Arminius's Reviews > Clarence Darrow: Attorney for the Damned

Clarence Darrow by John A. Farrell
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Jan 18, 12

bookshelves: history
Read from December 26, 2011 to January 14, 2012

If you are poor, a mobster, a racist, a union member or an oppressed minority there was one lawyer that you would look for if you got in legal trouble during the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. That lawyer went by the name of Clarence Darrow.

Darrow received his law admission in Ohio but moved to Chicago where he made his name. He started as a lawyer in Chicago city government where he came under the tutelage of one of the great liberal thinkers of the era, John Altgeld. Altgled impressed upon him liberal causes and political scholarly advice. Altgeld helped Darrow obtain a job as a corporate lawyer at Chicago & Northwestern Railway Company. Darrow earned wages handling the Railway’s legal business. However, he soon moved his ambitions to becoming a remarkable defense attorney.

His first major successful defense was working for Union leader Eugene V. Debs. Debs was charged with starting the Pullman strike in 1894. In 1902, he represented the Miner’s union in the great Anthracite coal strike in Pennsylvania. In this arbitration case he paraded injured and maimed coal miners and children to gain sympathy for the miner’s cause. In 1906 he produced acquittals for Western Miner Union leaders William Haywood, George Pettibone and Charles Moyer when they were implemented in the murder of former Idaho Governor Frank Steunenberg.

When union member brothers, John and James McNamara, where accused of bombing the Los Angelus Times building they called on Darrow. Darrow knew they were guilty but masterly won an acquittal for one and was able to reduce the other McNamara brother’s sentence to life imprisonment.
Although, he had many successes he became legendary because of two court cases in which he was the lead attorney. The first of those was working for the defense of Richard Loeb and Nathan Leopold when they were accused of murdering a young boy, just for the thrill it produced. The defendants confessed to the murder so Darrow’s goal was to save them from the death penalty. He was able to convince the jury that they suffered from temporary insanity due to suffering years of abuse. Leopold would be paroled after 30 years in prison but Loeb was killed in prison.

His most famous trial was the Scopes/Monkey trial in 1925.The trial pitted, giants of the time, Superstar defense attorney Clarence Darrow vs. former presidential candidate and secretary of state William Jennings Bryan. John T. Scope was a teacher who violated a Tennessee law which forbade the teaching of evolution. In the trial, Darrow embarrassed Bryan, who was a devout Christian, by reputing many Biblical claims in which Bryan was unable to defend. Darrow lost the case however in losing he changed society’s opinions. Bryan died shortly after the trial.

Much of the book discuses Darrow’s interesting personal life and his various relationships. He was ahead of his time in many of his ideas and went through periods of wealth and periods of impoverishment. He was a brilliant man. He absorbed history, literature and psychology with ease. And he masterfully was able to transfer empathy to jurors for his clients and able to pick out a “bad guy” on the prosecution’s side to vilify.
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message 1: by Darlene (new)

Darlene Fantastic review, Arminius!! Could you say that he is the first 'trial lawyer' as we think of trial lawyers today? I have had this book on my shelf for a long time and just never got around to reading it but I think your review has changed that. I think I'm going to read it soon!!!


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