Moman Pruiett, 1872-1945

Moman Pruiett, 1872-1945

Moman Pruiett.

Criminal Attorney or just plain criminal?

And why on earth has a movie never been made about this man?  After all, he was one of the most successful defense attorneys in the United States.  Just read the following quote from Gerald F. Uelman, Professor at Law, Santa Clara University, California:


From 1900 to 1935, he defended 343 persons accused of murder.  Three hundred of them were acquitted.  Not one was executed.  But with rare exceptions, Pruiett tried all his cases in the Indian Territory which became Oklahoma.

Attorney Pruiett was an arrogant man who swaggered in the courtroom making sarcastic remarks when serious matters were being discussed and while smoking the smelliest cigars he could buy.   Having been arrested and convicted twice as a young man, he had a hatred for the justice system.  Upon his second conviction, he made this vow to the jury:

You’ll regret this.  . . .  As sure as I live, I’ll make you sorry.  I’ll empty your damned jails and I’ll turn thieves and murderers loose in your midst, and I’ll do it in a legal way.

He lived up to that vow.

In 1909 Moman Pruiett was hired by Jesse West and Joe Allen to represent them upon their arrest for the murder of Gus Bobbitt near Ada, Oklahoma.  But unless you have already read my book, here are 7 intriguing facts about Moman Pruiett which you may not know:

  1. Moman Pruiett was the son of a Confederate war captain of the Civil War.  He was born in 1872 on a steamboat named The Great Gray Eagle heading down the Ohio River.  He was named “Moorman” after his mother whose maiden name was Moorman.  After being released from prison, he changed his name to “Moman” due to a relative accusing him of shaming the Moorman name.
  2. Moman was sworn in as an attorney in 1895 at the young age of 23 with no more than a third grade education.  He was simply admitted to the bar by a federal judge who thought he had what it takes to be a good lawyer.
  3. In the beginning of his legal career, Moman Pruiett relocated from Texas to Pauls Valley, Oklahoma, where he found an abundant number of murder cases to be tried.  He fought cases in practically every county in Oklahoma.
  4. Despite his lack of education, Moman Pruiett was an intelligent man who used self-learned skills to practice tactics that abused the legal system.  He used both entertainment and fear to persuade juries to ignore the facts before them.  Using these tactics, he won many cases which set guilty men free and which earned Moman a modest fortune.
  5. Moman was fearless and maintained a distinguished appearance which made him stand out in the community.  Yet, he was cruel, hot tempered, and at odds with society.  He was quick to fight, shoot, curse, and was often consumed with fits of useless rage.
  6. After the height of Moman’s success, he moved to Miami, Florida, where he invested his modest fortune on the purchase of a small seaside mansion.  This mansion was wiped out by a hurricane and Moman returned to Oklahoma to resume his law practice.
  7. Moman Pruiett died of pneumonia in 1945 at the age of 73.  He spent his last years living on a meager pension.