1938 March 13

“Attorney for the Damned,” Clarence Darrow, Dies


Clarence Darrow was arguably the most famous attorney of his time, from the 1890s until his death on this day. He was an attorney in some of the most famous trials in American history. Because he defended so many unpopular people, he was labeled the “attorney for the damned.” Most notably, he represented John T. Scopes in the Scopes Monkey Trial, involving Scopes’ prosecution for violating a Tennessee law banning the teaching of evolution. (The trial began on July 10, 1925.) Immediately after the Scopes trial ended, Darrow went to Detroit where he defended Ossian Sweet, who was prosecuted for murder when white racists attacked his house after he and his family moved into a previously all-white neighborhood (September 9, 1925).

The year before the Scopes case, Darrow represented Leopold and Loeb, two Chicago college students prosecuted for murdering Bobby Franks in what was a coldly calculated attempt at a perfect murder. In a famous closing argument on August 22, 1924 that lasted an incredible 12 hours, Darrow succeeded in saving the two from the death penalty.

Read: John A. Farrell, Clarence Darrow: Attorney for the Damned (2011)

Learn more about Clarence Darrow: http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/darrow.htm

Read Darrow, “Why I Am an Agnostic”: http://www.infidels.org/library/historical/clarence_darrow/why_i_am_an_agnostic.html

Watch a rare interview with Darrow: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AkirGLsstSk

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