Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Life of Gladys Towles Root

Showing Too Much Skin

Her biographer records a case in which Root made a point about inappropriate attire with an alleged rape victim a woman who indeed used somewhat poor judgment in how she presented herself when testifying.

ROOT (sweetly): Im a woman and youre a woman and the judge will always be [like a] father [to you], so lets be very honest. You mean to say that at no time did you ever indicate to this man that you were willing?


ROOT: Do you dress to appeal to men?


ROOT: Never with that in mind?


ROOT: I notice your dress is up rather high and that youre wearing stockings. Are you wearing stockings to hide varicose veins?

WITNESS: No, I dont have varicose veins.

ROOT: Is it because they make your legs look pretty?


ROOT: If they make your legs look pretty, then you must look pretty to that man there [indicating the defendant]. Isnt that correct?


ROOT: You just told me that you dont dress to appeal to men.

WITNESS: (silence)

ROOT: Youre wearing a tight skirt, an off-shoulder dress, a type of brassiere pushing your breasts up. Isnt that dressing for a man?

WITNESS: (silence)

An off-the-shoulder dress does seem rather out of place in a courtroom. However, if this attire was inappropriate for a day in court, it hardly seems more so than that of Root, who often wore such garments and whose sexy dressing once led a male judge to call for a recess.

Root had arrived in court wearing deep V-neckline that showed off her ample cleavage. The judge wrote a note and handed it to the bailiff who read aloud, We will recess for a short period of time to allow any person present whose body is overly exposed to make certain alterations that will eliminate a nudity which now prevails.

No one, least of all Root herself, was in any doubt as to who was the target of this message. The lawyer scurried to a bathroom, tore off many strips of toilet tissue, and cut them up to look (to some extent at least) like frilly lace. She then covered up her cleavage with the tissue.

Her hats got her in hot water with other judges. In one case, His Honor ordered her, Mrs. Root, take that hat off. She complied and he saw, along with everyone else in the courtroom, that her hair was up in pin curls. Mrs. Root, put that hat back on, he immediately commanded.

Justice Stanley Mosk recalled that, she ran into difficulty with one of my colleagues. The late Judge Charles Burnell had an unyielding policy, that since men must do so, women must also remove their hats in his courtroom. I suspect Gladys Root did not fully appreciate that form of sex equality.



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