2010 P. Basil Lambros [1924-2010]

Dennis McLellan P. Basil Lambros, 1924-2010, Prominent L.A, AttorneyLos Angeles Times, 18 October 2010, AA6.

     P. Basil Lambros, a prominent Los Angeles defense attorney whose cases included the murder trial of Spade Cooley and another case in which his penchant for being well-dressed worked against him, has died. He was 86.

     Lambros died of heart failure Wednesday at Santa Monica UCLA Medical Center, said his son, Ponti.

     In a more than 50-year career that began in the late 1940s, Lambros may be best remembered for his unsuccessful defense of Cooley, the fiddle-playing bandleader who hosted a popular western-style variety show on KTLA Channel 5 in the late 1940s and '50s.

     The 50-year old entertainer was accused of killing his 37-year-old wife, Ella Mae, in 1961.

     After a 30-day trial in Bakersfield, the onetime "King of Western Swing" was found guilty in what was then the longest courtroom trial in Kern County history. Cooley was sentenced to life in prison and suffered a fatal heart attack in 1969 three months before he was scheduled for parole.

     Lambros also defended L. Ewing Scott, a Bel-Air investment counselor who was found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison in 1957 for killing his long-missing wife, whose body was never found.

     But a low-profile case provided the most unusual twist to Lambros' career. An Arcadia man convicted of fraud and arson for burning down his house in 1962 was granted a new trial in part because his attorney, Lambros, was "too well dressed" to suit his jury.

     Two jurors, according to a 1962 Times account, also stated in an affidavit that they also had concluded that the defendent was guilty because he had hired Lambros to defend him.

     In granting the new trial Superior Judge William E. Fox observed, "I could feel that the jury was biased and prejudicial to the defendent's counsel."

     A news item about two female jurors complaining that Lambros was a clothes-horse caught the attention of Times columnist Paul Coates, who phoned Lambros to ask him what he had worn at the trial.

     "It was a four-day trial," Lambros told Coates. "The first day I wore a black modified continental suit, It was nothing sensational, certainly. In fact, every day I wore either a black or charcoal or a blue. Never the same one twice, of course."

     By "modified," he said, " I mean half-cuffs on the coat, built-in belts, no cuffs on the trousers, no side pockets. I have my tailor put small pockets on the inside. For keys."

     "Too many pockets," he explained, "and a suit can lose its line."

     Estimating he owned about 50 suits, Lambros added that he "always considered it very important to be well dressed in court."

     As for shoes, he said he generally wore black alligators, "although now I'm going in for Italian loafers."

     He had no idea why some of the jurors resented his clothing, he said. "One of them even objected to the fact that I tipped my hat toward the jury box," he said.

     "This is the first time a jury's ever done anything like this to me. Most of the time, after a case is over, they come up and ask me where I get my shirts made, or who's my tailor."

     After a homicide case in which he successfully defended his client, Lambros said, two jurors told him they had been fascinated throughout the trial by his matching cuff-link and stick-pin set.

     As the conversation between Coates and Lambros came to an end, Coates started to hang up. Lambros said there was one other thing he wanted to say.

     "What's that?" asked Coates.

     "The suits," said Lambros. "No slits in the back. You sit on the edges and you get wrinkles."

     Ponti Lambros acknowledged that his father had a reputation for "being one of the well-dressed lawyers. I used to tell people he would even sleep in his suit. He was a lawyer through and through."

     "The son of Greek immigrants, he was born Pantellis Basil Lambros in Chicago on 12 August 1924. He attended USC and graduated from Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles after serving in the Army Air Forces during World War II

     Besides his son, Lambros is survived by his daughters, Alana, Ulloa, and Alexana Lambros; his sisters, Jeanne Lambros, and Evanthia, and three grandchildren.

     A funeral service will be held at 11 am, Wednesdayat Saint Sophia Cathedral, 1324 S. Normandie Ave., Los Angeles.

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 Kelyn Roberts 2017