Peter Leo Knecht, a Hollywood criminal defense attorney whose clients included Dennis Hopper, Peter Fonda, Ike Turner, Ryan and Tatum O’Neal, Robert Blake, Charles Bronson, Rob Lowe and Robert Downey Jr., died at his home in the Hollywood Hills on October 3. He was 78 and had battled cancer for two years.
Knecht’s client roster also included David Crosby, Sly Stone, Andy Garcia, John Barrymore Jr., Jason Priestly and Heidi Fleiss.
Knecht also appeared as an analyst and consultant on the criminal justice system for national, international and local TV networks, including CNN, CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox Network, KCAL-Channel 9 and KCOP Channel 13.
A service and memorial will take place at the Tanach Chapel within Mount Sinai Cemetery at 5950 Forest Lawn Drive, LA, CA 90068 on Sunday, October 12, 2014 beginning at 3 p.m.
Knecht had just received his 50-year plaque from the California Bar Association. He was famous in L.A. County courtrooms for his persuasive style and sense of humor, and had a thriving practice when he died.
He is credited with forever changing search and seizure laws by taking adverse rulings to the Appellate and Supreme Courts of California and the United States.
Knecht liked to use a famous phrase by Eleanor Roosevelt to describe his work ethic and philosophy: “If you want to get something done, go to a busy man.”
Born in 1936 in Vienna, Austria, he fled with his family to the United States during World War II, landing in Los Angeles to begin a long career that spanned decades of societal change. Fascinated by the criminal justice system, he was always challenging himself, representing high-profile cases against the largest opponents he could imagine: the United States of America and the State of California.
In 1998 Knecht suffered a horrific, near-death experience that added new meaning to the phrase “cut-throat lawyer.” At his home in the Hollywood Hills, Knecht had his throat slit from ear to ear, ironically falling victim to the kinds of men whose rights he often upheld in court. After saving the lives of his wife and mother by not allowing the assailants to enter his home, Knecht was left to rise from a pool of his own blood into a life of chastened values.
His autobiography Blood & Justice on the Sunset Strip will be published posthumously.
Survivors include Knecht’s wife of more than 20 years, the love and relationship therapist and television personality Dr. Ava Cadell; his son Chance; daughter Courtney; and grandson Aaron.