Despite some exaggeration, the UK’s Guardian G2 magazine insert featured a rather nice piece on Clarence Darrow. The occasion was the 85th Anniversary of Darrow’s defense of the notorious Leopold and Loeb. Like many other liberal views of their crime and Darrow’s defense, the UK applauds Darrow for his emotional appeal to spare their lives and his tirade against capital punishment.
Defender of the Damned
G2 (The Guardian), UK
by Donald McRae
June 11, 2009
Eighty-five years ago, on 2 June 1924, during a blistering early summer in Chicago, a ravaged courtroom bruiser stepped into the future. Clarence Darrow, with his seamed face and stooped shoulders making him look every one of his 67 years, was America’s greatest and most controversial defender of the lost and the damned. But, as he hunched over his desk to write to the secret love of his life, Mary Field Parton, the old lawyer felt breathless.
Earlier that day, Darrow had agreed to represent Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb, two teenage lovers and the sons of Chicago millionaires, after they confessed to the world’s first ‘thrill-killing’ of a 14-year-old boy with whom Loeb had sometimes played tennis. Darrow, the Ohio-born son of an abolitionist father and suffrage-supporting mother, was himself a leading civil libertarian and vehement opponent of the death penalty. In this case, however, he confronted seemingly insurmountable odds; his disturbing and disturbed young clients faced certain execution in what newspapers would soon call the trial of the century.