Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Defense of Dr. Ossian Sweet by Clarence Darrow

Tragic Ending

These two trials had a lasting effect on Detroit, the issue of fair housing practices, civil rights, and the future of the NAACP. Some of the participants fared well. As was pointed out earlier, Judge Murphy, Robert Moll, and Robert Toms went on to distinguished careers. Otis and Henry Sweet had successful careers as, respectively, a dentist and a lawyer. Darrow, of course, emerged from this case with his reputation enhanced (or, as most would say, confirmed) by his shrewdness and eloquence. His last famous case was a sordid murder trial in Hawaii, which he lost. Hays remained as one of the pre-eminent legal minds in the nation.

Things for the Ossian Sweet family, however, did not go quite as well. It became evident during the second trial that Gladys was ill with tuberculosis, as was their young daughter, Iva. Gladys had probably contracted the disease during her brief time in the dank Detroit jail cell, and gave it to her daughter. While Ossian moved back into the house on Garland Avenue, Gladys and Iva moved to the more hospitable climate of Arizona, attempting to shake off the disease. They returned several months later, but shortly after their return, young Iva died. Six months later, Gladys died.

Sweet home, recent
Sweet home, recent

Eventually, Dr. Sweet sold the house on Garland Avenue and moved into an apartment over a pharmacy he had purchased, in a black section of Detroit. He married twice after the death of Gladys, both marriages ending in divorce. He ran for political office and lost. As the years passed, he became an unpleasant, embittered man, plagued by arthritis, and overweight. Thirty-five years after his famous trial, on March 20, 1960, he shot himself.

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