Inspiration for Your Oral Arguments

As the 1Ls deliver their oral arguments this weekend as part of the Charles-Evans Hughes Moot Court Competition, they may draw inspiration from the words of attorney Clarence Darrow, arguably one of the greatest orators of the 20th Century. 94 years ago this August, Darrow delivered “perhaps the most eloquent argument ever made against the death penalty” in defense of 18 year-old Richard Loeb and 19 year-old Nathan Leopold, Jr. (“Commentary: The original ‘affluenza’ case: Leopold and Loeb,” Chicago Tribune, March 31, 2016).

Loeb and Leopold, who had pleaded guilty to kidnapping and murdering 14 year-old Bobby Franks the previous May, faced the possibility of the death penalty. The offspring of wealthy men, Leopold and Loeb, who had committed a “senseless” crime that shocked the country, demonstrated a courtroom demeanor that did not awaken sympathy to their causes (“Commentary,” Chicago Tribune). Darrow’s thoughtful eloquence, however, succeeded in persuading Judge John Caverly to spare their lives. Instead, Judge Caverly sentenced the defendants to life in prison plus 99 years (“Leopold and Loeb’s Criminal Minds,” Smithsonian Magazine, August 2008).

If you would like to read Darrow’s own prose, Chicago-Kent Law Library has some books that you may want to look at. Some examples are:

Closing arguments : Clarence Darrow on religion, law, and society, by Clarence Darrow and S. T. Joshi.

Attorney for the Damned: Clarence Darrow in the Courtroom, edited by Arthur Weinberg.

Best of luck on those oral arguments!

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