The Clarence Darrow Digital Collection
Written letter from Clarence Darrow collection
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The Clarence Darrow Letters

Clarence Darrow to Paul Darrow, June 25, 1913

Darrow's remark about the "Arson case" refers to a 1913 arson trial. In 1912 Paul and Edward Covitz, two brothers who were also woolen merchants in Chicago, approached a public insurance adjuster named Joseph Clarke. Clarke was part of a nationwide arson ring; the Covitz brothers requested he torch their business. Clarke arranged this but the fire that was set on the night of November 5, 1912 was obviously arson and the three were arrested and indicted by a Cook County grand jury in April of 1913 for arson and burning to defraud. The arsonist was also arrested. Just three days after he was arrested, Clarke tried to bribe one of the assistant state's attorneys to quash the proceedings before the grand jury. Clarke was arrested for the bribery attempt. Darrow defended at least one of the defendants, most likely Clarke, because Darrow is named as counsel for Clarke on his appeal. During the trial, evidence of Clarke's bribery attempt was ruled admissible to show that Clarke was in the conspiracy with the Covitz brothers and equally guilty with them of causing the fire. The defendants were convicted by a jury in August and sentenced to the Joliet penitentiary. Their convictions were upheld by the Supreme Court of Illinois in 1914.

Click on the image to view as a PDF. A transcription of the letter is on the right.




June 25  '13

Dear Paul

I have not yet got any definite news from L.A. It looks as if it would be all right though I dont know when. Any how I am not worrying they cant hurt me[.] You had better give your mother $60 a month?if I am obliged to go to trial again we can reduce it while it is running. I have been busy on the Arson case not a chance to win[.] Dont get much out of it only $300 though best to have it known I was here. Got 350 last week speaking & shall do some more this summer probably 10 to 15 at about 100 net[.] Think I can do a good deal next fall & winter if I wish. Am glad your business is looking up[.] Was talking with Canfield about the possibility of making some consolidations on the

basis of each taking bonds on old plants for their value & then consolidation stock somewhere in [?] to value. Of course it is not in good [?] to do. But you could run it & have salary raised & stop competition & shut off about 5000? a year expense & give you more time & perhaps it could be figured out to be a good thing[.] Baer will talk with you when he comes. But I wont do any thing that dont appeal to you & him. It is time though that you had a larger field.

I shall not change insurance policy to pay more. If my case is finished & we are out of danger of financial trouble as we will be in that event. I think it would be best to drop it. I find that in four years my rate will be about doubled xxx then if I should live 10 more doubled again so we cant beat the game[.] In the mean time there will be nothing to pay in August & by the time the next xxx payment is due we can make up our mind. Am quite sure I shall be there by this summer.