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Clarence Darrow Makes For Best Paragraphs In Sunday Newspaper

July 4, 2010

Another reason that newspapers make for great reading.

Now, nearly a century later, the public is receiving new insights into Clarence Darrow’s concerns….. as well as into his personal and professional life

In the Leopold and Loeb case, Darrow avoided a jury trial by pleading the defendants guilty, then fought to save their lives by arguing that they were too young to be executed and that their moral compass had been distorted by the teachings of Nietzsche. “It is hardly fair,” he maintained in his argument, “to hang a 19-year-old boy for the philosophy that was taught him at the university.”

The presiding judge agreed, sentencing the two young men to life imprisonment. In 1928, Darrow sent a letter to Leopold, warning him not to expect to be free any time soon.

“I often think of you and especially when people got a brain storm lately over the deep laid plans to procure your freedom,” Darrow wrote. “It is strange the satisfaction people get over tormenting someone. The rest of the animal kingdom do not indulge in these pleasing past-times which shows, of course, that man is the apex of creation. But, the apex is not very high.”

Darrow, who was 71 at the time, continued: “I shall always cling to the idea that sometime you will be out but it will not be very near, still, at that, you have a longer time to live outside than I have.”

Darrow died 10 years later. Leopold was released in 1958. (Loeb, however, was slashed to death in 1936, supposedly after making a homosexual overture to a fellow prisoner; this prompted the legendary newspaper lead in the Chicago Daily News: “Richard Loeb, despite his erudition, today ended his sentence with a proposition.”)

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