Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Defense of Dr. Ossian Sweet by Clarence Darrow

What Next?

It was clear to all concerned that Robert Toms would seek to retry the case. The only question was whether he would again try all eleven defendants together, as in the first trial, or charge and try them individually. The defense had to be prepared for either eventuality.

The NAACP used this waiting period to increase its efforts at fund-raising. Ossian and Gladys Sweet were taken on a whirlwind tour, speaking in Detroit, New York, and Chicago. Among black Americans and white liberals, Dr. Sweet had become a hero, and he rose to the occasion with eloquence.

Gladys Sweet joined him on the various platforms. She had become a heroine tall, attractive, dignified the very essence of the genteel Negro woman. Together, Dr. and Mrs. Sweet captivated their audiences. These occasions not only increased fund-raising for the NAACP legal defense fund, but they assured that funds would be available for the second trial.

The question mulled by the defense was who among the eleven the prosecution would go after. The obvious choice was Ossian Sweet himself, since the prosecution's case had contended that he was the instigating force behind the so-called conspiracy to murder. But Ossian had proved to be a very sympathetic witness, who was not only unshakeable in his testimony, but impressive.

Henry Sweet
Henry Sweet

Hays thought that Moll and Toms would try to get around this problem by going after the one defendant who had admitted to firing a weapon: Ossian's youngest brother, Henry.

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