Wednesday, February 08, 2017

American African Doctor And the White Neighbourhood

This post of the LegalTrek series is about Dr. Ossian Sweet, who was successfully defended by Clarence Darrow 

The house of Dr. Ossian Sweet in the white neighbourhood, where he was attacked. It was designated as a Michigan State Historic Site in 1975 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985.

Life is Full of Surprises।। How  I Became A Lawyer।। Allahabad High Court Is Born।। Lucknow Bench - Historical Necessity।। Introduction to Setalvad।। Benches and The Law Commission।। Court of Appeal – Not A Good Idea: Some Suggestions।। Courtroom - Finest Legal Biography।। Leibowitz - The First Case।। Art of Cross Examination।। The Man on the Cigarette Packet।। Scottsboro Boys' Case - Facts।। Scottsboro Boys case - First Round Supreme Court।। Prejudice - the Womb Of Injustice।। Books - Best Cure For Mental Illness।। Clarence Darrow for the Defense।। Darrow - The Labour Lawyer।। American African Doctor And the White Neighbourhood।।

Dr. Ossian Sweet was American African. He took a house in the white neighbourhood. On September 9, 1925, his house was invaded by white mob, to move them out. There were eleven African Americans in the house at that time. They opened fire to to defend themselves, killing a white. They were arrested and charged with murder. Darrow defended them before all-white jury. He submitted: 

'I insist that there is nothing but prejudice in this case; that if it was reversed and eleven white men had shot and killed a black while protecting their home and their lives against a mob of blacks, nobody would have dreamt of having them indicted. They would have been given medals instead...'
There was deadlock in the jury and it was declared mistrial. 

Later, the prosecution decided to try them separately. Henry, brother of Dr Sweet, had confessed to the firing of the shot. He was tried first and found not guilty on ground of self defence. The prosecution  dropped the charges on the remaining 10. Darrow's closing statement, which lasted over seven hours, is seen as a landmark in the Civil Rights movement and was included in the book 'Speeches that Changed the World'.

Leopold and Loeb were well educated teenagers from wealthy families. They had murdered 14-year-old Robert 'Bobby' Franks for thrill. Their trial caught attention of US in 1924. There was no way that they could be acquitted but Darow saved them from gallows. But perhaps, Darrow will be remembered for Scopes' or the Monkey Trial. This we will talk in the next post.

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