The Prendergast Case
"Mr. Darrow will refer to the widowed mother, and the brother of this prisoner, and tug at your heart-strings, that your sympathies may be aroused and overwhelm your judgment. He will picture to you the scene of a heart-broken, widowed mother, and the discouraged brother. All of that Mr. Darrow is exceedingly able to do. In that lies their only hope in this case, that the administration of the law shall be defeated."
Assistant State's Attorney Morrison during the insanity hearing of Patrick Eugene Prendergast, July 2, 1894

"Gentlemen, it makes my blood boil with indignation to think of the damnable course of these men who disgrace the medical profession; these men who have used a high and divine calling, that of saving of human life and the alleviation of human pain, who are called here by these attorneys, and who went into that jail, imposing upon this poor, weak mind, who got his confidence through deceit and lies, and then after that failed to ask him the very things that would manifest his state of mind. They had no right not to know his condition. . . . Ah, but gentlemen, these so-called doctors went into the prison pen of that poor boy as a ferret goes down into the hole of a rabbit, to drag forth their victim. They asked their questions as a hunter would set a snare to catch a bird and they used the power of the State and their superior intellect and learning, not to find out whether the State was about to make a sacrifice in the shape of a miserable victim, but to find excuses to salve your conscience, stultify your intellect, overcome your reason and help in the erection of a scaffold and the tying of a rope."
Clarence Darrow criticizing medical experts for the state during the insanity hearing of Patrick Eugene Prendergast, July 2, 1894

Trial Documents

Letters from Patrick Eugene Prendergast 
Copies of handwritten letters written by Patrick Eugene Prendergast both before and after the assassination of Mayor Carter Harrison Sr. Courtesy of the Archives Department of the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois.
People v. Prendergast Verdict and Sentence  Dec, 1893
Copy of handwritten jury verdict and sentence. Courtesy of the Archives Department of the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois.
In re Prendergast Address to the Jury  Jul, 1894
Original transcript of address to the jury by Mr. Harlan, Mr. Todd, Mr. Morrison and Clarence Darrow. Darrow's arguments start on page 1049 of the transcript, which is page 130 of this document.


Illinois Criminal Code, Chapter 38, Sec. 285. "Becoming insane." 
This provision of the Illinois Criminal Code in effect in 1893 provided that if the accused became lunatic or insane after judgment but before execution of the sentence, in the case of capital punishment, the court was required to impanel a jury to decide whether the accused was insane or lunatic at the time the jury was impaneled.

Legal Articles

The Prendergast Case, S.H. Dent, Jr. Esq. 
1894 article in The Criminal Law Magazine and Reporter that discusses the legal aspects of adjudicating Prendergast's sanity after he was convicted but before he was executed.
Medical expert testimony in the Prendergast Case  Aug, 1894
Contemporary article by a medical doctor about medical expert testimony and insanity in the Prendergast case. Published in The American Law Register and Review.


Assassination of Carter Harrison 
An account of Mayor Harrison's assassination and a brief biography of his life.


Jury verdict reported in the Chicago Daily Tribune  Dec, 1893
The front page of the Chicago Daily Tribune on December 30, 1893 focused on the Prendergast trial.
Dec. 30, 1893 Chicago Tribune on Prendergast trial  Dec, 1893
This page of the Tribune includes the following reports related to the Prendergast trial: "Judge Brentano Will Not Talk: He Does Not Care to Venture Any Opinion Upon the Case," "Miss Howard's Brother Speaks: He Is Surprised the Trial Lasted as Long as It Did," and "Chauncey Depew Is Gratified: Chicago Does Well to Convict Prendergast - Russell Sage Talks."
Scene in the Court  Mar, 1894
Coverage of the Prendergast case in the Chicago Sunday Tribune on March 25, 1894.
"Prendergast: Tries to Punch Out the Eyes of His Guard"  Mar, 1894
A short news article describing Prendergast's assault on a prison guard. Article is in the center right of the page. From the Daily Herald, Brownsville, Texas.
Assassination of French President Carnot May Effect Prendergast Jury  Jun, 1894
Short newspaper article in the Daily Herald (Brownsville, Texas) stating that the assassination of French President Carnot "has added fresh interest to the case of Carter Harrison's murderer" because Prendergast's insanity hearing was underway and it was believed that Carnot's assassination would have an effect on the Prendergast jury. Marie Francois Sadi Carnot (1837 - 1894) was a French statesman and the fourth president of the Third French Republic. He served as the President of France from 1887 until his assassination in 1894.
"Will Hang Today"  Jul, 1894
The July 13, 1894 Chicago Daily Tribune announced that Prendergast would be executed.
"Assassin is Hanged"  Jul, 1894
This article appeared on the front page of the Chicago Daily Tribune on July 14, 1894.
Justice, But Long Delayed  Jul, 1894
Report on Prendergast's execution in the Salt Lake Herald.


Progress and Poverty: An Inquiry in the Cause of Industrial Depressions and of Increase of Want with Increase of Wealth. The Remedy by Henry George 
First published in 1879, this is Henry George's most influential work. Progress & Poverty made George famous and started a political movement in the United States built around his work. Later George almost won election as mayor of New York.

Best known for his economic arguments in favor of a "single tax" on land, George believed government should be funded only from this one tax. George's single tax would be on the unimproved value of land - the value of the land in its natural state without any man-made improvements such as buildings. This was not an entirely new concept, as George borrowed from the works of David Ricardo, James Mill, and John Stuart Mill. Both Patrick Prendergast and Clarence Darrow were ardent supporters of Henry George and his single tax theory.

According to Milton Friedman: "In my opinion, the least bad tax is the property tax on the unimproved value of land, the Henry George argument of many, many years ago."
A Summer's Outing and The Old Man's Story by Carter H. Harrison 
Part I of this book is a compilation of Harrison's letters about his travels to Alaska. The letters were originally published in the Chicago Tribune.
"The Etiology of Osseous Deformities of the Head, Face, Jaws and Teeth" by Eugene Solomon Talbot 
This excerpt includes a brief description of Patrick Eugene Prendergast. A review of the book stated, "[W]e know of no American who has made so many personal observations and measurements on the defective classes, and he is entitled to great credit for his work."
Crime and Criminals by John Sanderson Christison 
This section of Dr. Christison's book discusses his examination of Prendergast in jail. Dr. Christison did not testify during the trial but he concluded Prendergast was insane. The book consists of compilations of a series of articles the author wrote for the Chicago Tribune. The author was formerly of the New York City Asylums for the Insane.
"The Life of Henry George" 
This book was written by Henry George, Jr.
40 Years of It 
This excerpt from Brand Whitlock's autobiography describes the first time Whitlock met Clarence Darrow. They had both gone to see Lieutenant-Governor Joe Gill to ask him to spare Prendergast's life.
The Single Tax Movement in the United States by Arthur Nichols Young 
This book is an attempt to "give a complete account of the Single Tax movement in the United States, together with a discussion of the tactics of the Single-taxers, their programme, the present status of the movement, and its influence upon economic thought and upon fiscal and social reform."


Please Admit Mrs. Darrow 
Handwritten note from Clarence Darrow to a court bailiff, requesting that Mrs. Darrow be admitted. The note appears to be for the Prendergast trial. From the Clarence Darrow Papers.
Shall Insane Criminals be Imprisoned or Put to Death? by J.B. Ransom, M.D. 
This article about medical expert testimony in criminal trials, especially murder trials, uses the Prendergast case to illustrate the author's viewpoint. The author concluded that Prendergast was insane. Published in the "Transactions of the Medical Society of the State of New York" (1895).
Alfred Samuel Trude 
A short biography of Alfred S. Trude, the chief prosecutor against Patrick E. Prendergast. Published in "The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography" (1910).

Photos - Key Figures