Key Player

John J. Sirica
Nicknamed "Maximum John" for his tough sentences, Sirica rose to national prominence while presiding over the Watergate trials. As chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Sirica had earned a reputation for being unpredictable on the bench. Suspecting publicly that the defendants in the first Watergate trials weren't fully truthful, Sirica took an investigative approach, questioning witnesses and irking critics who said he overstepped his bounds. In 1973, Sirica ordered President Nixon to turn over tapes of White House conversations to special prosecutor Archibald Cox and congressional investigators. The Supreme Court upheld his ruling in July 1974, spurring Nixon's resignation in the face of possible impeachment.

Sirica chronicled his Watergate experiences in a 1979 book, "To Set the Record Straight: The Break-In, the Tapes, the Conspirators, the Pardon." After he retired from the bench in 1986, Sirica continued to live in Washington. He died Aug. 14, 1992, at the age of 88.

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