Category: Clarence Darrow
“What am I on trial for, gentlemen of the jury? . . . I am not on trial for having sought to bribe a man named Lockwood. . . . I am on trial because I have been a lover of the poor, a friend of the oppressed, because I have stood by labor for all these years, and have brought down on my head the wrath of the criminal interests in this country. Whether guilty or innocent of the crime charged in the indictment, that is the reason I am here, and that is the reason that I have been pursued by as cruel a gang as ever followed a man.”
Clarence Darrow’s closing argument in his first Los Angeles bribery trial, August 14, 1912
How does a poet fit into this series? Edgar Lee masters was not an ivory tower academic – he was a lawyer who advocated for the poor and powerless just like one of his law partners — Clarence Darrow. I came across Masters while teaching myself English literature. His legacy is the Spoon River Anthology, a series of 244 poetic monologues in the voices of the dead. He took the names off tombstones in an Illinois cemetery and combined fact, fiction and speculation to create their voices.
Do you want to be a good speaker? Do you want to give memorable closing arguments? Do you want to give exciting public speeches? It can be done, but only through “blood, sweat and tears.” Persuasive speaking is not a god-given talent but a skill that can be mastered just like so many other aspects […]
This photograph was published in the Los Angeles Times heading a review of John Farrell’s new Darrow biography. It is Darrow arguing a point with Leopold and Loeb sitting behind him to his right. This was the extent of cameras in the courtroom some ninety years ago; if only there was video tape of Darrow’s performance in this case. He was at the height of his powers and performed, in my opinion, the finest forensic speech heard in any courtroom. When I can devote serious energy and time to it I intend to dissect the entire argument, but that will be a job. (I have read it at least 50 times.)
March 13th marked 75 years since the death of Clarence Darrow. I just had the pleasure of reading the manuscript of John Farrell’s new biography of Darrow. I enjoyed it immensely and wrote a blurb for it: “Clarence Darrow confounded titles: a freethinker, hedonist, anarchist, populist, infidel, cynic and master storyteller who became our […]