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The Clarence Darrow Letters

Clarence Darrow to Paul Darrow, June 5, 1927

Darrow had been to Dartmouth College to deliver a lecture against capital punishment. An elderly cleaning lady at the school showed him a note that had been given to her 23 years earlier by Paul Darrow. Paul, a student then, had been riding in a horse-drawn carriage when the horse became frightened by the sound of a train and bolted, killing a four-year-old child. Paul Darrow gave the note to the child's mother telling her that if any member of the Darrow family could help in the future she should show the note. Upon showing the note to Clarence Darrow, she told him her nephew, John Winters, had been convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to the electric chair in Vermont. Darrow, who was unaware of the accident or his son Paul's promise, agreed to help on Winters' appeal. Darrow and co-counsel helped Winters secure a new trial. Winters was again convicted but was sentenced to life in prison instead of death.

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

June 5 th

Dear Paul

Was automobiling yesterday and today & just returned and found your letter. When I was down to Dartmouth, one of the boys came to me and told me the lady wanted to see me and told me what it was all about. I told the boy that she must be crazy that no such thing could have happened, but I told him to bring her to me. She came and showed me your letter (it was a very nice letter) she said that you were in no way to blame[.] She told me that her nephew had been convicted and given a death sentence in an adjoining county and I had her telephone the lawyer who came over to see me. It is very doubtful if any thing can be done, but it is pending on appeal and as soon as the lawyer has the record perfected he is to send it to me and I will see what I can do with an argument in the supreme court. If they are beaten I will go with them to the Governor. She said that they could raise a little money, And I told her I didnt

want any[.] Of course I will do all I can for her. It is a matter that will not take much time or energy. I am sorry that this has bothered you all these years. Of course there was nothing you could have done to prevent it[.] Hope you can go there next year and I should be glad to go with you. I had a fine time there. Want to get this off tonight[.]