More than a century after the legendary litigator defended striking miners, the words of Clarence Darrow rang out in a Scranton courthouse again on Thursday.
A courtroom full of people at the federal courthouse heard the legal strategy and arguments Mr. Darrow used in two of the many famous cases he tried, channeled through the person of Gary L. Anderson.
Mr. Anderson is an actor who has made a career portraying Mr. Darrow. In an abbreviated play he staged over the lunch hour, Mr. Anderson had some help from two real judges in Lackawanna County: Judge Vito P. Geroulo and President Judge Thomas J. Munley, who slammed the gavel and issued rulings while Mr. Anderson gave a running commentary on not only the facts of the case but race relations, the death penalty and God.
Mr. Darrow's anti-death- penalty views were the centerpiece of the 1920s Leopold and Loeb murder trial, in which the Ohio-born lawyer defended two wealthy young Chicago men who killed a 14-year-old boy. In a surprise move, he had the defendants plead guilty, and ultimately was able to spare them the death penalty with sentences of life plus 99 years.
Mr. Darrow's views on racism were spotlighted in Mr. Anderson's recounting of the defense of Ossian Sweet, a black physician whose decision to move into a mostly white Detroit neighborhood so outraged neighbors that a mob tried to force him out of the house. One of the people in the mob was fatally shot and Dr. Sweet was later acquitted by an all-white jury of murder charges.
Though it was not mentioned in the play, Mr. Darrow also represented the United Mine Workers during the Anthracite Coal Strike in 1902 at the Lackawanna County Courthouse. He died in 1938.
A longer version of the play, which was sponsored in conjunction with the Scranton Public Theatre, was presented Thursday evening.
By Joe McDonald (Staff Writer)
Published in The Scranton Times on May 6, 2011