Sunday, July 10, 2011

Sympathy for the Devils...or Have All the Saints Sinned?

Two reviews in the NY Times to juxtapose:

Bill Keller nicely summarizes a book on the Popes throughout history, and how they are well..it's sorta complicated, largely a worldly pattern of misfeasance and definitely fallibility.

Meanwhile, reviewer Kevin Boyle makes hay out of the once mighty oak that Clarence Darrow seemed to be. I was struck by the glibness of this line in the review, that "In some of his biggest cases Darrow bought the testimony he needed."

Huh? That would be a pretty big revelation, yet the review contains no evidence for the sweeping conclusion, other than the McNamara case for which Darrow was acquitted.

Also, it is obvious that Boyle is not a trial lawyer, or else he would understand that being persuasive is not simply theater. Boyle further seems to think that a lawyer should not represent another person if he thinks the person is either civilly liable (like the negligent boat captain) or the other did murder someone. I'd call that quaint, but far better minds since antiquity, and especially among our nation's Founders, would find Boyle worse than naive and lacking in perspective as to how societies actually work. They would understand quite clearly that criminal attorneys who represent ardent criminals or even people like Casey Anthony (the latest sensation for those who follow lurid murder cases) are rather heroic, for they put prosecutors to the test--which is a good thing lest prosecutors become all powerful and eventually corrupt. That prosecutors have often poisoned the well through media with lies about the defendant and have themselves suborned perjury from witnesses (often "jailhouse informants") is well known and well documented in a way that I should not be required to do on this Sunday morning...:-)

It is also remarkable that Boyle sees it as corrupt for Darrow to have received $65,000 from the family of Leopold & Loeb to defend the horrible, murderous brothers who so luridly captured people's imaginations nearly a century ago. What, Darrow was supposed to defend people for free, even when they had the money to pay him?

I wish someone else, even Alan Dershowitz, had written the review of the Darrow books. I am definitely intrigued to learn about the evidence that Darrow suborned perjury from witnesses or bribed jurors. If he did, that would be a deep disappointment to learn. Darrow remains, however, a fascinating and compelling figure in the annals of lawyering and the law. I guess I'll have to check at least the Farrell bio on Darrow, won't I?

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