The Trial of Henry Sweet: An Observer's Account

The account below come from Marcet Haldeman-Julius's pamphlet on the Sweet (and Scopes) trials,
Clarence Darrow's Two Greatest Trials (Haldeman-Julius Co.  1927).

Jury Selection

Opening Statements

Case for the Prosecution

Case for the Defense

Closing Arguments


Jury Selection

The trial of Henry Sweet opened on April 19, and one hundred and sixty-five men were summoned and dismissed (only twenty of them peremptorily) before Darrow was satisfied that he had selected twelve who were at least comparatively free from active prejudice against Negros.  The process took one solid week.  With infinite patience and insight he studied and sifted them.

"Well," he would say, "you’ve heard of this case, I suppose?"  (He practically always questioned jurors and most witnesses sitting and in a very colloquial not to say intimate tone.)  "Read about it?" Talked about it? Formed an opinion?  Got it yet?  And it would take evidence to change it?  Well, I s’pose you’re right.  Challenge for cause."

By his mere assumption that a man would give him only honesty, Darrow often called forth that very quality.  He would say:  "Ever had any association with any colored people?  No?  Understand, Dr. Sweet’s a colored man-bought a house in a neighborhood where there were no colored people.  Well, that’s the background. My client is a colored man.  He was in the house at the time of the shooting.  One of eleven.  Now you wouldn’t want not to be fair.  You just tell me yourself whether any views you have or surroundings you have would handicap my client or the state."  And very often the man would do that very thing-just for Mr. Darrow.  But, on the other hand sometimes the probing was as if he were cross-examining a witness.  This was when-as happened more than once-a prejudice man was deliberately to sit on the panel.  He was patient too with those who, unwilling to spare the time, said instantly that they had already formed an opinion which it would take evidence to change.  "I don’t want to coax you," he’d say, reluctant to accept what was evidently a subterfuge.  "If you feel that way we’ll have to excuse you.  Challenge for cause."  And all the time he was quietly but surely, by his very questions, educating those already selected.  (Judge Murphy gave both state and defense to understand that there was no need to hurry.  Haste is unknown in that courtroom.)  At last, on Saturday the twelve were chosen, sworn in and locked up.  They had pleasant quarters in that very building.

Beginning with the back row, from right to left, they were Charles Thorne, steamship steward retired after fifty years of service with the Detroit and Cleveland Navigation Company, eighty-two, white-haired, white-mustached, dignified; William B. Brunswick, locomotive engineer for the Michigan Central Ralrod, a middle-aged man, clear-eyed, heavy of build and of face, who looked as if he would have "to be shown"; Edward W. Bernie, a pleasant young pharmacist of twenty-four who got quite a kick out of this first experience of his as a juror, typical America as you find him today in hundreds of corner drugstores; John A. Allen, a machinist, short, spare, partly bald and thin-lipped, with keen peering blue eyes that looked through large glasses, a meticulous sort of  person; James S. Spencer, an electrician, dark, quiet, middle-aged, whose expression was consistently skeptical; Charles Phillips, an electroplater, mobile of face, kindly, prematurely gray.  Mr. Phillips and r. Thorne sat, one on each side of the back row, two white-capped pillars, the little thin-lipped man was noticeable between the tall, dark younger ones, while the heavy engineer stood out in sharp contrast to all others in the row.
 The tops of the heads of the second line of jurors were practically on a level with the chins of the first six men.  Again from right to left let me introduce: Charles L. Dann, the capable looking district manager of the C. F. Smith Grocery stores, decidedly one of the strongest characters in the group; Ralph Fuelling, eleven years in the regular army, now a water board employee, who nodded and dozed much of the time the witnesses were testifying (No. 8 is asleep again," was a whispered comment often heard), but wide-awake enough to suit anyone during the final arguments; George C. Small, whom not a word nor expression escaped, young, alert, well-groomed, dark-haired, pleasant-faced, the Detroit manager of the Cunard Anchor Lines, later foreman of the jury; Richard Adams, a retired lumberman whose gray eyes looked as if they were just going to twinkle but never quite did, a shrewd old gentleman, at peace with life, entertained by it; William John Simpson, an electrical engineer and contractor, bald except for the lower part of his head, long-nosed, with cool and calculating eyes that never warmed nor smiled; Lewis J. Sutton, the gentle-looking, loveable, old watchman at the Second Heart Seminary, who quaintly said that "all his life he had tried to love his neighbor as himself."

They ranged, you see, from twenty-four to eight-two.  Four were white-haired and beyond sixty, three between thirty-five and their late fifties.  Five were decidedly young men.  Tall and short, thickset and thin, mustached and clean-shaven, their physical disparities were no greater than their mental ones.  But if there was not one intellectual face among the twelve neither was there a stupid one.  If none of them seemed especially sensitive or fine-grained neither were any of them mean or callous.  The fact that they were in no way emotional but apparently just straightforward , average men, and that being precisely this, they voted for Henry’s acquittal, should make you realize more than anything else how brilliantly and convincingly Clarence Darrow plead the cause of the Negro he was defending.

Opening Statements

The prologue over, Toms and Darrow made their opening statements.

The state’s theory was briefly: that either Henry Sweet fired the shot which killed Leon Breiner or that he aided and abetted the man who did.  That if he did aid and abet some one or more of the persons in the house who caused the death of Breiner, his act would be their act and their act would be his.

They stressed the facts that at the moment Breiner was shot he stood about six feet from the Dove’s steps talking, pipe in mouth, to a man on the porch and that the bullet which killed him was not the only one fired.  One went through the eaves of the Dove’s house, another wounded Houghberg on the steps of the porch, two others passed through the steps, one embedded itself in a small tree on the lawn and another cut through the glass door leading up to the second floor flat inside the house.  (Whether or not all these bullets came from the Sweets in another question.  Policeman Gill insisted that he fired only one shot, but in view of all the tall and barefaced lying the men of the Detroit police force did throughout the trial, it is asking a good deal of one’s credulity to believe him.)  Much was made of the fact that there were neither, either on Charlevoix or Garland, many people on the Sweet’s side of those streets; that the yard was untrampled, the hedge unhurt and (as Mr. Toms, waxing a bit sentimental, exclaimed) "even the rose bush was left blooming."  Of course the point was stressed that Houghberg was a roomer at the Dove’s and therefore, so to speak, on his own porch.  He himself testified later that he was shaving when he first heard the shots an ran down stairs to see what was going on.  (Darrow brought out that, like the others, he didn’t intend to miss the show which he knew had been scheduled for that evening.)

Other points were that, when Dr. Sweet moved, he took with him a substantial supply of groceries (which he did), ten guns (two rifles, a shot gun, seven revolvers and pistols) and three hundred and ninety-one rounds of ammunition; that the amount of furniture taken in was very eager (after their return from Europe, where Dr. Sweet had worked under Madame Curi in Paris and attended the Eiselberg Clinic in Vienna, they had been living with Mrs. Sweet’s parents); that precautionary measures had been taken by the police department and an extra force placed around the Sweet house.

In concluding, Mr. Toms painted a quiet, neighborly, rather thickly settled modest street on which the people were for the most part sitting contentedly on their porches discussing the warmth of the peaceful evening.  On the sidewalks "a few" people (among them Mr. Breiner), on their way to and from the grocery store, had paused to greet a friend, and here and there a "little group," meeting quite by accident, had stopped for a casual chat.  Some twenty or so lulled on the schoolhouse yard.  (Disinterested witnesses testified there were not less than five hundred!)  Now and then a "a few" boys, in purely mischievous spirit, threw a stone or two at the Sweets’ house.  It was into these placid, unoffending people, the prosecution contended, that the Sweets, suddenly and without provocation shot.  (After you know more of the facts you will be better able to appreciate the grim humor of this picture.)

Clarence Darrow rose, and going straight to the jury, in quiet, colloquial, almost intimate fashion, set before them the personalities and background of Dr. Sweet and his brother Henry.  He sketched for them the necessity that faces colored folk in Detroit of moving into new territory, explained how gradually the colored district was extended:  "Sometimes leapin over a few doors, sometimes a few blocks-wherever it is extended, meeting with resistance, as people don’t want the colored man too near them."

"Well," he continued, in his apparently rambling fashion, "Dr. Sweet looked around for a house and finally determined to go here.  I think that the nearest residence occupied by colored people to this house was bout three blocks away.  In that I am not quite certain, are you?"  And he turned to Mr. Toms who nodded and replied, "Yes, three."  (It is a way Darrow has of turning informally to the prosecution-for correction or corroboration on matters of fact not debatable.  A little thing, but it helps to create an atmosphere of good feeling and sincerity.)

He went into some detail about the neighborhood of "average people."  "Not any more than average," he commented with a chuckle and a hunch of his big shoulders.  "You’ll see," he promised, "when they testify."  (They were, indeed, taken in the mass, as they appeared in court, uneducated and narrow-minded.)  He explained how they began to prepare for the reception of Dr. Sweet and his family by organizing the Waterworks improvement Association.  He related the harrowing experiences of Bristol, Turner, and Flecther, colored men who, with their families, had been ejected from their homes by mobs.  (I wrote about them in some detail last month.)  He told of the Sweets’ moving in on the morning of the eight, of the large crowd that gathered and hung around the doctor’s house all night until the early hours of the ninth.  He explained how Dr. Sweet had helped Henry in his effort to get an education.  (He was just ready for his senior year at Wilberforce College when the riot occurred)  He made very real the young man’s feeling of loyalty and obligation toward his brother and his family.

Then quite suddenly, after this half hour or so of quiet, interesting narrative, Darrow sharply, raised that flexible voice of his and not noisily but emphatically declared:  "So when Dr. Sweet moved, Henry went along with him, and he knew why he went.  We don’t propose to dodge any issue in this case.  He went to help defend his brother’s home, if need be, with his life.  I don’t know just how much of an agreement was made-but they proposed to die defending their home if necessary.  The guns (the revolvers, I believe, were in a valise and the ammunition in satchels) were with them and were not shown to the police."  One felt rather than heard the little gasp from everyone as Darrow tranquilly made this admission.  It was the touch of a master of his craft, sure of the justness of his case.

Graphically but simply he described the events of the ninth of September, made vivid "the large crowd around the Sweets that had been gathering from the four corners of the city."  Still with his hands upon the jury rail, talking in that direct man-to-man fashion, he reminded them that half an hour before the shooting the policemen upon the corner were sending out cries for aid, and diverting traffic so that one could not get to the Sweets except by parking on one of the side streets and walking up to the corner of Garland and Charlevoix, on which the doctor’s property was located.  "You gentlemen," he commented dryly at this point, "may be able to guess why all this was going on-if the evidence isn’t plain."

Lastly he reminded them that five minutes before the shooting two policemen were hastily sent up to the roof of the apartment house across the street (in order that they might look down and see who were the ring-leaders of the disturbance).  He pictured the Sweets and their friends "huddled together," agitated, going from time to time to a window to look out.  "And then," he went on sternly, "the crowd began throwing stones against the house.  The doctor and his friends were ready.  They were scared, but they were ready.  Other stones came down on the house.  Probably nobody would be able to tell you how many. You will have to guess at it.  The crowd increased, stones came through the window and they shot."  A dramatic pause.  When he went on it was to conclude very quietly:  "I don’t know any more than Mr. Toms does, how many shots were fired.  I don’t know who killed Bereiner.  Perhaps it was Henry Sweet.  I can’t tell, and he can’t."

You see from the very first moment that Darrow began to talk to the jury to the last moving words of that unforgettable summing up of his nearly three weeks later, he was inspiring in those twelve men confidence in his own integrity and the righteousness of his cause.  They felt, those men-I know they did-as you would feel, if meeting Clarence Darrow he were to sit down with you quietly and explain to you for your own particular personal benefit all the inside facts of the case.  He never quibbled.  Never once did he take refuge behind a technicality.

 "If Henry Sweet went there," he elucidated to the jurors, "or agreed after he got there to kill somebody upon a slight provocation, then he would be guilty of murder regardless of who fired the shot.  But if he went there, as we claim, for the purpose of defending his brother’s home and family as it was not only his right, but his duty to do, or if he went there for that purpose and made a mistake and shot when in fact it wasn’t necessary to kill, but he thought it was--he is innocent."

The Prosecution's Case

The state produced seventy-one eye-witnesses to prove that only "a few" were present at Charlevoix and Garland just before the shooting from the Sweets’ house.  These witnesses were of three sorts: policeman, half-grown boys, and neighbors (most of them members of the Waterworks Improvement Association).  I want you to see and hear for yourself one or two of each class.

Darrow himself cross-examined Inspector Schucknecht.  A big, burly, heavy-jawed policeman was the inspector, with ears set well down on a square head almost flat on top and straight up and down in the back.  Thick-bodied, thick-necked, and double-chinned, he had a regular bulldog face and a habit of pulling down a corner of his heavy mouth as he squinted up one eye.  Not at all a pleasant person to contemplate, I can assure you.  He has, moreover, for twenty-five years been on the force and suffers from anything but an inferiority complex.  As he sat in the witness box he rested one arm on the chair and let his hand, adorned by a huge ring on the fourth finger, swing loosely.  His tone when he was questioned by Darrow, was a miracle of patronizing patience.  His whole manner, crafty and cautious, indicated that he intended to conceal the truth and not be trapped, either, in the doing of it.  Bear in mind that his own sister and her husband (who was with Schucknecht at the corner of Garland and Charlevoix on the night of the shooting) belong to the neighborhood and are saturated with its attitude.  This, if you please, and not kind Lieutenant Hays or even Inspector McPherson, known to be fairly decent toward Negros, was the man to whom the Sweets were entrusted by a department that according to its officers’ own story feared and was all prepared for a riot.

To Darrow’s question, "Did you hear any unusual noise or shouting before the shooting?" the inspector answered bluntly: "I did not." "Humph," said Darrow dryly as he shrugged his shoulders and looked at the jury.

"Notice any automobiles?"
"Yes," Schucknecht admitted with wary condescension.  "Traffic was heavy.  We had two men to divert it."  (From this quite, tranquil neighborly street, mind you!)

But that traffic was heavy was about all that he would admit.  For he testified that he didn’t even see any taxi stop in front of the Sweet house.  (It was when Otis Sweet and Davis, a colored United States narcotic officer, who were to live with the Sweets, came home from work that the crowd, shouting "Niggers!" started the barrage of stones that precipitated the shooting.)  But Schucknecht swore, on his oath, that he didn’t see any of this; that he didn’t see any stones thrown prior to the shooting; that according to his knowledge there weren’t any stones thrown, although he did find "one stone in the house and two holes afterward."  He maintained that all of the people (including those on the porches) within a radius of a block each way from Dr. Sweet’s house, would not number more than 150; that all of these were quietly attending to their ordinary concerns; that without the slightest warning a volley of shots came out of the Sweets’ house.

Yet, as Darrow adroitly brought out, he went alone to these terrible gunmen.  The fact was, he knew very well that they were firing only in sheer desperation, defending themselves, and that at the merest hint of real protection they were only too glad to stop.  The help the noble inspector gave them was to handcuff them all, turn on the lights, throw up the blinds.  Arriving, after a hasty summons, Lieutenant Hays (whose work is among colored people) sharply ordered the doctor released and the blinds pulled down "for their protection and ours" --so his testimony ran.  It was he who discovered that in all the excitement the patrol wagon had not yet been summoned.  Taken in it to Headquarters (the Sweets did not yet know anyone had been killed) the first thing they heard was: "Why the hell did you want to move into a neighborhood where you knew you weren’t wanted?" Doggedly, persistently Darrow made it clear by his cross-examination of Schucknecht that, whatever the Inspector’s words might be, and however stoutly he might deny the presence of more than "a few" that evening, every action of his and of the rest of the police had indicated that there was a crowd and that crowd a large one.

The next witness, Lieutenant Paul Shellenberger, a much younger man, well set up, at first glance straightforward enough looking, proved upon examination to be just as stubbornly evasive, unopen and hostile as his chief had been.  Shellenberger, too, testified that he "suddenly" heard fifteen or twenty shots and saw flashes.  Whereupon, he ran to the telephone and called for reserves.  "What!" exclaimed Chawke (whose turn it was to cross-examine-he and Mr. Darrow alternated), "While the shots rained you were running?  Why didn’t you go with Schucknecht to the Sweets?"  "Why should I?" demanded the Lieutenant.  "Do you mean to say you let your superior officer go alone?  "Why certainly," was the answer.  It brought from the courtroom its first low but hearty laughter.  This followed:

Q. Did you see an unusual number of automobiles in that district while you were there that night?  (They were speaking of the ninth, the night of the shooting.)
A. (Firmly.)  I should say not.
Q. Were you present when Deputy Superintendent Sprott instructed Schucknecht to direct the traffic off of Garland Avenue?
A. I was.
Q. Did you participate in the discussion about the number of machines which were coming into that immediate neighborhood?
A. I did not.
Q. Do you know where the automobiles went after leaving Garland Avenue?
A.   I do not.
Q. Do you know how many automobiles were parked just before this shooting on any side streets east and west of Garland Avenue?
A.   I do not.
Q.   Or where the occupants of those cars went?
A.   I do not.
Q.   You do not know whether they came back, walked back to the corner of Charlevoiz and Garland, do you?
A.   I do not.
Q.   Isn’t it true now, officer, that it was because there were so many machines coming into Charlevoix and Garland, that you officers determined you would divert the traffic off of Garland so as to keep them from coming up there?
A.   No, sir.
Q.   Then why did you not stop the traffic from coming up St. Clair and Bewick?  (The streets to the right and left of Garland and parallel to it.)
A.   Because it was not necessary.
Q.   Why wasn’t it necessary?
A.   I think the streets are wider and can accommodate more cars.
Q.   (Dryly.)  Tell us how many feet wider Bewick Avenue is than Garland Avenue.
A.   (Obviously embarrassed.)  I couldn’t tell you.  I don’t think there is any difference in the width at all.
Q.   Then why didn’t you stop the automobiles from going up St. Clair and Bewick?
A.   Why should I?
Q.   Well, you did it at Garland, did you not?
A.   Yes.
Q.   Why did you do that at Garland?
A.   Because we did not want any cars in the vicinity, only what really belonged there.
Q.   Were there any persons coming into that vicinity in automobiles who did not belong in that neighborhood?
A.   Not after the traffic was diverted.
Q.   Were there before?
A.   Yes.
Q.   Who were they?
A.   I do not know.
Q.   Was traffic getting heavy?
A.   It appeared to me that people were getting curious, more so than anything else, and there was a unusual amount of traffic.
Q.   Then there was an unusual amount of automobile traffic there, wasn’t there?
A.    (And Shellenberger, realizing that, thoroughly cornered, he had contradicted himself, with a quick look at Toms, made a firm announcement for the edification of all listeners.)  There were.

I have given you this portion of one testimony in so much detail because it was typical of the testimony of all of the police to whom we listened.  With the single exception of Lieutenant Hays there was not one of the force in whom the wish to conceal, to quibble, to misrepresent  was not as obvious as in Lieutenant Shellenberger.  Make of it what you will.  I confess I often could not quite credit my own ears.

Moreover it was only by such persistent, wearing diligence that Mr. Darrow and Mr. Chawke were able to prove to the jury the fact that there was a crowd at Garland and Charlevoix on September ninth.  But prove it they did in the above fashion by not only one but by many of the state’s own witnesses who took the stand determined no one should drag the truth out of them.

It was Shellenberger, let me add, to whom Lieutenant Hays, who had been detailed to investigate the conditions in the Sweet and several neighborhoods, reported the fact that the Sweets were not going to be permitted to move in; that they were not, in all probability, going to be permitted even to unload their van.  Hays testified that he asked Shellenberger if he were prepared to protect the Sweets; that as he went on to explain the situation to him, Shellenberger "cut him off-short with ‘It’ll be taken care of.’"  "And," said Hays simply, "it was all the satisfaction he would give me."

It was during the questioning of the police that Darrow brought out that for several days the department had been expecting the disturbance; had even brought in men from another precinct; had kept the flier manned by eight or nine officers in readiness; and Walter Doran, a plain-clothes detective, with his partner, stationed for three days at Garland and Charlevoix to watch for any stones that might be thrown from automobiles.   Doran, by the way, was another who coolly testified that there was not a great number of automobiles on the night of the ninth.  A gay and lively evening of it that young man must have spent!  According to his own testimony, at eight o’clock (the shooting started at eight twenty-five) he was hastily dispatched to the station to get two other officers.  As soon as he got back, engine still chugging, he was told to "hurry up and get six more"-which, with the four men who had been there all day, and the four extra ones by which, on the late afternoon, they had been augmented, not to mention Deputy Superintendent Sprott, Lieutenant Shellenberger, Inspector Schucknecht, and Doran himself made exactly twenty officers who were fussing around that corner.  And yet it was at this moment, when they apparently most needed men, that two officers were sent up to the apartment house roof.  (These brave fellows admitted that when the shooting began they dropped hastily to their stomachs and did nothing.)  Gill (raised in Tennessee) seems to have been the only officer moved to action.  When the riot occurred, by his own testimony, he rushed into the yard and-deliberately fired at the very people whom he had been detailed to guard.

Darrow also brought out, by cross-examination, that during the whole two days these extra policemen were around the Sweet house, not one of them went up to the doctor-as they would have done to any white man under similar circumstance to say humanly and sincerely:  "We’re here.  You can count on us."  No.  Nothing like that.  They just, as they themselves put it, "stood around and observed conditions." (Almost all of them lived in that district.) Not one of them heard any disturbance, saw any crowd, heard any stones thrown and only one or two of the lot admitted that they saw even the taxi drive up and stop.

"Gentlemen," Darrow declared in his summing up to the jury, "you could have loaded that house on trucks and moved it away-the police never would have known it!"

Having established and that through the state’s own witnesses, first that there was a crowd and next that since the police were expecting that the Sweets would be attacked, the doctor and his family were justified in making the same assumption, Darrow proceeded to prove that the crowd came intending to use violent measures in ejecting the Sweets.  This he did through the people of the neighborhood.

The people who owned the house next to the Sweets were as typical as any.  Mr. Getke, a piano-tuner, was a mole-like little person, who blinked frequently and complained that "his memory always had been just naturally short."  Like most of the others who followed him he couldn’t remember anything definitely, thought he had seen this and that might have been doing so and so.  He "surmised," but didn’t know, that the crowd on the eighth (he admitted there was a crowd on the eight) might have had something to do with the Sweets arrival; he might have seen a few extra cars around there on the ninth.  Mr. Toms, instantly alert upon his admission that he had seen a crowd on the eighth, asked him, "What d you mean when you say you saw the crowd there-are you sure you saw a crowd?"  To which, after blinking rapidly for a few minutes, the little fellow replied naively enough: "I just surmised I saw it."  It was a remark which as you may well imagine brought a low amused murmur.  In an instant Chawke was on his feet.  "Why don’t you tell the truth!" he blazed.  "Was there or was there not a crowd in front of Dr. Sweet’s?"  "No," said the little mole firmly.  "You ‘surmised,’ didn’t you," demanded Chawke dryly, "that Mr. Toms wanted you to say no?  You saw between five hundred and a thousand people there, didn’t you?" "No." "What did you see?"  There was a pause and then came this answer-hat did you see?"  There was a pause and then came this answer-"Three policeman."  "That’s all?"  "Yes"  At which Mr. Chawke, with wrathfully sardonic eyes and look at the jury, dismissed him.

But I can assure you that he was frankness itself compared with his wife.  When she came in and took the stand she looked attractive enough in her dark serge suit trimmed in red, and her becoming red hat.  But as soon as she began to testify her face took on a hard, shut look.  Like most of the witnesses from that neighborhood she spoke ungrammatically.  "Far as I could see," she testified, "there was just people on their porches.  Perhaps there was some on the sidewalk.  I don’t know."  (As Darrow brought out from the different witnesses, there were at least fifty people in her direct line of vision.)  She admitted she had learned that the Sweets were coming, but didn’t know from whom she had heard it, or when.  She didn’t now when she had joined the Waterworks Improvement Association, or why.  Cornered by Darrow, she said, eyes partly closed, hostility pouring from her:  "I joined because my husband did."  Darrow at last, usually patience personified, was exasperated almost beyond endurance and exclaimed, "Remember you are under oath!"  She retorted in a hard tone, "I am well aware of that."  Not if she could help it were the Sweets ever going into that house jus fifteen feet from hers!  She insisted that she, had no idea of the purpose if the Association and didn’t know one person who belonged to it.  "Is there," drawled out Darrow, "anything you do know?"

The gist of all the testimony was strikingly the same.  They "didn’t know," had "seen only policemen," had noticed "only a few people," no more than just "the usual number" of little groups chatting here and there.  Mr. Dove testified that ten or fifteen people were on the lawn when Breiner was standing there in front of his house.  Mrs. Dove said cautiously "there might have been some people-but she didn’t see any."  (The Doves were a young couple-in their late twenties, I should judge.  They would have been likeable enough, too, in their own way, had not their resentment and injustice toward the Sweets, people infinitely their superiors, made them seem as absurd as they were vindictive.)

Well, so it went.  Try as they would, for a week, neither Darrow nor Chawke could either surprise or patiently dig out of anyone the admission that violence toward the Sweets ever had been discussed, much less advocated.

And presently we found ourselves listening to some boys.  One testified that there were seven of them on the Dove lawn-across from the Sweets-that three of them were throwing stones at the Sweets’ house and no tried to stop them.  Another, Willard (I didn’t catch his last name), testified that there were "just a few loose people" on the schoolhouse yard.  Having caught the tone of his elders he couldn’t even remember the names of any of the boys with whom he had played baseball that evening.  "But there must have been eight of us," he volunteered.  "We were just playing scrub."  Darrow wisely discussed the national game with him and he became quite suddenly natural and so human that when Darrow asked casually, "Why didn’t you go down to St. Clair that evening instead of over to Garland?" he answered readily enough, "Oh, there wasn’t any people there and over at Garland the people were all-"  Suddenly he stopped, embarrassed, realizing what he had done.  Darrow asked him why he didn't go on.  He flushed and said quite simply:  "I got mixed up."  "Because," said Darrow very gently, "you’ve been told by everybody you know not to say there were more than ‘a few.’"  The boy continued to look very uncomfortable.  "Is there any reason," Darrow continued in the same kind tone, "why you don’t want to tell the truth?"  Even as he spoke he turned to the record of the last trial and read the boy’s own testimony at that time:  "I saw people gathered over there [Garland and Charlevoix] and so I went over."  Having made the one slip nothing more was to be got out of him.  Like the others he hadn’t seen anybody he knew, didn’t remember anybody he had seen, saw no one throw any stones, saw no glass break, saw no one drive up to the Sweets’ house in a taxi, and so, of course, saw no one get out.  "And if there had been any stones thrown, you’d have seen them," said Darrow suavely.  "Yes."  "Couldn’t have been any thrown without your knowing it?" "No, sir."  With one of his rare grins Darrow announced mildly, "Well, I guess we’ll have to give up the stones."  Everybody smiled.

A fat, pudgy, self-contained man, who ran a billiard hall and lived one block west of the Sweets, couldn’t even remember the name of the neighbor (although he had lived close to him eleven years) who asked him to join the Waterworks Park Association.  In fact he couldn’t even remember whether he had joined before or after the shooting and had no idea why the meeting at the Howe school (he did admit attending it) had adjourned to the outside.  (It was because the crowd was so large and there wasn’t space in any of the rooms.)  "They may have gone out to cool off," suggested Moll in an aside.  Darrow gave him a disgusted look.  Angrily he snorted:  "They gathered out there to heat up!"

Yet it was from this man that he got one of his first admissions so necessary to convince the jury that the attitude of the neighborhood was defiantly hostile.  For by brilliant and patient cross-examination, he ferreted out the confession that this Miller did want to keep colored people out of the district.  But, he insisted, only by "legal measures."

And then on Saturday one Mr. Andrews was called to the stand.  It was the end of the week and Darrow was tired and worn out with the consent evading and almost unbroken effort to misrepresent.  Moreover, he had a bad cold.  He looked that morning like a cross, rumpled lion.  Not for the world would I have stood in Mr. Andrews’ shoes as Darrow grimly surveyed him.

Now Andrews was somewhat different from his predecessors.  Prejudiced against Negros he might be and was; and hostile to the Sweets.  He didn’t want them in his neighborhood.  But he was neither a coward nor an arrant liar.  Even at that Darrow had anything but an easy job to pry out of him the facts.  Finally he admitted that the man who talked at the Howe School meeting was from the Tireman Avenue Improvement Association.  (In driving out Mr. Turner, a colored man, from their district the people of this association literally tore off his roof.)  Followed a long and searching cross-examination in which Andrews admitted that the speaker "had called a spade a spade when he talked."  "Why can’t you do it?" Darrow demanded.  "Now, can’t you put it just the way he did?"  "This man was an outsider.  I can’t recall his name now."  "Certainly not."  Darrow agreed dryly, "but what did he say?"  And at last after digging and worrying at Andrews and much hedging on the latter’s part we actually heard this:  "He said that they-he offered the support of the Tireman Avenue Improvement Association to the Waterworks Improvement Association to handle the problem that it was up against."  More wearing cross-examination-patient, detailed, adroit, on Darrow’s part; cautious, reluctant, but not dishonest Andrews’, and then, from Darrow:  "Did he say they-the organization-made the Turners leave the house?"  "Yes, he did."  Andrews admitted further that the speaker had said "they didn’t want colored people in the neighborhood and proposed to keep them out."  He was, he added, "very outspoken in his statements."  He admitted that he himself had applauded this speech.  To Darrow’s question "that is just the way you felt then and the way you feel now?"  Andrews answered, "Yes, I haven’t changed."  "You felt just the same as the speaker about not letting them out there?"  "If by legal means we could restrict them."

Now by this time the phrase "legal means" was just one little phrase that Clarence Darrow was heartily tried of hearing. He shoved his hands way down into his pockets, let his face fill with withering scorn, hunched his shoulders.  He was in full cry after his quarry:

Q. Did the speaker talk about "legal mans"?
A. I admitted to you that this man was radical.
Q. Answer my question.  Did he talk about legal means?
A. No.
Q. He talked about driving them out, didn’t he?
A. Yes, he was radical-I admit that.
Q. You say you approved of what he said and applauded it, didn’t you?
A. Part of his speech.
Q. In what ways was he radical?
A. Well, I don’t-I myself do not believe in violence.
Q. I didn’t ask you what you believed in.  I said in what ways was he radical?  Anything more you want to say about what you mean by radical, that he advocated?
A. No, I don’t want to say any more.
Q. You did not rise in that meeting and say, "I myself don’t believe in violence," did you?
A. No; I’d had a fine chance with 600 people there!
Q. What?  You would have caught it, yourself, wouldn’t you?  You wouldn’t have dared to do it at that meeting?

Before he could reply Toms exclaimed in much excitement, "Don’t answer it! Adding, as he turned to the judge, "I object to it as very, very improper," to which Judge Murphy returned in that calming voice of his; "The objection is sustained."

Darrow (knowing very well just how neatly Toms interruption had underscored the moment) continued again:

Q. What did you mean by saying you had a fine chance?

Toms-obviously nervous-again interrupted:   "Wait a minute.  Did you get the Court’s ruling?"

Q. What did you mean by that?
A. You imagine I would have made myself heard with 600 people there?  I wasn’t on the platform.
Q. What did you mean by saying you would have had a fine chance in that meeting where 600 people were present-to make the statement that you said?
A. I object to violence.
Q. Did anybody-did anybody in that audience of 600 people protest against advocating against colored people who moved into the neighborhood?
A. I don’t know.
Q. You didn’t hear any protest?
A. No.
Q. You only heard applause?
A. There was-as I stated-this meeting in the schoolyard-
Q. You heard nobody utter nay protest, and all the manifestation you heard was applause at what he said?
A. Yes, that is all.

Perturbed, Mr. Toms took him at once for redirect examination.  "did he advocate violence?" he demanded.  The cue was obvious, but Andrews had gone much too far to retract and knew it.  "I said this man was radical," he returned stiffly.  "I know you did," persisted Toms.  "Did he advocate violence?"  There was a pause-then:  "Yes," said Andrews.

This was one of the high points of the trial.  And rounding as it did the second week of it, the jury had something over which to ponder until the following Monday.  It was in fact the end of the first act of this stirring drama.

By the time that the state rested its case on the following Wednesday, to all intents and purposes the neighborhood into which the Sweets moved had been tried and found guilty.  It is difficult to make you realize just how patiently, surely, and brilliantly Mr. Darrow, with Mr. Chawke’s most able assistance, refuted the state’s case by the very witnesses brought to prove it.

Case for the Defense

On Thursday of the third week, the Defense began to present its own [case].

Its witnesses fell also into groups-white and colored.  Of the colored folk none had seen the actual shooting, but Mr. and Mrs. Spaulding had driven by their car just before the streets that led to the Sweets’ corner were blocked off.  Mrs. Spaulding, who for some years has been a social service worker with the Detroit branch of the Urban League, and who was not personally with the Sweets, testified that she thought at first the people must be going to some kind of meeting, but the expression on their faces made her realize that something serious was happening.  Then she saw the crowd in the school house yard.  "There were about twice as there are in this room," she explicitly, in her pleasant, cultivated voice.  Her thought was, naturally enough, that there must have been an accident.  Her husband told her he conjectured might be the true cause.  For although he had not known that the Sweets had moved into the house, he did know that it belonged to them, and that they had dreaded and put it off attempting to occupy it.  He himself (an Ann Arbor man) testified as to the crowd that stretched down Charlevoix to St. Clair a block beyond Garland.  There is a filling station at that point and at least a hundred and fifty people had gathered around it.  Both Mr. And Mrs. Spaulding, very light mulattos, well dressed and courteous in their manner, spoke perfect English.  They made a striking contrast to the ill-bred, ill-mannered, arrogant and pert white men and women who had preceded them, all of whom, much to Darrow’s amusement, consistently pronounced Goethe Street as if it were spelled Go-thie.

James Smith, a very dark young man, testified that as he and his uncle (neither of whom had ever heard of the Sweets or their trouble) were driving home from an errand, they saw, when they reached St. Clair, between five hundred and a thousand people on Charlevoix between them and Garland.  There were two solid lines of cars and a policeman explained to him that he would "better step on it and get out of there."  He tried to take the advice, but the crowd was so thick that he could make but little progress.

The testimony of Robert Smith (James Smith’s uncle) had to be read, for he had died since the other trial.  He must have been a colorful soul, for ungrammatical as much that he said was, his testimony, as read in a monotone by Mr. Chawke, set before us a character simple, truthful, proud of itself and independent.  "I goes where I goes, and pas as I goes,"  was one of the answers he made to repeated interrogations as to why, why, why he had happened to be on Charlevoix that evening.  "I was goin’ to dinner," he said, "and when I wants to eat anywhere I goes by any street I pleases."  There was something eerie in the thought of this voice speaking so firmly from the grave.  For even if he made us smile a little every few lines, he told a story that carried weight.  With his nephew and himself had been a friend and as the car crawled along the crowd began stoning it, shouting: "There’s niggers now!  Get ‘em! They’re going to the Sweets’."  "Who was these Sweets, that’s what I wanted to know," the testimony ran.  As the people surged around the car the man with the Smiths stepped to the running board, put his hand to his hip pocket (in which there was no revolver) and threatened to shoot the first man who touched them.  The ruse worked.  You ma believe they were glad when they could once more draw a free breath.

Besides the character witnesses, which included Dr. Jones, the president of Wilberforce College, a man of real achievement, educated lagely in German universities, there were Serena Rochelle and Edna Butler, both of whom testified as to the crowd on the night of the eighth.  Going out that evening to help Mrs. Sweet decide about draperies, they had been afraid to go home and had stayed until the next morning.

There was also the real estate agent who had made the sale between Dr. Sweet and the Smiths who owned the property before him.  Interestingly enough this Mr. Smith, who had testified, was himself a colored man, but his race was so nearly imperceptible that the foreign people in the neighborhood, quite a number of whom were in point of fact considerably darker than he, were never quite sure whether or not the rumor that he was a Negro was true.  He himself took it for granted that they knew that he was and one of the reasons Dr. Sweet felt reassured about purchasing the property was that Mr. Smith himself had never been molested.  You see, at that time there was no Waterworks Improvement Association.

Last of the colored witnesses came John C. Dancy, a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, dark, poised, charming, head of the Detroit branch of the Urban League.  He gave facts and statistics about the growth of the colored population, the expansion of the Negro district and housing problems in such an interesting, convincing manner that he quite held the whole courtroom spellbound.  Even Mr. Toms said in all sincerity, "It’s so interesting, I hate to leave it."  You can get some idea of the Negro problem when you realize that in 1910 there were only 6,000 of them in Detroit: in 1920 over 42,000, and in 1926, 8,000.   He added that 1922 was the year in which the largest group of Negros came up from the South.  "By group," rumbled Darrow, "I suppose you mean ‘a few’."  Needless to say even the members of the prosecution joined in the general smile.     Young Dancy brought out one interesting point and that was that the common acceptance of the theory that Negros in a neighborhood depreciate property is not entirely substantiated by the facts.  A small four room house, we learned, which would ordinarily rent for forty dollars a month would, if rented to colored people, bring forty-five dollars.  A man with property to sell invariably received more if the purchaser were a Negro.  Many houses sold to white people in a block in which there were one or two colored families have rented approximately the same amount as a similar house in a comparable neighborhood which was all white.

Now, of course, just as the state’s witnesses, because of their eagerness to keep the Sweets from returning to their own home, were obviously prejudiced, so one could say that all these colored people could not help being influenced by the fact that they, too, were Negros.  But the defense produced three white witnesses whose testimony was wholly disinterested.

The first of these was a rather slow-thinking but honest youth, Ray Larenze, who worked in the tire shop where Shellenberger ran to telephone for the reserves.  He was, in fact, a most reluctant witness and came only when he was subpoenaed.  He testified that there were at least 500 people in the schoolyard.

Phillip Adler, for eight years general reporter and special feature writer for papers in various large cities, now on the Detroit News and a lecturer in the University of Detroit, told a convincing story.  Together with his wife and little girl he was out riding in their car when, coming down St. Clair to Charlevoix, he noticed the extraordinary gathering of people all long the block.  Like Mrs. Spaulding, he thought there must have been an accident at Garland and Charlevoix.  As by this time traffic was being diverted, policemen would not allow him to turn into Charlevoix so he kept straight on, circled around and cut through an alley to Garland, where he parked his car and, having a nose for news, went down toward the Sweet house.  He testified that the people on Garland seemed to be mostly men in their shirt sleeves with a general air of belonging in that vicinity, quite different from the five hundred or so at the Charlevoix side of the corner.  "It was," he explained succinctly, "a riotous crowd.  It was not a quiet crowd."  As he neared the Dove house he "experienced difficulty of movement."  Wondering what it could all be about he inquired of the people through whom he was elbowing his way, and was told that "some nigger family had moved in there and the people were trying to get rid of them."

About this time he heard stones hitting the house.  "I have," he stated clearly to a courtroom worn out with conflicting testimonies, "I have a very vivid impression about the stones in my mind, because I heard a popping sound, a pelting sound like that," and he illustrated it by hitting the fist of one hand smartly in the palm of the other at short intervals, making a veritable rat-a-tat-tat,  "I couldn’t figure out just what it was at first," he continued, explaining further that, as he had his little girl with him the shots rang out, he thought it best to take her home.

He was followed by a German women (Mrs. Hintiez) whose goodness fairly shown from her face  For years she and her husband have owned a home that backs on the same alley that the Sweets property does.  She testified that on that evening of the ninth she started to the grocery store to get her little dog some milk.  But seeing the crowd at the corner of Garland and Charlevoix she did not like to go through it and returned home, where she hung out some washing.  "And the," she said, "I stepped me by the alley door."  Standing there she saw policemen run through the alley into the Sweet yard and in a moment heard three shots.  There was s short interval and then came a whole volley.  (This bears out exactly the story to which Henry Sweet has always stuck--that shots were fired first from without the house, and that the Sweets thought they were aimed at them.  But you can imagine, perhaps, in view of all the difficulty Darrow had to prove even the crowd, how impossible it would have been to show--if Henry is right--exactly when and by whom these shots were fired.)  No better educated than her neighbors, with whom she lived peacefully, there was this difference between them and Mrs. Hintiez--in her heart there was no hatred.

Remained one witness as powerful in it impression as any in the flesh.  It was July 12th issue of the Detroit Free Press.  Every word of the article, from which I have already quoted, was read into the record.  One could almost see it register with the jury.

Mr. Darrow and Mr. Chawke did not feel it necessary to put Henry himself on the stand.  But they did call Dr. Sweet.  He testified that when they were arrested, "knowing themselves to be in a hostile camp," among enemies who might try to use anything they said to incriminate them, they had, in order not to involve each other (each of the eleven was questioned separately), denied everything and been as non-committal as was humanly possible.  Henry, not as adroit, had both admitted more of the truth than the others and at the same time made more misstatements.  Darrow dealt with the situation in his summing up in a manner that left no doubt in anyone’s mind that , denied a lawyer as they were, refused even the privilege of telephoning one, they acted as any sensible person under similar circumstances, whether guilty or innocent, should have acted.  None of the statements, Darrow pointed out, were given under oath nor given voluntarily.  All Friday afternoon and Saturday morning the doctor was on t stand.  The reason was obvious.  It was for him and because of his danger that Henry had fired.  There was nothing dramatic about his cross-examination.  Toms was determined to lead him into some contradictory statement.  Dr. Sweet, mindful that Henry’s future might be wrecked by a careless word, was on his guard.  Much of the time it reminded one of a duel with swords.  The doctor neither weakened nor strengthened the case.  The fact was that every point had already been clearly made by Darrow.  Sweet’s testimony closed the third week and the second act of the trial.

Closing Arguments

There was a buzzing, a humming, on the morning of Darrow’s final argument.  Expectancy filled the crowd.  As quietly as when he made his opening statements, Darrow went over to the jury.

"Mr. Moll has told you," he began, "that this is a case of murder.  That there is no prejudice in it.  I haven’t a doubt but what all of you are prejudiced against colored men--maybe one or two of you are not.  We don’t want to be prejudiced, but we are.  I fancy everyone of you is, otherwise you’d have some companions in that race.  I believe you’ve tried to rise above it, but to say there is no prejudice in this case is nonsense.  You gentlemen, bring these feelings into the jury box--they are part of your lifelong training.  You needn’t tell me you’re not prejudiced.  All I hope for is that you’re strong enough, honest enough, decent enough to lay prejudice aside in this case.  Would that mob have been standing in front of that house if the people there weren’t black?  Would anybody be asking you to send this boy to prison for life if he were not black?  Is Mr. Moll right when he says prejudice has nothing to do with this case?  Scorn dripped from his tone.  "Take the hatred out of this case and you have nothing left."

He took up Moll’s statement that the state held a brief for Breiner.  "Since he has talked about Breiner, I’m going to talk about him," he declared.  "Henry Sweet never knew such a man lived as Breiner.  Somebody shot into the crowd and Breiner got it.  I’ll tell you who he was--he was a conspirator in as foul a conspiracy as ever was hatched--to drive from their home a little group of black people and to stab the Constitution under which they lived.  He had already been down to the corner two or three times that night and had come back to Dove’s steps where the crowd had collected.  If Breiner was innocent, then every man there was innocent.  There were no innocent people there.  They had gathered as the Roman populace gathered at the Coliseum to see the slaves fed to the lions.  He s there while boys came and stoned these black people’s home.  Did he raise his hand to stop them?  No.  He was there for a circus and the circus hadn’t begun.  They had come early (those people at the Dove house) to take their places at the ring side."

Scathingly he showed the absurdity of Moll’s characterization of them as a "neighborly crowd."  "Neighbors!  Bringing the Sweets greetings and good cheer!  Where did he get that fool word anyhow! Neighbors in the sense an undertaking is when he comes to carry out a corpse--but it was the wrong corpse.

He emphasized that for nearly a year the Sweets had not been able to occupy their home, that for three months last fall they were kept in jail.  "Where," he demanded, "do we live?  Are we human!  Moll said no one disputed their right to live in that house.  Yet the people met to drive them out.  These same people have lied and lied and lied to send them to prison so they won’t come back."
     "I want to be fair" --he drawled, adding in that candid way of his--ánd if I did not, I think it would pay me to be.  Are the people in this neighborhood worse than other people?  They’ve lied and are trying to get you in on the job, but are they any worse than other people  I don’t think they are.  What do you know about prejudice?  Those people honestly believe they are better than the blacks.  I don’t.  They honestly believe colored people are an inferior race.  They are obsessed with fanaticism.  And when people are obsessed with fanaticism they become cruel.  But gentlemen, they ought to ask you to be cruel for them.  It’s a pretty dirty job to turn over to a jury."
      And then succinctly, accurately, he began to tear to pieces, shred by shred, the testimony the state had offered.  He brought out both all the conflicting points and all the significant similarities of phrasing.  Apparently not a word had escaped him.  Moll Had spoken iof facts and suddenly under Darrow’s sure hand they peppered forth like well-aimed shots from a gatling gun.  It was a masterly proceeding, that swift, unerring, sifting analysis of testimony.  It kept us on the jump just following it.  And as Clarence Darrow knows only too well that not for long can the average man hold his mind to its highest level, he let light and shade flicker through all his utterance.  At one moment lumps were in our throats.  At another we were smiling.  It was in this mood that we listened to his review of the mothers looking for their children, "gathering the chickens before the storm" --if indeed they were speaking the truth and were not intent merely upon joining the crowd of fathers who, also grown suddenly dutiful, were quite as diligently searching for their sons.  Yet even in such moments Darrow’s scorn simmered.  Never were we allowed, by some subtle magic of his own, to forget that before Henry loomed imprisonment.
     Presently under the lash of Darrow’s tongue came, one by one, the people who had testified that there were only forty or fifty at the Howe school meeting: "Andrews was the only man who remembered who spoke at the meeting or what the speaker said.  Did the others lie?  Yes, they lied.  They lied because they knew that the speaker had urged men to return to the primitive beasts that roamed the jungle and with their bare hands or clubs drive out these black people from their home.  And there were detectives there!  (Schuknecht had admitted this.)  They had heard a man make a speech that would have sent any colored man or political crusader to jail.  Advocating violence!  Why wasn’t he arrested?  A man haranguing a crowd to violence and crime in the presence of officers!  And the crowd applauded this mad and criminal speech."  I can assure you that he left no doubt in the jurors’ minds of the animus of the crowd that (make up of these self-same people) a few weeks later "gathered there with the backing of the law; who let the children go in front of them and throw stones--like a band of coyotes baying a victim to death."
     And then he came back to the economic side of it.  He pointed out that the Negros in Detroit had to live somewhere.  In Jovian fashion he dealt squarely with the depreciation-of-property fear offered by the neighborhood as a justification.  He pointed out that buying property always had been a gamble--that in olden days it was a livery stable that people used to dread.  Now a garage or even a filling station, could bring property values down over night.  Yet citizens would not consider themselves privileged, because of this fact., to mob the owners.
     He reminded the jury that the Police Department of Detroit had felt it necessary "to detail four policemen to see that a family could move into a house they owned without getting their throats cut."  "No race problem in this!" he exclaimed.  "Oh, no, this is a plain murder case."  Then after a pause, "Pretty tough, isn’t it?  Aren’t you glad you aren’t black!  You deserve a lot of credit for it."

     Quietly, abruptly, he turned from all the data with which, as with bits of a puzzle, he had been building a picture of the truth and reflectively, in scholarly fashion, he began to teach.  "Nature," he explained, "has her own way.  She has plenty of time.  She sends a glacier across a continent and it takes fifty thousand years before the land is fit to plow again. . . .   She wants to make a race and it takes an infinite mixture o do it . . . sometime we’ll look back on a trial like this with a feeling of shame and disgust.  If a colored man hasn’t a right to live somewhere--" it was a mellow Darrow speaking at this point--"you’d better take him out and kill him."  Then sharply, "Did the Sweets have a right to be afraid?  These people had come over to drive them out.  Henry knew it.  The people knew it.  The Sweets were confronted with the mob.  They were menaced.  Their house was stormed.  They shot."

I have barely skimmed a few of the points that Darrow made in that beautiful, long plea, given in the moving majestic fashion that is possible only because of the wealth of his own nature.  It would take an article far longer than this in its entirely to review it properly.  "You have," he said to the jurors, as he neared the end of his argument, "a chance to pass upon a real case that will man something to the race.  Your verdict means something more than a verdict for this boy.  It is a milestone."

Turning to Henry he cried, tone and gesture charged with tragic import, "What’s this boy done?  Am I standing in a court of justice where twelve men are asked to take away his liberty?  Maybe Dr. Sweet ought not to have gone there.  Maybe they erred in judgement.  Maybe Henry shot too quick, but Dr. Sweet was his brother, he loved him, he had taken him into his home, he was helping him get his education to take his place in the world  Henry went to help defend his brother.  Do you think more or less of him for it?  The president of his college, his teachers, his bishop, have testified that he is kind, well-disposed--as decent as any of you twelve men.  Do you think he should be taken out of school, and put into the penitentiary?

Twice he almost concluded, and then, as if some deep instinct warned him that he had not yet said quite all--that perhaps he had left uncovered in the minds of those men before him some tiny point upon which might hinge that kind, splendid young colored chap’s whole future--he would go on.  Few of us will ever forget the picture of him as he stood, worn after the long day of intense, if for the most part quiet, pleading.  With arm uplifted, on a level with his breast, hand out-spread in that typical gesture of his when he wants his listeners to concentrate, his eyes searching the very hearts of the member before him, he spoke once more of the long road ahead of the Negro, of the sorrows, the tribulations, that confronted him, urged the jury not to put anything further in his way; impressed upon them the desperate need both white and colored folk had for sanity and courage.  "I ask you, gentlemen," he said, "in behalf of the progress and understanding of the human race that you return a verdict of ‘Not Guilty.’"  To many of us he seemed like one of the prophets of old come to speak a word of warning and of guidance.  That plea was a mighty climax which made inevitable the final curtain. [LINK TO COMPLETE DARROW SUMMATION]

The last act of this drama opened the next day with Mr. Toms rebuttal.  It was not such a poor summing up, either, but somehow it reminded one of the clatter of folding chairs after a symphony concert.

The Verdict

Wednesday, Judge Murphy, in a masterly and fearless charge, set forth the law.  He left little doubt of the jury’s duty.  All afternoon these twelve men deliberated.  Once they sent out for further instructions and loud wrangling issued as the door opened.  The judge refused, saying that he had covered everything in his charge.  People were scattered all through the building.  Newspapermen kept their eyes on the clock, thoughts of the last edition in their minds.  Only Gladys Sweet and a few of her friends waited inside the enclosure.

Suddenly, at one minute to five, came a loud knocking on the jury door.  There was n inpouring from the halls.  In the excitement no one could locate that engaging, ever sociable person, Frank Nolan, the clerk.  Judge Murphy, in a voice raised for him, put his head into the courtroom and said sternly: "Don’t bring that jury in until we are ready for them."  People continued to gather swiftly until the room was more crowded than on any day of the trial.  A wait, while throats tightened.  In desperation, another clerk was secured.  Henry Sweet, his hands pressed together, stood for a moment, his face to the wall.  His chin quivered.  At last--the jury door was unlocked, and the men in single file, marched in, headed by the foreman.  The regular question was put:  "Have you gentlemen in the course of your deliberations reached a verdict in the case of Henry Sweet?  And if so who will answer for you?"  And then (from the Cunard Anchor Lines man):  "We have and I will."  Stillness that pressed and hurt.  With an effort, Small cleared his throat.  "Not Guilty,"" he said, and his voice broke.

Toms, incredulous, asked to have the verdict repeated.  And then, in the emotional relief, there were sobs, laughs, warm congratulations.  Few eyes were dry.  Even that cool, unemotional man, Mr. Chawke, was unable for a moment to speak.   Tears rolled down the checks of Clarence Darrow and of Henry Sweet.

Sweet Trials Page