The Lenny Bruce Trials

Main

Lenny Bruce is born

10/13/1925

"Leonard Schneider (known as Lenny Bruce after 1947, when he changed his name) is born in Mineola, New York."

Discharged at age of 20

1945

"Bruce is discharged from the army for wearing women's clothing"

Bruce becomes a cultural icon

1953

"Bruce's comedy begins to take on more of an edge as he works southern California strip joints. On one occasion, Bruce does a shoe wearing only black socks."

Lenny is arrested in Philidelphia

09/29/1961

"September 29th, he was arrested for possession of narcotics in Philadelphia.The charges were eventually dropped due to the fact it was only prescription drugs they found."

Arrested again

10/4/1961

"October 4th, he was arrested again for obscenity at the Jazz Workshop in San Francisco. The offense was the use of the word cocksucker in a public place."

First trial is held

03/01/1962

"In March, his first obscenity trial in San Francisco is held.He is charged with violating Section 311.6 of the Penal code of the State of California, which provides: “Every person who knowingly sings or speaks any obscene song, ballad, or any other words in a public place is guilty of a misdemeanor.” He is acquitted."

3rd Arrest

10/06/1962

"October 6th, he is arrested for possession which he is acquitted for and then 6 days later on the 12th, he is arrested again.This time it is for obscenity once more."

4th Arrest

12/1/1962

"In December, Lenny is arrested for obscenity at The Gate of Horn in Chicago.He is released on bail"

5 Arrest

01/01/1963

"January of 1963, Lenny is arrested for possession of narcotics in Los Angeles which again he is acquitted. The arresting officer in this case was later imprisoned for drug smuggling."

Convicted

04/3/1964

"In April, he is arrested for obscenity twice in one week at the Café Au Go Go in Greenwich Village, New York City. This time he is convicted."

Bruce pleads "not guilty"

4/4/1964

"Bruce pleads not guilty to the obscenity charges and is released on $1000 bail. He returns to the Cafe Au Go Go to perform before a capacity crowd."

3 days after his arrest

4/7/1964

"Bruce, who continued to perform at the Cafe Au Go Go following his arrest three days earlier, is again arrested on obscenity charges."

Lenny's Appeal

6/1/1964

"Later on in June at his appeal, the verdict of guilty of obscenity charges are unanimously upheld by the Illinois State Supreme Court."

Justice Creed dissents

6/30/1964

When the trial reconvened on June 30, the defense moved to dismiss on the grounds that the prosecution had not presented sufficient evidence to prove a violation of Penal Code Section 1140. Defense lawyers strenuously contended that the prosecution's case rested largely on Bruce's coarse language, and that Supreme Court precedent required the prosecution to show that the defendant's words had inspired "lustful and lecherous thoughts." The Court denied the defense motion. Justice Randall Creel dissented, saying that although he found Bruce's performance "distasteful," he did not think it made "the grade as to hard-core pornography."

Guilty

11/4/1964

"Bruce is found guilty in the Cafe Au Go Go trial by a 2 to 1 vote of the three-judge panel."

Lenny Bruce files again

2/11/1965

"Bruce files a second civil action for damages against the district attorney's offices in New York for allegedly violating his constitutional rights."

Lenny Bruce dies

8/3/1966

"On August 3rd of 1966, Lenny Bruce dies from a Morphine Overdose in Los Angeles. The press all report death from heroin overdose following the original unfounded report. He is buried with an orthodox Hebrew service."

Lenny's obscenity conviction is reversed

2/19/1968

Ralph Gleason, a San Francisco journalist who first told other writers about Lenny, was convinced that the overdose was not deliberate. "Lenny kept insisting," Ralph said, "that he and the First Amendment would win." And they did. A mid-level New York state court reversed Lenny's obscenity conviction in February 1968. In People v Solomon, a New York appellate court reverses the obscenity conviction of Bruce's co-defendant in the Cafe Au Go Go case, Howard Solomon.

Reversal is confirmed

01/7/1970

"New York's highest tribunal, the State Court of Appeals, confirmed the reversal in January 1970."

Bruce is pardoned

12/23/2003

New York Governor George Pataki grants a posthumous pardon to Lenny Bruce.