I’d like to quote from a book titled, Crime: Its Cause and Treatment by Clarence Darrow, published in 1922. Darrow apparently believed that rapists weren’t responsible for their deeds because they were governed by their sex instincts: the poor things simply couldn’t help doing what they did. Here’s what he had to say about rape, in a chapter titled, “Sex Crimes”:
Most of the inmates of prisons convicted of sex crimes are the poor and wretched and the plainly defective. Nature, in her determination to preserve the species, has planted sex hunger very deep in the constitution of man. The fact that it is necessary for the preservation of life, and that Nature is always eliminating those whose sex hunger is not strong enough to preserve the race, has overweighted man and perhaps all animal life with this hunger. At least it has endowed many men with instincts too powerful for the conventions and the laws that hedge him about.
Rape is almost always the crime of the poor, the hardworking, the uneducated and the abnormal. In the man of this type sex hunger is strong; he has little money, generally no family; he is poorly fed and clothed and possesses few if any attractions. He may be a sailor away from women and their society for months, or in some other remote occupation making his means of gratifying this hunger just as impossible. There is no opportunity for him except the one he adopts. It is a question of gratifying this deep and primal instinct as against the weakness of his mentality and the few barriers that a meagre education and picked-up habits can furnish; and when the instinct overbalances he is lost.
Comment is superfluous on this passage, which drips with condescension for the very people whom Darrow had pledged his life to defend.
But there’s more. Clarence Darrow felt no real sympathy for the victims of rape. According to an article by Mary Dickson titled, “Dispelling the ‘dark alley’ myth” in The Deseret News (April 3, 1978), Darrow actually believed that it was physically impossible for a man to force a woman to have intercourse:
Clarence Darrow once attempted in court to prove the impossibility of rape.
He instructed someone to try to insert a pencil into a cup he held in his continuously moving hand. His point was that sexual intercourse was impossible if a woman resisted, even slightly.
What Darrow failed to mention was the possibility of a gun held to a victim’s head, a knife to her throat, her arms twisted or even vicious verbal threats.
In 80 per cent of rape cases, according to statistics, the rapist brandished some type of weapon. And in nearly half of all rapes there was more than one attacker.
The same story about Clarence Darrow can be found in The Politics of Rape: The Victim’s Perspective by Professor Diana Russell (Authors Guild Backinprint.com edition, 1984, 2003; see Chapter Twenty-Four, “Rape and the Masculine Mystique”, page 257), and in an article by Dick Polman in The Montreal Gazette (May 9, 1985), titled, “Worries grow that rape-recant will damage real victims’ credibility.”
Darrow on chloroforming the unfit
Clarence Darrow also had a low opinion of people with disabilities. This can be seen from his comments on the Baby Bollinger case. The following excerpt is taken from a summary of the case by the Kennedy Institute of Ethics, Georgetown University:
“In 1915, just before Thanksgiving, a baby was born without a neck, with only one ear, with a misshapen chest and misshapen shoulders, and with serious internal malformations. The doctor who delivered the baby at Chicago’s German-American Hospital called in Dr. Harry Haiselden, a surgeon, to examine the baby. Haiselden concluded that this “defective” baby’s life would not be worth saving. He convinced the parents, Anna and Allen Bollinger, to let their son die rather than embark on a series of operations to repair some of the baby’s physical deformities.”
What happened to the doctor? An article in The New York Times takes up the story:
“Dr. Harry J. Haiselden, who refused to perform an operation on the Bollinger baby because he believed the child would be a hopeless defective, will be expelled from membership in the Chicago Medical Society if the council of that body approves the findings of the Ethical Relations Committee.” (“Medical Society’s Committee Against Bollinger Baby’s Physician”, New York Times. December 15, 1915.)
And what were Clarence Darrow’s views about the case? He thoroughly approved of what the doctor had done, according to Ian Dowbiggin’s book, A Concise History of Euthanasia: Life, Death, God, and Medicine (Rowman and Littlefield, Lanham, Maryland, 2005; paperback edition, 2007; pages 73-74):
When asked by a reporter about the reason behind his decision not to operate, Haiselden replied: “Eugenics? Of course it’s eugenics.”
Haiselden’s approach chiefly derived from his deep-seated belief in eugenics, social Darwinism, and biologically based utilitarianism.…
One thing the Baby Bollinger story proved was that Haiselden’s views about euthanasia were not unique. The well-known American lawyer Clarence Darrow, future defense attorney during the Scopes “Monkey” Trial of 1925, agreed wholeheartedly with Haiselden. When asked his opinion of the Baby Bollinger controversy, Darrow answered acerbically: “Chloroform unfit children. Show them the same mercy that is shown beasts that are no longer fit to live.” Blind and deaf advocate Helen Keller added: “Our puny sentimentalism has caused us to forget that a human life is sacred only when it may be of some use to itself and to the world.”
Clarence Darrow: Defender of the Weak and Poor?
Throughout his life, Clarence Darrow cast himself as the champion of the poor and downtrodden. But his actions often belied his words, according to an online article titled, Clarence Darrow: ‘Attorney for the Damned’ – or just another Damned Attorney? by Andy Bradbury:
In fact the truth is that Darrow frequently appeared on behalf of those who preyed upon “the weak and poor.”
He was closely associated with a pair of notorious Chicago politicians, Michael “Hinky Dink” Kenna and J.J. “Bath House John” Coughlin – not exactly “weak and poor,” but definitely totally corrupt – who controlled the Loop district of the city, and much of the vice that went on in that area.
In 1903, when the Iroquoise Theater in Chicago burnt down during a matinee performance, 596 people, mainly children, were killed, primarily because 29 of the 30 fire exits were closed and locked. In the aftermath of the fire a number of grand jury indictments were handed down on those responsible for making the carnage possible: the theater owners who had flouted the city fire laws; the fire inspectors who had failed to carry out regular fire checks; and even the mayor – to whom the city’s fire chief was accountable.
Yet despite the indictments, not a single person was imprisoned for their part in the disaster – in many cases because Clarence Darrow, defender of “the weak and poor”, had been beavering away in the background to get their indictments dismissed.
According to the same article, Darrow was also guilty of attempting to bribe jurors on one occasion:
In 1912, in Los Angeles, for example, Darrow himself went through two trials where he was both the defense lawyer and the defendant – on two counts of attempting to bribe jurors in the union-related murder case in which he had been, as usual, counsel for the defense. In response to the first charge Darrow told the jury:
“I have committed one crime: I have stood for the weak and the poor.”
And at that first trial the verdict was in Darrow’s favour, though it is now generally accepted – even by Darrowphiles – that he was in fact guilty on both counts, plus other similar activities that he was never charged with. At the second trial Darrow proved less able to “soft soap” his way out of trouble, and the proceedings ended with a hung jury. But although Darrow escaped being convicted, he certainly didn’t escape the consequences of his actions.
Firstly he was made to leave California after undertaking never to practice law again in that state.
Secondly he was dropped by the unions as one of their regular attorneys – which is why he spent the last part of his career practising criminal law.
And thirdly, he reportedly suffered what would nowadays be described as a “nervous breakdown” and became, if it were possible, even more pessimistic and morose than had previously been the case.
Darrow the fatalist
As Professor Coyne readily acknowledges in his post, Clarence Darrow denied the reality of free will. Indeed, Darrow was a dyed-in-the-wool fatalist, as can be seen by his handling of the Loeb/Leopold murder case, one of the three most famous trials of the twentieth century. Coyne provides the following handy summary of the facts of the case:
Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb were two brilliant Jewish students at the University of Chicago, who, influenced by Nietzsche, decided to commit the perfect crime. On May 21, 1924, they kidnapped a 14-year-old named Bobby Franks, killed him by bludgeoning him with a chisel, and drove to a lake in nearby Indiana where they dumped Frank’s body in a culvert.
They almost got away with it, but someone discovered the body, and, a few days later, a policeman found a pair of Leopold’s glasses at the scene. They had an unusual frame, and only three pairs had been sold in Chicago. They traced the glasses to Leopold, who quickly cracked (as did Loeb), and both went to trial in August. Darrow was their attorney.
Knowing that the evidence was indisputable, Darrow had his clients plead guilty, hoping that by so doing he could save them from hanging. (Only one of dozens of Darrow’s murder clients was ever executed.) In a remarkable 12-hour speech, which I think was largely extemporaneous, Darrow pleaded for their lives to Judge John Caverly.
So, what did Darrow say in his final summation of the case? Here’s an excerpt:
“Nature is strong and she is pitiless. She works in her own mysterious way, and we are her victims. We have not much to do with it ourselves. Nature takes this job in hand, and we play our parts. In the words of old Omar Khayyam, we are only:
Impotent pieces in the game He plays
Upon this checkerboard of nights and days,
Hither and thither moves, and checks, and slays,
And one by one back in the closet lays.
What had this boy to do with it? He was not his own father; he was not his own mother; he was not his own grandparents. All of this was handed to him. He did not surround himself with governesses and wealth. He did not make himself. And yet he is to be compelled to pay.
Do you mean to tell me that Dickie Loeb had any more to do with his making than any other product of heredity that is born upon the earth?…
Your Honor, I am almost ashamed to talk about it. I can hardly imagine that we are in the 20th century. And yet there are men who seriously say that for what Nature has done, for what life has done, for what training has done, you should hang these boys.”
Professor Coyne is to be commended for spelling out the consequences of adhering to Darwinism: none of us is responsible for our actions.
I rest my case.