Leon Jaworski

Leon Jaworski

Leon Jaworski (September 19, 1905, in Waco, Texas - December 9, 1982) was the Special Prosecutor during the Watergate Scandal. Jaworski was appointed to that position on November 1, 1973, shortly after the Saturday Night Massacre which led to the dismissal of prosecutor Archibald Cox.

Prior to being appointed Special Prosecutor in the Watergate case, Jaworski's most famous case was his prosecution of 43 black soldiers during World War II.


A child of Polish and Austrian immigrants, he graduated from Baylor Law School and became the youngest person ever admitted to the Texas bar (1925), and in 1931 he joined the Houston firm that became Fulbright & Jaworski.

World War II

During World War II, Jarworski prosecuted the Johannes Kunze murder trial, where five German prisoners of war were accused of beating to death a fellow prisoner for being a "traitor". [* [http://www.tulsaworld.com/webextra/itemsofinterest/centennial/centennial_storypage.asp?ID=070306_Ne_A7_Prose69119_0 Tulsa World Centential] ]

Misconduct during the Guglielmo Olivotto case

Later in the war, Jaworski prosecuted one of the largest Army court-martials of the period. During an uprising of Axis POWs in 1944, an Italian prisoner of war, Guglielmo Olivotto, died with a noose around his neck. The lynching took place at Fort Lawton, a military post in Seattle. Forty-three African-American soldiers were indicted and twenty-eight were convicted of participating in the riot that took place on the night of August 14, 1944.

After publication of a book by Seattle journalist Jack Hamann "On American Soil" that reported grievous prosecutorial misconduct by Jaworksi in October 2007 all convictions were overturned and honorable discharges were granted. [ [http://www.villagevoice.com/news/0817,raw-deal,419583,1.html A Staten Island Trombonist Breaks a 64-Year Silence About a Military Race Riot Village Voice 22 April, 2008] ] The board found that the court-martial was flawed, that the defense was unjustly rushed and that Jaworski, a young lieutenant colonel at the time, had important evidence that he did not share with defense lawyers. [* [http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/27/us/27punish.html?_r=1&hp&oref=slogin New York Times] ]

War crimes prosecutor

After the war, Jaworski served as a war crimes prosecutor in Germany. However, he declined to participate in the Nuremberg Trials on the grounds that the prosecution there was based on laws that did not exist at the time of the culpable acts. [Jaworski, Leon. "Confession and Avoidance:A Memoir." with Mickey Herskowitz. Garden City, New York: Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1979, pp. 112-116.] He rose to the rank of colonel, and subsequently, in his law firm, he was commonly addressed as "Colonel Jaworski."

Political connections

He was a friend of President Lyndon Johnson. In the 1960 Presidential election, Jaworski represented Johnson in the lawsuit filed to stop Johnson from running for the US Senate from Texas at the same time he was running for Vice-President. Jaworski won. However, Jaworski did not always support Democratic candidates. He supported Richard Nixon, contributed to George H.W. Bush in his run for the Presidency in 1980, and after Bush conceded the nomination he became Treasurer of Democrats For Reagan during the 1980 election.

Having been convinced of his integrity, in 1980 Mr. Jaworski aided former Nixon staffer Egil "Bud" Krogh, whom he had sent to prison in 1973, in his request to be reinstated to the Washington State Bar.


Jaworski's greatest fame came from his tenure as Watergate Special Prosecutor. He undertook protracted battle with Nixon's White House in an attempt to secure evidence for the trial of former senior administration officials on charges relating to the Watergate cover-up. Jaworski knew that President Richard Nixon had discussed the Watergate cover-up with the accused on numerous occasions and that these conversations had been recorded by the White House taping system. Jaworksi requested tapes of sixty-four Presidential conversations as evidence for the upcoming trial. The President refused to hand them over, citing executive privilege. After attempts to find a compromise - including supplying edited transcripts of some recordings - had failed, Jaworski subpoenaed them. The White House appealed on two grounds: firstly, that the Special Prosecutor did not have the right to sue the President; and secondly, that the requested materials were privileged presidential conversations. Aware that an important constitutional issue was at stake, and unwilling to wait any longer, Jaworski asked the Supreme Court to take the case directly, bypassing the Court of Appeals.

On July 24, 1974, the Supreme Court ruled that the Special Prosecutor "did" have the right to sue the President; and that "the generalized assertion of [executive] privilege must yield to the demonstrated, specific need for evidence in a pending criminal trial". The President was forced to hand over the unedited tapes to Jaworski, including one of a very compromising discussion on June 23, 1972, (known as "the smoking gun" tape). The President resigned in early August.

Jaworski resigned as Special Prosecutor on October 25, 1974, once the cover-up trial had begun.


External links

* [http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=5739 Leon Jaworski at Find-A-Grave]
* [http://www.kruegerbooks.com/books/sig/jaworski-leon.html Signature of Leon Jaworski]

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