Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Defense of Dr. Ossian Sweet by Clarence Darrow

An Ominous Atmosphere

By Sept. 1, Dr. Sweet and his family were ready to move into their new house. Cognizant of Dr. Turner's plight, Sweet decided to have his two brothers, Otis and Henry, as well as several friends, help with the move. In this way, they could avoid the reaction of his new neighbors to the threatening presence of a moving van. They began the moving process on Sept. 8. That evening, crowds of neighbors stood on sidewalks across the street, while others sat on their front steps and porches and watched. To Ossian Sweet, the atmosphere seemed ominous.

Dr. Otis Sweet
Dr. Otis Sweet

The next night, with eight police officers stationed around the neighborhood as protection for the Sweet's house, Ossian reinforced his new home by asking his brothers and seven friends and acquaintances to stay with them. Clearly, they were anticipating some action by the neighbors, who were again dispersed on the sidewalks, front steps, and porches.

Some time after 6 p.m., Otis Sweet and William Davis, a friend of Ossian's, drove up in a cab. As they ran for the door, cracked open to let them in, a crowd of several hundred began to chant "Nigger, Nigger, get the Niggers," and unleashed a barrage of stones.

William E. Davis, friend
William E. Davis, friend

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