The People v. Clarence Darrow: The Bribery Trial of America's Greatest Lawyer

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9780812963618: The People v. Clarence Darrow: The Bribery Trial of America's Greatest Lawyer

A recreation of Clarence Darrow's 1912 trial for jury tampering provides a study of the legal system in Los Angeles at the turn of the century and provides detailed portraits of the key personalities involved in the case

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From Kirkus Reviews:

A revisionist study of Clarence Darrow in which Cowan, an attorney and historian (See No Evil, 1979; UCLA), concludes that the legendary lawyer--despite being acquitted in 1912 of the charge--did indeed try to bribe a jury in a criminal case. Darrow is generally remembered as an almost saintly figure who used his matchless eloquence and intellect to serve the cause of the poor and working classes, with brilliant success and often for no pay. But the truth, Cowan suggests, was more complex and interesting: Darrow was a gifted, idealistic man, devoted to the causes of underdogs but cynically disdainful of traditional concepts of truth and justice. In 1911, the attorney, already nationally famous for his defense of labor cases, was comfortably engaged in a lucrative corporate practice when he assumed the defense of J.J. McNamara, a popular leader of the Structural Iron Workers Union, and of McNamara's brother Jim: The two were indicted for murder in the fatal bombing of the Los Angeles Times building. Cowan tells how Darrow, desperate to save his clients from almost certain hanging, urged his agents to plant spies among the detectives and prosecutors and to attempt to bribe key prosecution witnesses and jurors. After one of Darrow's friends was arrested in the act of passing money to a juror, the McNamara case was settled quickly, with Jim McNamara receiving a life sentence and J.J. getting 15 years. Prosecutors then indicted Darrow for jury tampering, but, after a long and spirited defense--much of which Darrow handled himself--the jury was won over by the lawyer's eloquence and acquitted him despite considerable evidence of guilt. Cowan suggests that Darrow emerged from the experience chastened and wiser, going on to argue his greatest cases. A tense and riveting account that neatly balances courtroom drama with fascinating glimpses into Darrow's enigmatic conscience. (Eight pages of b&w photographs--not seen) -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From Publishers Weekly:

Claiming that Darrow's autobiography and other accounts have "sugarcoated" the legendary attorney's "most dramatic and traumatic case," Cowan ( See No Evil ) reconstructs the 1912 trial in which Darrow (1857-1938) stood accused of bribery in a highly political murder case. In a brief, effective biographical sketch, Cowan argues that the once-idealistic Darrow had grown cynical by 1911, when labor unions called on him to represent the defendants in the "Crime of the Century." That case involved a labor leader and his brother, James and John McNamara, who were accused of bombing the offices of the Los Angeles Times , killing 20 men; labor leaders, radicals and the public assumed the brothers' innocence, so it astonished and embittered many when Darrow entered a guilty plea. Darrow was later charged with having attempted to buy a juror before the plea; he hired the notorious Earl Rogers, offered a stirring defense and was exonerated. Cowan concludes that Darrow was probably guilty but suggests that, given the tenor of the vicious battles between industry and labor, Darrow may have been motivated by a revolutionary streak. Although the author's use of brief scenes sometimes makes the narrative choppy, he moves his story briskly and forcefully. Photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Cowan, Geoffrey
Published by Three Rivers Press (1994)
ISBN 10: 081296361X ISBN 13: 9780812963618
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Cowan, Geoffrey
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