Tales from the 10th

Excerpts from the Oral History of Hal Haddon - Part 1

June 28, 2022 10th Circuit Historical Society Season 2022 Episode 6
Tales from the 10th
Excerpts from the Oral History of Hal Haddon - Part 1
Show Notes Transcript

This episode is part one of two of the Excerpts from the Oral History of Hall Haddon. This episode covers two important cases in Hal Haddon's  oral history that he handled as a public defender: 1) People v. Sneed (in the early 1970s, which altered the law of first-degree murder in Colorado), and 2) U.S. v. Cameron Bishop (a capital crime charged for “sabotage of a war utility” during a time of a war emergency in 1975, which arose from a nonviolent Vietnam war protest; Haddon assisted Michael Tigar with the trial).


In Hal Haddon's Oral History he was interviewed by Stephanie Howard. The full Oral History can be found here at 10thCircuitHistory.org


Haddon Part 1 FIXED 6.24Version

Fri, 6/24 12:23PM • 30:03


tenth circuit, jury, case, judge, cameron, haddon, national emergency, bishop, trial, colorado, statute, michael, premeditation, sneed, called, 10th, war, witness, discovery, lawyer


Leah C. Schwartz, Tina Howell, Hal Haddon, Stephanie Howard


Leah C. Schwartz  00:03

Hello and welcome to Tales from the 10th. A podcast about the rich history, culture and contributions of the 10th Circuit Courts. I'm your host Leah Schwartz, a Wyoming lawyer and former 10th circuit law clerk.


Tina Howell  00:15

And I'm producer Tina Howell, the Emerging Technologies Librarian for the 10th circuit. 

Today's episode is the first in a new series for Tales from the 10th. As many of our listeners may know, the Tenth Circuit Historical Society has a library of oral histories, in depth spoken autobiographies, by some of the circuit's most influential figures. Starting today, Tales from the 10th is sharing excerpts of those histories on the podcast. 

This episode offers a sliver of the oral history of Hal Haddon, a prominent Denver trial lawyer who has litigated highly impactful criminal and civil cases in the 10th circuit in Colorado and across the country. To name just a few of his most widely publicized cases; Hadden represented Kobe Bryant against allegations of sexual assault that were dismissed during jury selection. He successfully represented Keiwit and its CEO against Bid rigging charges. He represented the defendant in the decade's long Rocky Flats environmental crimes investigation, and he successfully defended author Hunter S. Thompson against drug and sexual assault charges. Haddon was also active in politics, managing Gary Hart's winning US Senate campaigns in 1974, and 1980. Haddon discusses all of this work in his full oral history available on the Tenth Circuit Historical Society's website. 

In today's clips, Mr. Haddon recounts two cases that had lasting impacts on the state of law in Colorado and in the Tenth Circuit. First in the early 1970s, he represented the defendant in People versus Sneed, which significantly altered the law of first degree murder in Colorado.  
Before we begin, I want to note that the description of the underlying violent offense is brief but graphic. Later in the podcast Haddon will describe his work in the United States versus Cameron Bishop, a fascinating capital case arising from the non violent Vietnam War protest.  Interviewing  Mr. Haddon is Stephanie Howard, who worked as a legal assistant and the paralegal at Haddon, Morgan and Foreman for many years, and then following in Haddon's footsteps became a public defender.


Stephanie Howard  02:32

I want to talk for a minute about some of your most memorable public defender cases and we've chosen a handful though there are so many to choose from. Would you walk us through a handful of those?


Hal Haddon  02:46

Which handful do you want? 


Stephanie Howard  02:48

Why don't we start with Mr. Sneeds case. 


Hal Haddon  02:51

That was the first time I ever got to argue in the Colorado Supreme Court. So it was notable for that reason. But I was in the Denver Public Defender's office. My beat when I was head of the Office and later as chief drawl deputy was ahead to do nothing but murder cases and capital cases.  

But through very dumb luck in middle of 1972, the US Supreme Court temporarily put the death penalty on hold and a decision that left it on hold for about six years. So Sneed was a big, good looking black man from Denver, and he had a girlfriend who had a baby out of wedlock.  

The facts are just awful. He and his girlfriend were driving down the streets of Denver and got into an argument, and the baby started crying. Sneed pulled over, pulled his car over, shot the baby six times in the head. Reloaded and then shot his girlfriend twice in the head, but didn't kill her, Killed the baby.  

So it was a spectacular case. And it was awful monstrous facts. Sneed was a very bright, very troubled young guy. I think he was probably 20, 21 when this happened. Because I was I was on the murder beat case got assigned to me.  And the judge, who later became Colorado's first woman federal judge, Judge Zita Weinshienk presided over that case. 

 At the time, Colorado had a structure in terms of homicide statutes, criminal homicide statutes, that was very vague and hard to follow. And essentially, there was no definitional difference between first and second degree murder. Intentional murder was first degree murder and murder with intent was second degree murder. There's a reported Colorado Supreme Court court case on this.  

So I moved. I moved to dismiss the first degree murder charge, arguing that there was no rational difference between the definition of first and second degree murder., and therefore it was a denial of basic due process notice rights to prosecute anybody under that statute, especially on these facts as first degree murder.  Judge Weinshienk looked at the statute--she was  on the District Court at that time, state district court.--and said, "I agree, I see no difference, definitional difference between first and second-degree murder. So I dismiss the first degree murder charge."  

That got appealed to the Colorado Supreme Court. And my recollection is that there was some time in '72, maybe '73. The Colorado Supreme Court was not about to hold the first-degree murder statute unconstitutional. But they really struggled with it.  

Judge Pringle, Eddie Pringle, was the Chief Justice at the time. And I still remember him in his Chief Justice chair, literally spinning around and leaning over to me and saying, "Well, this is a difficult issue. Tell us how to solve it. How can we make the statute constitutional?" He's asking me. 

 And Pringle--I still remember he swung his chair around the circle again, he said, "That's great." And they wrote an opinion, which you've read, wrote into the first degree murder statute, a concept of premeditation that wasn't in the statute. 

And I said, "I think to make it constitutional, it would have to be rewritten. I don't know that is this Court's place to do it. But if you put a requirement of significant premeditation, in the first-degree murder, and defined what premeditation is, you could then distinguish premeditated murder from intentional but instantaneous, murderous act."


Stephanie Howard  06:15

Oh, gosh.


Hal Haddon  06:58

That's the state of the law today.


Stephanie Howard  07:03

it is.


Hal Haddon  07:05

And that's how premeditation came to be in Colorado.  

Anyway, following that case, went back down to Judge Weinshienk for trial. We tried it to a jury, a Denver jury. The jury was instructed on first-degree murder, with premeditation, second-degree murder without premeditation and manslaughter, which is killing in the heat of passion. Manslaughter, at that time was a Class 4 felony and because of indeterminate sentencing, it only carried the sentence of indeterminate to eight years.  

The jury, for whatever reason, found him not guilty of first-degree murder, not guilty of second-degree murder, and guilty of manslaughter. And of course, guilty of first-degree assault and his girlfriend but that also carried an indeterminant sentence. 

 I still remember the courtroom was full of press. Sneed leaned over to me and said, audibly, "God, am I lucky." That found its way to a headline in the Denver Post. It's very interesting Judge Weinsienk, give him an indeterminate sentence, what she was required to do, because that was the state of the law at the time.  

He did about two or three years in the Colorado State Penitentiary. He was very bright, and really, really learned the enormity of what he had done. It followed him all his life when he got out. He never got in trouble, again, volunteered on a part-time basis in a battered women's shelter, as is his form of penance.  

It was an extraordinary case, from a legal standpoint, a factual standpoint and ultimately, the lesson for me, which I've never forgotten is that we defend people who've done horrible things. Because they're people, they're capable of redemption. If you help them along the way, sometimes they can do wonderful things after doing some of the most horrific things imaginable. 


Stephanie Howard  09:04

Yeah. So tell us about the Cameron Bishop trial. 


Hal Haddon  09:09

We're in 1975 now. I think by that time, Richard Nixon had resigned. Gerald Ford was President. Nixon, and John Mitchell, it has been proven by presidential tapes and, and some recent documentaries, like the Chicago 7 movie that just came out, Nixon and John Mitchell decided that they were going to stop these anti war protests by grossly overcharging the leaders of the protest movement.  

The Chicago 7 trials ensued, probably in the early '70s after Nixon, Nixon was elected and '68, took office and '69. So I think the Chicago 7 trials, which were grossly overcharged, absurd trials started in the early 1970s.  

NIxon and Mitchell can be heard on  tape saying, "We've got to stop these SDS members who are advocating for sit-ins and other violent causes, we've got to charge them with capital offenses." Literally, capital offenses regardless of whether they've committed capital offenses.  
So Cameron Bishop in the 1970s, he grew up in farm in Southeast Colorado. He was a bright young guy. He was a Colorado State University student in the 1970s and he was the leader in what was called the SDS Students for a Democratic Society. 

 He had led a number of sit-in kind of activities at CSU, which resulted in shutting down some of the administrative buildings. And he was a controversial character. And because he was articulate and eloquent, he became a national SDS leader. 

SDS was all about stopping the Vietnam War. And they concocted this idiotic theory, SDS did, that if the public utilities in the United States were basically at risk, and menaced, then the federal government would have to bring the troops home to defend the public utilities. And that was actually their operational theory.  

And so some of their leaders went around the country and basically disabled the power plants. Bishop and couple of his friends decided in 1970, '71, that what they could do to bring the troops home to guard the utilities in Colorado, was blow up a power tower.  

They went out to a mesa outside of Golden Colorado, and found one of these really big power towers, tall, high-strung ones with four legs, and the main power, not the feeder lines. And they put some dynamite under two legs of the power tower and ignited it. 

Because of the high tension wires, all the power tower did was, two legs jumped up and then they settled back down. It didn't knock the power tower down but it caused a 15-minute interruption to the electricity that went to Coors brewery.  

This became a capital crime. And here's how it became a capital crime. There's a reported Tenth Circuit decision about it. The Coors Brewery, in addition to making liquid gold beer, also made porcelain. And porcelain was used in part as a container for some beers, and also was used in the nose cones of some fighter planes. 

 The United States Department of Justice decided to make this a capital crime by calling Coors a "war utility," because it was making porcelain and porcelain was going to nose cones. There was a capital crime in the federal criminal code at that time, called "Sabotage of a war utility during a time of national emergency."  

So "war utility" was Coors. The government then had to establish that this explosion occurred during "a time of national emergency." Those are the words of the statute. In Vietnam, there had been no Declaration of National Emergency and no congressional declaration of war. So the President didn't declare a national emergency, Congress didn't declare war or national emergency.

 The government, Department of Justice decided that they could still make this a capital crime because in Korea, in the 1950s, there had been a Declaration of National Emergency which justified the Korean War. And it had never been formally rescinded, and therefore, we were in a state of national emergency long after the Korean War ended. It extended into Vietnam, because after all, it had never been formally rescinded. 

 And there was also a federal statute on the books at that time, which made it a five-year felony to tamper with or destroy a public utility. What these kids did was a basic five-year federal felony, which the government transformed into a capital crime, "sabotage of a war utility during a time of national emergency."  

When Bishop was charged with a capital crime, he fled, he was put on the 10 Most Wanted list by the FBI. They caught up with him in 1975. But the time that I have joined Sherman and Morgan and I have just exited from Hart's political campaign.  So they caught up with Bishop in 1975. And they extradited him to Colorado. And that's how I met Kevin bishop and the great Michael Tigar.


Stephanie Howard  14:33

Talk a little bit about the great Michael Tigar's entrance into this case.


Hal Haddon  14:37

Michael Tigar's probably the most brilliant lawyer of my generation and don't take my word for that. He was actually voted by the California Bar Association, as the best lawyer of the 20th century is a brilliant guy, tall charismatic. 

 He went to  law school at Berkeley--first in his class, editor of his law review, my generation. I think he went through law school the same year as I did. So he would have graduated in '66. And he was offered a US Supreme Court clerkship with Justice Brennan.  

But because he had been very active in student protests at Berkeley, and was probably the most preeminent orator of his time among student protesters. Justice Brennan, who offered him a Supreme Court clerkship, waited until Michael arrived in D.C, with his wife and his son-- his son Jon Tigar, is now a federal district judge, by the way.  

Michael arrived in Washington D.C. to take his clerkship in 1966 and Justice Brennan said, "Son, I'm sorry. You're too controversial. I can't have you." So Michael kept going, went all the way to Paris with with his wife and his young son, became thoroughly radicalized, but also became very fluent and French and ultimately, among other things, taught law at the French National law school.  

He came back to the United States in '68 or '69, and became a protégé of Edward Bennett Williams, the great Edward Bennett Williams was the preeminent trial lawyer of the '50s, '60s and '70s at Williams & Connolly. Michael was his protégé.  

Fast forward to Cameron Bishop. Michael had been involved in the Chicago 7 trials and got thrown in jail by Judge Julius Hoffman along with the other 7 Criminal Defense Lawyers for war protesters. Michael was the gold standard. Cameron really wanted Michael to be his lawyer in this case.  

And Michael needed local counsel, he found his way to me. I became his local counsel. And I'm brand new to the practice of law. Bishop didn't have any money, but Sherman and Morgan graciously let me, essentially work that case three or four months, which is all I did, between the time I got there, and the time that the Bishop trial was over with.  

So Michael, and I tried that case. We tried it, probably within three months of arraignment. And trial took about a month and it was a spectacular trial.


Stephanie Howard  17:07

Several incredible things happened during that trial, not the least of which is another explosion.


Hal Haddon  17:16

During that trial, while the jury was in his jury room, on some break, some idiot dynamited the back door of the federal courthouse. Probably during the second week of the trial. Blew it up. This is like '75.  I think. 

To this day, it has never been restored. Somebody blew it up, there used to be a back door, now you could come in, now you have to go through the front door because some idiot during the bishop blew up the back door.. It did not have a good effect on the jury that happened.


Stephanie Howard  17:46

Maybe you can walk us through the trial, starting at the first day.


Hal Haddon  17:51

Back in those times the government didn't give you your discovery until after opening statement under a statute which is still on the books but isn't observed in practice anymore, called the Jencks act, J E N C K S.  

We've picked a jury.  Judge Arraj was our judge. And I still remember his voir dire. It only took an hour to pick a jury. In this case, we had about 80 people, any potential jurors sitting out in the courtroom.  

And he looked out, he said, "Now, ladies and gentlemen, this case has had a lot of publicity, a lot of publicity. How many out there, heard about this case, read about it? Raise your hand." Almost every hand went up from the jury.  

"Now, how many of you after what you've read or what you've heard, have an opinion about the guilt or innocence of the defendant. In this case?" At least half the hands went up.  

And then he leaned into his microphone and he said, "Ladies and gentlemen, I'm going to tell you this. I'm gonna tell you this once, under pain of contempt of court. I'm going to tell you that you must presume this defendant innocent. And anyone who defies my order to presume him innocent is subject to fine and imprisonment. Now, how many of you, knowing that have an opinion about his guilt or innocence, knowing that he's presumed innocent?"  Maybe three hands went up. Those were the only people that excused from the jury. 


Stephanie Howard  19:24

Oh, wow. 


Hal Haddon  19:25

And then the rest of them were picked randomly and we had a jury of 12, plus four alternates. That was our jury. It took about two hours to pick the jury ina capital case. And then the judge called for opening statements. A case United States Supreme Court had just decided a case called Faretta - F A R E T T A versus California, which said that a criminal defendant could act as his or her own lawyer, go pro se if that was his choice.  

Because the case was brand new, never been interpreted. We knew we weren't gonna call Cameron Bishop as a witness in his own defense but we wanted the jury to get a sense of his decency, and basically who we was as a person.  

So when the judge called for the defense's opening statement, Michael Tigar got up and grandly said, "Mr. Bishop will give the opening statement." And everyone was too stunned to do anything about it. 

 And Bishop got up and made, just a terrific, opening statement of that, where he'd come from. He came from humble roots, and he really cared about the country. And he was opposed to the war, but he believed in American values. And then he sat down. It was fabulous. It was, it was fabulous. 

And that's how we started that drive. The next thing that occurred during that trial of note was that, as I told you, you don't get your discovery in federal court, or at least you didn't in that timeframe until after opening statement.  

So after Bishop made his opening statement, the federal prosecutors trying the case rolled in a grocery cart filled with written discovery--bound volumes paper --and rolled it over to our desk and said, "Here's your discovery."  

And so the lawyers are me and Tigar, I think Dave Williams was our investigator, then I don't remember. But I think David was sitting there. So Tigar leaned over to me and said, "I'm going to take this discovery out. And I'm at least gonna go through it and see if there are important things that we need to immediately get on and use. You take the first witness, and don't let that witness get off the stand until I come back." 

True. Happened. He'll cop to it if you confront him. And so he took the grocery cart full of discovery, and pushed it down the center aisle, out the back of the courtroom. The government called its first witness, it was basically a foundation witness about what the public service company was, what a power tower was, and how they function.  

And the government's direct exam of this guy was about 15 minutes. And I had to filibuster cross-examine this witness until Michael came back. And so we were about two in the afternoon then. And I started asking dumb repetitive questions like, How do you spell public service company? Can you spell it backwards? Painful, slow, and then I wouldn't I would read from a document. And sometimes spell the words. It was just awful. 

The judge was crazy, crazy angry with me. The jury jury didn't know what's going on. But they weren't impressed. And I had to do that for about three hours. And after about three hours, was about 10 minutes to five. The court recessed at five. Michael grandly came back and down the aisle with the grocery basket full of discovery announced, "We have no more questions of this witness." And I slumped back in my chair, and I wasn't heard from much after that during the trial.


Stephanie Howard  23:15

That is a strong impression. Well, tell us about the outcome of that trial.


Hal Haddon  23:21

The trial went on, as I recall it about three, three and a half weeks and after the door to the courthouse got blown up we had a lot of concerns about fairness of our jury pool. We asked for a mistrial. Judge didn't give us one.  

So the case one for the jury. The case had a lot of notoriety. When the case went to the jury, all the whole well of all of the spectator seats filled up, mostly with more protests or sympathizers, Cameron. 

The jury was out probably two or three hours. They came back and they convicted Cameron of two of the four counts and acquitted him of two. There was no death penalty. The death penalty had actually been taken off the table by the judge before it went to the jury.  

In fact, I still remember Judge Arraj saying to all of us, in chambers, I just want to tell you that if there's a death verdict, there'll be a new trial, and after he said that the prosecutors took death penalty off the table.


Stephanie Howard  24:15

Just a suggestion, just a suggestion.


Hal Haddon  24:17

He was a fabulous judge.  

In any event, they convicted him of two counts of "sabotage of a war utility during a time of national emergency." And courtroom was filled with protesters. Camerom's wife, Mary, who is epileptic, was sitting in the front row right behind the bar that separates the lawyers and the courtroom from the spectators. She was sitting in the front row.  

As uproar started, people started screaming hollering, "No, this can't be. Burn this place down." Mary, Cameron's wife had an epileptic seizure. Cameron turned around, came over the rail took her in his arms.  

While the judge and the jury was sitting there stunned and watching and these people are yelling and screaming and threatening violence, Cameron got up, stood up on the platform that separates the well of the court from the spectator session. and said, "Stop, stop this. Stop this now. You're in the United States of America. Stop this." 

And the marshals were streaming in. Everybody shut up. It got definitely silent, the judge excused the jury, and everybody left. That judge--he was a very, very tough judge, but having witnessed that, and having sat through that trial, ultimately sentenced Cameron bishop to an indeterminant, not to exceed seven-years sentence. He gave him an appeal bond. And because of what happened in the Tenth CIrcuit, Cameron never served a day in prison. 


Stephanie Howard  25:52

Let's talk about what happened in the 10th circuit.


Hal Haddon  25:54

Well, in the Tenth Circuit, the obvious issue was that this was an utterly over-charged crime, because Coors was not a "war utility" and there was no existing time of "national emergency" during Vietnam in the 1970's.  

And under Basic Fifth Amendment due process notice principles, no reasonable person could know when they're contemplating whether or not to commit a criminal act, that they're attacking a  "war utility" or that there's an existing time of "national emergency." So it's basically outright acquittal, because there was no "national emergency" and there was no "war utility."  

So we appealed to the Tenth Circuit and Cameron had gotten an appeal bond out of Judge Arraj, which what made law enforcement and the FBI extremely angry. So they monitored him constantly. I think we got a pretty fast hearing in front of the Tenth Circuit. My recollection was that they heard it within six or seven months, I think they decided 1976 couldn't be 77.  

In any event, we argued in front of the tenth Circuit.. And my law partner, Bryan Morgan was riding down on a bus from Boulder. There were two clerks for Tenth Circuit judges, sitting on the bus talking about the argument that they were about to witness.  And one of the clerks Brian recalls hearing and recording does before the argument, one of the clerks said "I can't wait to hear how the government's going to show that we are in a time of National Emergency during Vietnam when there was no Declaration of National Emergency."  

So Bryan told us that, and we keyed our Tenth Circuit arguments on that. I also remember one of the Tenth Circuit judges, I think was Judge Breitenstein, who wrote the opinion, leaning into the government lawyers who are making this argument that we never got out of a national emergency and said, "Well, I don't see the Civil War was ever declared to be over. Is it still in effect?"


Stephanie Howard  28:00

And their answer?


Hal Haddon  28:01

"Uh, uh, uh. I don't know." The Tenth Circuit reversed Cameron's conviction, in a very important opinion that affirmed what really is a basic principle. You've got a right to notice of what conduct is criminal and you can't over-charge simply because you want to over punish.


Stephanie Howard  28:27

And as you said, Cam never spent a day in jail.


Hal Haddon  28:30

Cam never spent a day in jail. As a postscript, he moved to Maine with his his wife and his kids. He got elected to a school board in Maine, where the only issue was whether or not he was eligible to be a public servant, because he had been prosecuted for a capital crime. And he was elected and served honorably. I haven't heard from cam in a while but I have some wonderful, wonderful cards from him, thanking me 20 years after the fact.


Stephanie Howard  29:02

It's an incredible story.


Tina Howell  29:06

These were mere snippets of the oral history of Hal Haddon. Our next episode focuses on Haddon's work on federal judicial nominations, and his large part in developing the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar. Haddon's full oral history is available at www.10thcircuithistory.org. If you would like Tales from the 10th to offer additional excerpts from Haddon's oral history, please contact us through that website.


Leah C. Schwartz  29:32

This episode was produced and edited by Tina Howell. Subscribe and download at the Historical Society's website www.10thcircuithistory.org or at Apple podcasts Spotify or Stitcher.


Tina Howell  29:44

Special thanks to Greg Kerwin, Brent Cohen, Stacey Guillon and Diane Bauersfeld.


Leah C. Schwartz  29:50

Thanks so much for listening