The case of the estate planning class discussion of a murder-suicide

One of the wonderful things about attending Hamline Law School in the early 1980s was the presence of professor M. Arnold Lyons, formerly a founding partner of the Robins, Lyons, and Davis law firm–which has evolved into a world-famous litigation firm which I believe is now called Robins, Kaplan, Miller, and Ciresi.

Arnie was an elderly man, his head and shoulders bent forward due to some affliction of age. He taught a very popular estate planning course in one of the 90 seat amphitheaters. For some reason (I heard about this second hand from a number of those present), the course discussion lead him to describe a famous murder case where a prominent dentist living in the wealthy community of North Oaks, for inexplicable reasons, killed his family with a hammer and then killed himself.

Arnie drew a floor plan of the dentist’s house on the whiteboard, stick figures indicating where the bodies were found, and squiggly red lines to indicate blood trails. Well at some point, this became too much for one of the students and he passed out. The student was described as falling out of his chair such that his feet were sticking up in the air and his head down on the ground.

Hearing the commotion, Arnie turned and asked what had happened. Once the unconscious student was explained, he peered above his glasses at the class and matter of factly asked “Shall I continue?” The students said yes, and he returned to the board to finish his drawing and story.

A couple more notes on Arnie. I would visit his office from time to time to chat. One on occasion he told me that one of his partners (I can’t remember if it was Mr. Robins or Mr. Davis) was such a good rainmaker that when this man was being inducted into the military and standing nude in a line of nude men waiting to get their immunization shots, he signed up the doctor, who was giving the shots, as a client.

Another time, Arnie was sad that his barber of 30 years had died. At that time I found this sort of thing hard to fathom and exclaimed that I hadn’t done anything for 30 years. Now I envy a man who can have the same barber for 30 years.

Arnie was much beloved by the student body, and won professor of the year perhaps twice during my three years at Hamline.

Leave a Reply