The Bribery Trials of Clarence Darrow
"What am I on trial for, gentlemen of the jury? . . . I am not on trial for having sought to bribe a man named Lockwood. . . . I am on trial because I have been a lover of the poor, a friend of the oppressed, because I have stood by labor for all these years, and have brought down on my head the wrath of the criminal interests in this country. Whether guilty or innocent of the crime charged in the indictment, that is the reason I am here, and that is the reason that I have been pursued by as cruel a gang as ever followed a man."
Clarence Darrow's closing argument in his first bribery trial, August 14, 1912

"Gentlemen, it is with you—in the hands of these twelve men, strangers—strangers in a strange land; after my long career, after my hard fight, after all the bitterness and hatred of the past, I come to you worn and weary, and tired, and submit my fate, the fate of my family, and the hopes and fears and the prayers of my friends, to you."
Clarence Darrow's closing argument in his second bribery trial, March 7, 1913

Trial Documents

Deposition of George Burman Foster 
This deposition was given by George Burman Foster in support of Clarence Darrow's character, and is one of over 50 depositions conducted by Edgar Lee Masters on Darrow's behalf. Foster was a professor of philosophy of religion and a famous theologian at the University of Chicago from 1905 until his death in 1918. Darrow was very good friends with Foster, whom he considered one of the most learned men he had ever met. Darrow gave a eulogy at Foster's funeral.
Plea of Clarence Darrow in His Own Defense to the Jury that Exonerated Him  Aug, 1912
Clarence Darrow's plea to the jury during his first bribery trial published in pamphlet form.
Argument of Judge O.W. Powers  Mar, 1913
Closing argument of Orlando Woodworth Powers in defense of Clarence Darrow during his second bribery trial. Powers was formerly a judge in Salt Lake City, Utah but he had just moved to Los Angeles to practice law. Courtesy of the Social Movements Collection, Hamilton Library, University of Hawaii at Manoa Honolulu, Hawaii.
Clarence Darrow's Argument to the Jury (Second Bribery Trial)  Mar, 1913
Reporter's transcript of Clarence Darrow's argument to the jury on March 5, 1913 during his second bribery trial (The People of the State of California v. Clarence Darrow).


State v. Bissett, 246 Ill. 516 (1910)  Oct, 1910
In 1910 a poor woman came to Clarence Darrow and begged him to help her son George Bissett who had been convicted for murder and sentenced to life in prison. At first Darrow told her he could not help, but he eventually took the case for free because they had no money to pay for legal help. Upon examining the trial record, Darrow concluded that Bissett should not have been convicted. Darrow got the conviction reversed by the Supreme Court of Illinois and the case was remanded for a new trial. Darrow defended Bissett in the new trial and he was found not guilty. In 1912 while he was waiting to be indicted for jury bribery based on the grand jury testimony of Bert Franklin, Darrow was informed he had a visitor. It was George Bissett, who had ridden freight-cars all the way from Illinois to Los Angeles because he heard that Darrow was in trouble. Bissett had come to help and explained: "I have been here about a week and have been getting a line on Franklin." When Darrow asked what he had found out about Franklin, Bissett said he "had found where he lived, had watched what time he went away in the mornings, had some dynamite, and was going to kill Franklin the next day when leaving his home." Darrow talked him out of this action.


California Penal Code 
Clarence Darrow was charged with jury bribery under this California penal code.

Government Documents

In the Matter of the Appointment of Orlando W. Powers to the Associate Justice of the Territory of Utah, Objections to Confirmation 
Orlando Woodworth "O.W." Powers who had recently moved to Los Angeles from Utah helped defend Clarence Darrow during his second bribery trial. While in Utah, Powers served as the special prosecutor representing the United States during the prosecution of Mormons for polygamy. Powers sent 4,000 Mormons to prison while enforcing the Edmunds-Tucker Act as a prosecutor or during the brief time he served as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of Utah. He was appointed to the Supreme Court of Utah by President Cleveland in 1885. Powers later became an important defender of Mormons who gave up polygamy and fought to protect them from religious prosecution. He later advocated that those sentenced to prison for polygamy be released and nearly all were released.

Legal Articles

Anecdote about Judge Conley 
Short anecdote about Judge Conley who presided over Clarence Darrow's second bribery trial. Published in the Central Law Journal (1913).
Gerald F. Uelmen, Fighting Fire with Fire: A Reflection on the Ethics of Clarence Darrow, 71 Fordham L. Rev. 1543 (2003) 
Law review article that examines the police and prosecutorial misconduct faced by Clarence Darrow during his defense of the McNamara brothers and William Haywood and compares these actions to the accusations of misconduct by Darrow himself.


Industrial Conspiracies by Clarence Darrow  Sep, 1912
Presentation given by Clarence Darrow at the Heilig Theatre, Portland, Oregon on September 10, 1912.

Magazine Articles

Darrow Freed: Jury at Los Angeles Find Attorney Not Guilty 
Account of verdict in Darrow's first bribery trial. Published in The American Employer.
Darrow Trial 
Short description of some events during Clarence Darrow's first bribery trial. Published in The American Employer.
Darrow, The Enigma 
Commentary about Clarence Darrow in the Railway Carmen's Journal.
Machinists' Monthly Journal: Devoted to the Technical and Economic Education of the Members of the I. A. of M. 
Brief commentary on Clarence Darrow's bribery trial and banquet held in Darrow's honor by labor supporters.
Commentary in support of Clarence Darrow 
Short commentary on Clarence Darrow and the bribery charges against him. Published in "Out West: A Magazine of the Old Pacific and the New" by Archaeological Institute of America Southwest Society, Sequoya League.
Darrow on Trial 
Brief commentary on Darrow's bribery trial from The American Employer.
Darrow's Trial 
Criticism of a resolution adopted by the Los Angeles Labor Council protesting against the district attorney prosecuting Clarence Darrow in another bribery trial. From The American Employer.
Severe Arraignment of Steffens 
Sharp criticism of Lincoln Steffens' testimony during Clarence Darrow's bribery trial. Also contains a short description of the McNamara Defense Fund. From The American Employer.
Darrow Jury Disagreed 
Brief account that accurately predicts that the prosecution will drop the charges after the second trial ended in a hung jury. Published in the American Employer.
Clarence Darrow To Be Again Tried  May, 1913
The Boilermakers Journal published this appeal for donations to help Clarence Darrow face a third bribery trial. The prosecution later agreed not to try Darrow.
The Defender of the Defenseless  Oct, 1913
Support for Clarence Darrow from The Bridgeman's Magazine.


Orlando W. Powers Dead  Jan, 1914
Announcement that Orlando Powers died on January 2, 1914. Powers helped to defend Clarence Darrow during his second bribery trial. The news article briefly describes Powers involvement in prosecuting Mormons for polygamy.


The Spirit of Labor by Hutchins Hapgood 
Study of a Chicago labor leader only identified as "Anton." It is common knowledge that the "Anton" is Anton Johannsen who would later play an important role in San Francisco labor and during the McNamara case and Darrow's bribery trials. The prosecution believed Johannsen and Olaf Tveitmoe arranged for the bombing of the Los Angeles Times building. Johannsen was very angry at Darrow for the way he handled the McNamara case but he, Tveitmoe, and some other labor leaders tried to help Darrow during his bribery trials because it would be disastrous for labor if Darrow was convicted. Hapgood was a friend of Clarence Darrow and his book contains several references to Darrow.


George H. Hutton Transcript from the University of Minnesota, College of Law 
Los Angeles Superior Court judge George H. Hutton presided over Clarence Darrow's first bribery trial in 1912. Hutton attended the University of Minnesota, College of Law in 1894-95.
Earl Rogers 
Short bio of Earl Rogers who played a crucial role in the investigation of the Los Angeles Times bombing investigation and later as Clarence Darrow's defense attorney in his bribery trials. Published in the History of the Bench and Bar of California.
Henry Gage 
Clarence Darrow hired Henry Gage, a well respected defense attorney and former governor of California, to defend Bert Franklin against bribery charges. Darrow paid the $10,000 retainer out of the McNamara defense fund. Bio is from the History of the Bench and Bar of California.
Judge Orlando Powers 
1902 biography of Judge Orlando Powers when he was a judge in Salt Lake City Utah. In 1913, he helped defend Clarence Darrow in his second bribery trial. From "Portrait, Genealogical and Biographical Record of the State of Utah: Containing Biographies of Many Well Known Citizens of the Past and Present."
Judge George H. Hutton 
Bio of Judge Hutton who presided over Clarence Darrow's first bribery trial in 1912. Published in "Out West: a Magazine of the Old Pacific and the New" (1909).
Wheaton Gray 
Short bio of Wheaton Gray, appointed as special prosecutor in Clarence Darrow's second bribery trial.
Judge George H. Hutton 
Bio of Judge Hutton who presided over Clarence Darrow's first bribery trial in 1912. Published in the "Press Reference Library: Notables of the Southwest, Being the Portraits and Biographies of Progressive Men of the Southwest, who Have Helped in the Development and History Making of this Wonderful Country" (1912).
Letters Written to Clarence Darrow 
Collection of letters written to Clarence Darrow during his bribery trials in 1912 to 1913. Includes letters from Anton Johannsen (San Francisco labor leader), William Marion Reedy (editor and owner of the editor of the St. Louis Mirror), Richard Pettigrew (former Senator for South Dakota), and Jerry Geisler (assistant in Earl Rogers law firm). Clarence Darrow Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
Le Compte Davis 
Bio of Le Compte Davis. He was a prominent Los Angeles criminal attorney who worked with Clarence Darrow during the McNamara defense, helped defend Darrow against bribery charges and was a witness during Darrow's bribery trials. Published in the Press Reference Library (1912).
Clarence S. Darrow Defense Fund 
The itemized list of contributions from various union locals and individuals to a defense fund for Clarence Darrow's second bribery trial. The list shows contributions from March to June, 1913. From the Archives of the University of Colorado Boulder Libraries.
An Appeal for Aid  Mar, 1913
This letter to members of organized labor appeals for financial aid to help Clarence Darrow in a looming third bribery trial. Published in the Railway Carmen journal, this appeal is signed by several labor leaders including Charles H. Moyer, President of the Western Federation of Miners. This same appeal was published in other trade union publications such as the The Painter and Decorator, published by the Brotherhood of Painters, Decorators, and Paperhangers of America.
John D. Fredericks 
Bio of John D. Fredericks who prosecuted Clarence Darrow in his first bribery trial. Published in the Press Reference Library (1915).
Judge Conley 
Bio of Judge Conley who presided over Clarence Darrow's second bribery trial. Published in the Press Reference Library (1915).
W. Joseph Ford 
Short bio of W. Joseph Ford who was Chief Assistant District Attorney of Los Angeles County. Ford participated in the prosecution of Clarence Darrow in both of his bribery trials. Although this bio does not mention it, Ford became the first Dean of Loyola University Law School in 1920. Biography from "The Bench and Bar of Los Angeles County 1928-1929".

Photos - Key Figures