Death of a Jewish American Princess: The True Story of a Victim on Trial
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In 1982, a sensational murder trial in Phoenix, Arizona, reverberated throughout the legal community. Restaurateur Steven Steinberg, who killed his wife by stabbing her 26 times, was acquitted; his legal defense portrayed the victim as an overpowering "Jewish American Princess" whose excesses may have provoked her violent end. Examining the structure of the defense's case, Frondorf, an attorney who was previously a psychiatric social worker, follows the theme that made Elana Steinberg the villain, instead of the victim, of the piece. The defense's forensic presentation, bolstered by testimony from psychiatrists, maintained that Steinberg committed the crime while sleepwalking, an abnormality allegedly brought on by the intemperate spending of his wife. Frondorf recreates the trial whose outcome scarred the tightly knit Jewish community of Phoenix.
anticipate. “I felt there must have been some involvement with the Mafia. I thought it was possible that maybe there were two bushy-haired strangers after all, I’m still not sure,” she said seriously. “And then I knew he was insane because he didn’t pick a good knife—I looked at one of the photographs of the kitchen drawer. I could see that there was a better knife in that drawer that he could have used.” That was a bonus Bob Hirsh could not have anticipated. I was stunned after this interview.
officer at the bank that he was a partner and was making an investment in the B. B. Singer’s restaurants, but for the most part it wasn’t necessary to say anything at all. Steve signed Elana’s name to all the applications, and she knew nothing about them. The loan money was intoxicating to him—he felt “up.” He had a new source of gambling capital. Besides the loan proceeds, something else helped Steve to recover his confidence. He went to Vegas in 1979 and won big—the last big win he was to
would go out shopping I think almost on a daily basis. She used to kid around and say that the women in the department stores, the salespeople, all knew her name as well as the children, because she used to take Shawny with her shopping.” “Did she characterize herself as a professional shopper?” asked Hirsh. “Yes. There was always something new. You know, over a period of years something new would appear in the house … everything in that house was of concern to her.” Mrs. Spero acted as a
home. When we would go out we always had fun. We never argued once we left our home. I didn’t know I was unhappy or that there was anything wrong.” “You didn’t know?” Bob Hirsh is incredulous that anyone could be happy living with Elana. “No, I didn’t. I guess I just didn’t want to admit anything wrong. We never discussed anything. Elana and I did not talk to each other, we talked at each other. There was never a discussion. We didn’t know how, I guess.” Steve would handle things differently now
the day that she and Barney were scheduled to testify. When she got to court, Edith cornered Frank Hylton. “Frank, what’s this about Elana’s credit cards in the paper? What does it mean? What’s wrong with them? When I get in there, what should I say?” Hylton tried to calm her. “There’s nothing out of the ordinary. They’re just normal credit cards, Edith. They’re just like my own wife’s, don’t worry.” Edith cried and hung on Hotham’s arm before they went into the courtroom. “What will I say?”