Holmes’ Attorney Earl Hanson Died in April, 2000

Earl L. Hanson, a prominent criminal defense attorney who successfully defended pornography star John Holmes, has died. He was 67.

Hanson, leading criminal defense attorney who won acquittal of murder charges for the late porno star John Holmes, and represented about 3,000 other people during his four-decade career, has died, said his law partner, Mitchell W. Egers.

Egers said the athletic marathon runner Hanson died Saturday of a heart attack during a regular fitness run in Glendale.

Hanson, highly respected in the legal community for his impeccable ethical standards and his persuasiveness, had recently been named attorney of the year by the Criminal Justice Section of the Los Angeles County Bar Assn.

It looks like Earl defended some of L.A.’s most notorious characters… see below:


Earl L. Hanson; Criminal Defense Attorney

by Myrna Oliver. LA Times. April 5, 2000

The veteran trial lawyer’s case file read like an anthology of Southern California crime.

For more than a year, he was the court-appointed defender of “Freeway Killer” William G. Bonin, who was charged in 1980 with murdering and raping 16 boys in Orange and Los Angeles counties. Bonin, who insisted on switching to another lawyer for his trial, confessed to 21 killings, was convicted in 14 and was put to death in 1996.

In 1982, there was the Bob’s Big Boy robbery and murder case. Hanson was appointed by the court to defend Franklin Freeman Jr., one of three defendants, after Freeman’s original attorney was dismissed over conflict of interest.

Hanson also represented Humberto de la Torre, who pleaded guilty to 25 counts of first-degree murder after setting fire to the decrepit Dorothy Mae Apartment-Hotel on Sunset Boulevard in 1982. When the man was sentenced three years later to 625 years in prison, Hanson told The Times: “At the time he did this, he had been drinking, he had smoked some marijuana and he went there in a cloudy haze with the intention of vandalism. He did not intend to hurt anybody.”

But probably Hanson’s best-known case was that of Holmes, who was accused of murdering four people in a Laurel Canyon house on July 1, 1981. After a three-week trial in 1982, Hanson and Egers won a jury verdict of not guilty for Holmes. Although Holmes’ former wife testified that he had told her he was present during the killings, Holmes never took the stand in his own trial and never publicly described what happened. After his acquittal, Holmes spent 110 days in Los Angeles County Jail for refusing to testify about the real killers for a grand jury. He finally did go before the grand jury, but his testimony was sealed.

“We have never heard the whole truth [about the killings] and we never will hear the whole truth,” Hanson told The Times a month after Holmes died of AIDS in 1988. Later that year, two other men were charged with the murders.

Egers, who shared Hanson’s downtown law firm for 36 years, said he considered Hanson the finest criminal defense lawyer in the state and one of the finest lawyers anywhere.

Hanson grew up in Los Angeles and was a varsity soccer star at UCLA. He went on to earn a law degree at USC and serve in the Army as a member of the prestigious Airborne Rangers.

He is survived by his wife, Marina; a sister, Virginia Frier; and three adult sons, Eric, Kevin and Leif.

A memorial service is scheduled Thursday at noon in Forest Lawn Glendale.