Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Defense of Dr. Ossian Sweet by Clarence Darrow


Much of the published material on the Ossian Sweet case comes from memoirs of Darrow, Hays, James Weldon Johnson, and Walter White, and biographies of Darrow. Snatches of details can be found in these works, and they are, of course, each recalled from a particular perspective. The newspapers of the day, particularly the Detroit papers, covered the trials in detail.

In 2004, two book-length works on the case were published. Both are outstanding works. Kevin Boyle's Arc of Justice, recently issued as a paperback, is particularly strong in describing the racial and civil rights context of the case. Phyllis Vine's One Man's Castle is a thorough presentation of the courtroom scenes, interspersed with the simultaneous activities of the NAACP.

A number of websites devoted to Clarence Darrow provide various details of the case, and are worth examining. The best is:

1) Boyle, Kevin. 2004. Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder in the Jazz Age. Henry Holt.

2) Darrow, Clarence. 1996. Story of My Life. Da Capo Press.

3) Haldeman-Julius, Marcet. 1927. Clarence Darrow's Two Great Trials. Girard, Kansas: Haldeman-Julius, Big Blue Books No. B-29.

4) Hays, Arthur Garfield. 1941. Let Freedom Ring. Liveright Publishing.

5) Johnson, James Weldon. 1968. Along This Way: The Autobiography of James Weldon Johnson. Viking.

6) Stone, Irving. 1941. Clarence Darrow for the Defense. Doubleday.

7) Tierney, Kevin. 1979. Darrow: A Biography. Thomas Y. Crowell.

8) Vine, Phyllis. 2004. One Man's Castle: Clarence Darrow in Defense of the American Dream. Amistad.

9) Weinberg, Arthur. 1957. Attorney for the Damned. Simon and Schuster.

10) White, Walter. 1995. A Man Called White: The Autobiography of Walter White. University of Georgia Press.