On the witness stand O'Mara told how Neal Hawkins, the security guard who secretly was his informant, took seven pistols from Mickey's home in June 1950 and brought them to a police range where "I marked them inside the butt plate." O'Mara told how the guns were returned to Mickey's home and he'd not seen any of them again until after Whalen's shooting.
The Hollywood ending would have tweaked a detail about the guns in the trash outside Rondelli's, making one the actual murder weapon. But that had not been found, having apparently been ditched in the Hollywood Hills. Still, O'Mara could prove that Mickey and his crew were liars -- heavily armed liars -- if any of the guns in the trash came from Mickey's cache.
He got a screwdriver to show that two of them did.
He screwed the plate off Exhibit 18, an ivory-handled .38. Underneath was a "K."
He screwed the plate off Exhibit 19. "CX" was under it.
"Was the 'CX' for Cohen?" a prosecutor asked.
"No, 'CX' was just a random number," O'Mara said.
The defense response? The cops planted those guns.
The jury began deliberating Thursday, March 24, and the next night Mickey led his entourage to the Cloister, where his reservation to hear comic Joey Bishop had gone unused the fateful evening. This time, the damnedest thing happened: Someone stole his dog. Actually, a drunk stole his Cadillac. Mickey Jr. was in the back. When the human Mickey and his crew left the club, they saw the car racing east on Sunset.
Max Baer Jr., son of the former heavyweight champ, gave chase. A would-be actor who'd not yet become Jethro of "The Beverly Hillbillies," he'd joined Mickey's crowd as a "mooch," enjoying the prime tables and girls. When Mickey yelled, "Get that guy!" Baer gunned his Pontiac. He estimated they were going 100 mph on Sunset when "the guy, for some reason, I can never figure it out, we turn on Wilcox . . . right into the police station."
The drunken dognapper had delivered himself to the Hollywood lockup -- a sign, if there ever was one, that the LAPD could get its man.
The jury came back March 29 and declared Lo Cigno guilty of first-degree murder, then recommended life in prison.
Dist. Atty. Manley J. Bower quickly touted the coup, the first conviction in an L.A. gangland killing in two decades. It was a perfect moment to toast the end of a losing streak, and an era, until their own case went the way of noir.
It took a year for a higher court to lambaste the guilt-by-association prosecution as "utter unfairness" and "billingsgate."
"The case we are reviewing could truly be called 'The trial of Mickey Cohen,' " appellate judges wrote, citing prosecutors' suggestion that Mickey said "Now, Sam, now!" and the display of guns from the trash can, all hinting at a hit for hire. The guns may have been "deposited there by associates of Mr. Cohen," but nothing tied them to Lo Cigno, the man actually on trial.