lady’s plea that she wanted only to go “live with the angels.”

The common designation for Burnett is “superlawyer”; he has won huge sums as a plaintiffs attorney, was a “Movement” lawyer for Texas chicanos in the troubled Six­ties, has at least three times intervened successfully in cases called to his attention by the American Civil Liberties Union to set aside death sentences of the friendless and the penniless. And before that—in the very early 1950s— he was known as the meanest prosecutor in the whole Trans-Pecos region. There are those who say that next

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