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

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

by Geoffrey Cowan

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Publishers Weekly - Publisher's 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. (Apr.)
Library Journal
America's greatest lawyer! The record might justify granting that title to Clarence Darrow. He defended the unpopular in dramatic criminal trials: labor leaders after the Haymarket Riot; coal miners in Pennsylvania; and war protesters charged with violations of state sedition laws. But Darrow is best remembered for his defense of John Scopes, charged with violations of state law for the teaching of Darwinian evolution. Darrow is not so well remembered, however, for perhaps his most important criminal defense: that of his own trial for allegedly bribing jurors in the trial of two labor leaders charged in the dynamiting of the Los Angeles Times building. The two books that principally defined Darrow's popular image--his own autobiography, The Story of My Life (1932) and Irving Stone's Clarence Darrow for the Defense (1941)--glossed over this matter. Cowan, an attorney practicing law in Los Angeles, attempts to fill this void with a highly readable account of the trial. Highly recommended to a wide range of general readers.-- Jerry Stephens, U.S. Court of Appeals Lib., Oklahoma City

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Crown Publishing Group
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1st ed

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