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18 Apr 1857 1
Kinsman Township, Trumbull County, Ohio 1
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Full Name:
Clarence Seward Darrow 1
Also known as:
Clarence Darrow 1
Birth:
18 Apr 1857 1
Kinsman Township, Trumbull County, Ohio 1
Male 1
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Birth:
Mother: Emily (Eddy) Darrow. 1
Father: Amirus Darrow 1
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Occupation:
Lawyer 1

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Clarence Seward Darrow

 

Clarence Darrow was born in rural northeastern Ohio on April 18, 1857.[4] He was the son of Amirus Darrow and Emily (Eddy) Darrow. Both the Darrow and the Eddy farms had deep roots in colonial New England, and several of Darrow's ancestors served in the American Revolution. Clarence's father was an ardent abolitionist and a proud iconoclast and religious freethinker, known in town as the "village infidel." Emily Darrow was an early supporter of female suffrage and a women's rights advocate. Clarence attended Allegheny College and the University of Michigan Law School but did not graduate from either institution. He was admitted to the Ohio bar in 1878. The Clarence Darrow Octagon House, which was his childhood home in the small town of Kinsman, Ohio, contains a memorial to him.

  Darrow began his career reading law in YoungstownOhio, where he was first admitted to the profession by Judge Alfred W. Mackey. He opened his first practice in Andover, Ohio, and then moved to Ashtabula, where he became involved in Democratic Party politics and served as the town counsel. In 1880 he married Jessie Ohl, and seven years later he moved to Chicago with his wife and young son, Paul. There, he worked for the city government as a lawyer and made a mark for himself speaking at Democratic rallies and other speaking engagements. He was a close friend and protege of Illinois Gov. John Altgeld and helped secure a pardon from the governor for the anarchists who were imprisoned for the Haymarket Square bombing. With Altgeld's help, Darrow became a corporate lawyer for the Chicago & Northwestern Railway Company, a major Midwestern railroad.[5] In 1894 Darrow represented Eugene V. Debs, the leader of the American Railway Union, who was prosecuted by the federal government for leading the Pullman Strike of 1894. Darrow severed his ties with the railroad to represent Debs, making a financial sacrifice. He saved Debs in one trial but could not keep the union leader from being jailed in another.

Also in 1894, Darrow took on the first murder case of his career, defending Patrick Eugene Prendergast, the "mentally deranged drifter" who had confessed to murdering Chicago mayor Carter H. Harrison, Sr.[6] Darrow's "insanity defense" failed and Prendergast was executed that same year. Among fifty defenses in murder cases throughout the whole of Darrow's career, the Prendergast case would prove to be the only one resulting in an execution.[6]

Darrow became one of America's leading labor attorneys. He helped organize the Populist Party in Illinois and then ran for Congress as a Democrat in 1896 but lost to Hugh R. Belknap. In 1897 his marriage ended in divorce. He represented the woodworkers of Wisconsin in a notable case in Oshkosh in 1898 and the United Mine Workers in Pennsylvania in the great anthracite coal strike of 1902. He flirted with the idea of running for mayor of Chicago in 1903 but ultimately decided against it. That year he married Ruby Hammerstrom, a young Chicago journalist.

From 1906 to 1908, Darrow represented the Western Federation of Miners leaders William "Big Bill" HaywoodCharles Moyer, and George Pettibone when they were arrested and charged with the 1905 murder of former Idaho Gov. Frank Steunenberg. After a series of trials, Haywood and Pettibone were found not guilty and the charges were dropped against Moyer.

In 1911, the American Federation of Labor called on Darrow to defend the McNamara brothers, John and James, who were charged with dynamiting the Los Angeles Times building on October 1, 1910, during the bitter struggle over the open shop in Southern California. Owing to a faulty timer, the bomb detonated prematurely, when the Times building was still occupied by employees. The bomb had been placed in an alley behind the building, and although the explosion itself did not bring the building down, it ignited nearby ink barrels and natural gas main lines. In the ensuing fire, 21 people were killed. The AFL appealed to local, state, regional and national unions to donate 25 cents per capita to the defense fund, and set up defense committees in larger cities throughout the nation to take donations.

In the weeks before the jury was seated, Darrow became increasingly concerned about the outcome of the trial and began negotiations for a plea bargain to spare the defendants' lives. During the weekend of November 19–20, 1911, he discussed with pro-labor journalist Lincoln Steffens and newspaper publisher E. W. Scripps the possibility of reaching out to the Times about the terms of a plea agreement. The prosecution had demands of its own, however, including an admission of guilt in open court and longer sentences than the defense proposed.[7][8]

The defense's position weakened when, on November 28, Darrow was accused of orchestrating to bribe a prospective juror. The juror reported the offer to police, who set up a sting and observed the defense team's chief investigator, Bert Franklin, delivering $4,000 to the juror two blocks away from Darrow's office. After making payment, Franklin walked one block in the direction of Darrow's office before being arrested right in front of Darrow himself, who had just walked to that very intersection after receiving a phone call in his office. With Darrow himself on the verge of being discredited, the defense's hope for a simple plea agreement ended. [9][10] On December 1, 1911, the McNamara brothers changed their pleas to guilty, in open court. The plea bargain Darrow helped arrange got John fifteen years and James life imprisonment. Despite sparing the brothers the death penalty, Darrow was accused by many in organized labor of selling the movement out.

Two months later, Darrow was charged with two counts of attempting to bribe jurors in both cases. He faced two lengthy trials. In the first, defended by Earl Rogers, he was acquitted. Early during the second trial Rogers resigned after a disagreement with Darrow over defense strategy; Darrow served as his own attorney for the remainder of the trial, which ended with a hung jury. A deal was struck in which the D.A. agreed not to retry Darrow if he promised not to practice law again in California.[11] Darrow's early biographers—Irving Stone and Arthur & Lila Weinberg—asserted that he was not involved in the bribery conspiracy; but more recently Geoffrey Cowan and John A. Farrell, with the help of new evidence, concluded that he almost certainly was

  As a consequence of the bribery charges, most labor unions dropped Darrow from their list of preferred attorneys. This effectively put Darrow out of business as a labor lawyer, and he switched to civil and, most notably, criminal cases. "He began taking criminal cases, because he had become convinced that what we are used to describing as 'the criminal-justice system' was a gigantic fraud that ruined real people's lives because they had no representation capable of defending them properly against it."[4]

Throughout his career, Darrow devoted himself to opposing the death penalty, which he felt to be in conflict with humanitarian progress. In more than 100 cases, Darrow only lost one murder case in Chicago. He became renowned for moving juries and even judges to tears with his eloquence. Darrow had a keen intellect often hidden by his rumpled, unassuming appearance.

A July 23, 1915, article in the Chicago Tribune describes Darrow's effort on behalf of J.H. Fox, an Evanston, Illinois, landlord, to have Mary S. Brazelton committed to an insane asylum against the wishes of her family. Fox alleged that Brazelton owed him rent money, although other residents of Fox's boarding house testified to her sanity.

  In the summer of 1924, Darrow took on the case of Leopold and Loeb, the teenage sons of two wealthy Chicago families who were accused of kidnapping and killing Bobby Franks, a 14-year-old boy from their stylish Kenwood neighborhood. Nathan Leopold was 19 and Richard Loeb was 18 when they were arrested. Leopold was a law student at the University of Chicago about to transfer to Harvard Law School. Loeb was the youngest graduate ever from the University of Michigan. When asked why they committed the crime, Leopold told his captors: "The thing that prompted Dick to want to do this thing and prompted me to want to do this thing was a sort of pure love of excitement... the imaginary love of thrills, doing something different... the satisfaction and the ego of putting something over."

The Chicago newspapers labeled the case the "Trial of the Century"[12] and Americans around the country wondered what could drive the two young men, blessed with everything their society could offer, to commit such a depraved act.

The killers were arrested after a passing workman spotted the victim's body in an isolated nature preserve near the Indiana border just half a day after it was hidden, before they could collect a $10,000 ransom. Nearby were Leopold's eyeglasses with their distinctive, traceable frames, which he had dropped at the scene.

Leopold and Loeb made full confessions and took police on a grim hunt around Chicago to collect the evidence that would be used against them. The state's attorney told the press that he had a "hanging case" for sure. Darrow stunned the prosecution when he had the killers plead guilty in order to avoid a vengeance-minded jury and place the case before a judge. The trial, then, was actually a long sentencing hearing in which Darrow contended, with the help of expert testimony, that Leopold and Loeb were mentally diseased.

Darrow's closing argument lasted 12 hours. He repeatedly stressed the ages of the "boys" (before the Vietnam War, the age of majority was 21) and noted that "never had there been a case in Chicago where on a plea of guilty a boy under 21 had been sentenced to death." His famous plea was designed to soften the heart of Judge John Caverly, but also to mold public opinion, so that Caverly could follow precedent without too huge an uproar. Darrow succeeded. Caverly sentenced the killers to life plus 99 years. Darrow's closing argument "was something of a popular bestseller, in various editions, during the late 1920s and early 1930s. It was reissued at the time of Darrow's death."[4]

The Leopold and Loeb case raised, in a well-publicized trial, Darrow's lifelong contention that psychological, physical, and environmental influences—not a conscious choice between right and wrong—control human behavior. The public got an education in psychology and medicine and, because Leopold was an admirer, the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche.

During the Leopold-Loeb trial, the newspapers claimed that Darrow was presenting a "million dollar defense" for the two wealthy families. Many ordinary Americans were angered at his apparent greed. He had the families issue a statement insisting that there would be no large legal fees and that his fees would be determined by a committee composed of officers from the Chicago Bar Association. After trial, Darrow suggested $200,000 would be reasonable. After lengthy negotiations with the defendants' families, he ended up getting some $70,000 in gross fees, which, after expenses and taxes, netted Darrow $30,000.

Clarence Seward Darrow Part 2

In 1925, Darrow defended John T. Scopes in the State of Tennessee v. Scopes trial. It has often been called the "Scopes Monkey Trial," a title popularized by author and journalist H.L. Mencken. The trial pitted Darrow against William Jennings Bryan in an American court case that tested theButler Act, which had been passed on March 21, 1925. The act forbade the teaching of "the Evolution Theory" in any state-funded educational establishment in Tennessee. More broadly, the Butler Act outlawed in state-funded schools (including universities) the teaching of "any theory that denies the story of the Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible, and to teach instead that man has descended from a lower order of animals."

During the trial, Darrow requested that Bryan be called to the stand as an expert witness on the Bible. Over the other prosecutor's objection, Bryan agreed. Popular media at the time portrayed the following exchange as the deciding factor that turned public opinion against Bryan in the trial:

Darrow: "You have given considerable study to the Bible, haven't you, Mr. Bryan?"Bryan: "Yes, sir; I have tried to.... But, of course, I have studied it more as I have become older than when I was a boy."Darrow: "Do you claim then that everything in the Bible should be literally interpreted?"Bryan: "I believe that everything in the Bible should be accepted as it is given there; some of the Bible is given illustratively. For instance: 'Ye are the salt of the earth.' I would not insist that man was actually salt, or that he had flesh of salt, but it is used in the sense of salt as saving God's people."

After about two hours, Judge John T. Raulston cut the questioning short and on the following morning ordered that the whole session (which in any case the jury had not witnessed) be expunged from the record, ruling that the testimony had no bearing on whether Scopes was guilty of teaching evolution. Scopes was found guilty and ordered to pay the minimum fine of $100.

A year later, the Tennessee Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Dayton court on a technicality—not on constitutional grounds, as Darrow had hoped. According to the court, the fine should have been set by the jury, not Raulston. Rather than send the case back for further action, however, the Tennessee Supreme Court dismissed the case. The court commented, "Nothing is to be gained by prolonging the life of this bizarre case."

This event led to a change in public sentiment, and an increased discourse on the subject of faith versus science that still exists in America. It also became popularized in a play based loosely on the trial, Inherit the Wind, which was adapted several times on film and television.

Clarence Darrow, standing, examines William Jennings Bryan, seated at left, in the defining episode of the Scopes “Monkey Trial” outside the Rhea County Courthouse in Dayton, Tenn.

white mob in Detroit attempted to drive a black family out of the home they had purchased in a white neighborhood. In the struggle, a white man was killed and the eleven blacks in the house were arrested and charged with murder. Dr. Ossian Sweet and three members of his family were brought to trial, and after an initial deadlock, Darrow argued to the all-white jury: "I insist that there is nothing but prejudice in this case; that if it was reversed and eleven white men had shot and killed a black while protecting their home and their lives against a mob of blacks, nobody would have dreamed of having them indicted. They would have been given medals instead...." [14] Following the mistrial of the 11, it was agreed that each of them would be tried individually. Darrow, alongside Thomas Chawke, would first defend Ossian's brother Henry, who had confessed to firing the shot on Garland Street. Henry was found not guilty on grounds of self defense, and the prosecution determined to drop the charges on the remaining 10. The trials were presided over by the Honorable Frank Murphy, who went on to become Governor of Michigan and an Associate Justice of theSupreme Court of the United States.[15] Darrow's closing statement, which lasted over seven hours, is seen as a landmark in the Civil Rights movement and was included in the book 'Speeches that Changed the World' (given the name 'I Believe in the Law of Love'). Uniquely, the two closing arguments of Clarence Darrow, from the first and second trials, are available and these show how he learned from the first trial and reshaped his remarks

Aged 68, Darrow had already announced his retirement before he volunteered to take part in the Scopes Trial, apart from the Sweet trial later that same year. After those final trials, Darrow retired from full-time practice, emerging only occasionally to undertake cases such as the 1932 Massie Trial in Hawaii.

In his last headline-making case, the Massie Trial, Darrow—devastated by the Great Depression—was hired by Eva Stotesbury, the wife of Darrow's old family friend Edward T. Stotesbury, to come to the defense of Grace FortescueEdward J. Lord, Deacon Jones, and Thomas Massie, Fortescue's son-in-law, who were accused of murdering Joseph Kahahawai. Kahahawai had been accused, along with four other men, of raping and beating Thalia Massie, Thomas's wife and Fortescue's daughter; the resulting 1931 case ended in a hung jury (though the charges were later dropped and repeated investigation has shown them to be innocent). Enraged, Fortescue and Massie then orchestrated the murder of Kahahawai in order to extract a confession and were caught by police officers while transporting his dead body.

Darrow entered the racially charged atmosphere as the lawyer for the defendants. Darrow reconstructed the case as a justified honor killing by Thomas Massie. Considered by the New York Times to be one of Darrow's three most compelling trials (along with the Scopes Trial and the Leopold and Loeb case), the case captivated the nation and most of white America strongly supported the honor killing defense. In fact, the final defense arguments were transmitted to the mainland through a special radio hookup. In the end, the jury came back with a unanimous verdict of guilty, but on the lesser crime of manslaughter.[17] As to Darrow's closing, one juror commented, "[h]e talked to us like a bunch of farmers. That stuff may go over big in the Middle West, but not here."[18] Governor Lawrence Judd later commuted the sentences to one hour in his office.[citation needed] Years later Deacon admitted to shooting Kahahawai; Massie was found "not Guilty" in a posthumous trial.

In January 1931 Darrow had a debate with English writer G. K. Chesterton during the latter's second trip to America. This was held at New York City's Mecca Temple. The topic was "Will the World Return to Religion?". At the end of the debate those in the hall were asked to vote for the man they thought had won the debate. Darrow received 1,022 votes while Chesterton received 2,359 votes. There is no known transcript of what was said except for third party accounts published later on. The earliest of these was that of February 4, 1931, issue of The Nation with an article written by Henry Hazlitt

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