The People v. Clarence Darrow: The Bribery Trial of America's Greatest Lawyer Hardcover – April 13, 1993
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
- Jerry Stephens, U.S. Court of Appeals Lib., Oklahoma City
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.
- Item Weight : 2.2 pounds
- Hardcover : 546 pages
- ISBN-13 : 978-0812921793
- Product dimensions : 6.75 x 1.75 x 9.5 inches
- Publisher : Times Books; 1st edition (April 13, 1993)
- Language: : English
- Customer Reviews:
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In respect of my description of him as "despicable", for example, this was a man whose wife, Ruby, stood(or more literally sat)by him through the three months of the first bribery trail, supporting and encouraging him when he was at his lowest ebb, and at one point suffering a breakdown herself.
And what did she get in return?
The trial finished on a Saturday when the jury declared Darrow to be "not guilty". Which Darrow celebrated the next day by going for a drive in the country with his mistress - Mary Field - and two of their friends (page 407)!
The author does not tell us what Ruby Darrow did to pass the time that day.
Indeed, the wonder of this book is that it got written at all, given the power of Darrow's self-aggrandisement, even today. Especially given that the author is so obviously still a devoted fan of Darrow, and despite all the facts he has uncovered, still does his best to excuse Darrow's behaviour. Though given that Cowan was co-founder of the Clarence Darrow foundation this piece of cognitive dissonance is maybe not entirely surprising.
Anyone planning to read this book, and I believe it is indeed worth reading, should be aware that it is a BIG book - 445 pages plus extensive note, a bibliography and an index, which take it up to 546 pages in all.
And for a very good reason.
Although the book is subtitled: "The bribery trial of America's greatest [sic] lawyer", Cowan actually reaches back to the earlier trial of "Big" Bill Hayward (1907) as he begins to set the scene. He then goes on to describe the MacNamara case in considerable detail, and Darrow's part in those events, not only to explain how the bribery case came about, but also in order to give a really in-depth picture of how Darrow functioned as a lawyer, frequently excusing his own criminal actions - destroying evidence, bribing witnesses, etc. - on the grounds that the alleged wrongdoings of his opponents, and the rights of his clients to a "fair" trail. In short, in Darrow's mind it seems that the "ends" justified virtually any "means".
The problem any non-commited reader faces, as Alan Dershowitz points out, elsewhere, is that anyone who takes the attitude that Darrow held, and acts upon it, does not benefit or help to improve a corrupt system - they merely compound the corruption, however much they may benefit their own clients.
Part of the Darrow myth is that his concern was always to help the weak and the poor or at least, as in Cowan's quote:
"I have represented the strong and the weak - but never the strong against the weak."
If this had been true it might be a mitigating factor in Darrow's favour. But it was actually nothing more than yet another of Darrow's many lies. Darrow frequently sided with the strong against the weak - and Cowan gives a number of examples, most notably (in this context) the fact that at the very time when he was called upon to act in the MacNamara case, Darrow was in the middle of defending the Kankakee Manufacturing Company against a charge of having [...] many small investors by issuing brochures and letters that were nothing short of [...] in their claims about the company's financial attributes. The case had been brought by an elderly Civil War veteran - Charles Myerhoff - who, like many other, had lost virtually all of his life savings when the guano hit the fan.
And what excuse did Darrow, the alleged "love[r of] his fellow man" (page 445) offer in defense of his [...] clients? Why, that the investors had a legal responsibility to check the veracity of such claims (pages 71-71). Legalistically correct, no doubt, but how on earth does that square with Darrow's sanctimonious claim that he "never [acted for] the strong against the weak"?
No-one really benefits from such wholesale lies as are found in the Darrow myth, and the legal profession in America might benefit greatly if this book was mandatory reading for every Law student in the country - alongside Darrow's own blatantly self-serving, mendacious autobiography "The Story of My Life".