Student Perspective: Prof. Gershman as Clarence Darrow

POST WRITTEN BY: Danielle Petretta (’17), J.D. Pace Law School & Jake B. Sher (’16), J.D. Pace Law School

“Lost causes are the only ones worth fighting for.”
Clarence Darrow

Over the weekend of April 24th 2015, Pace Law School’s Criminal Justice Society produced a one-man show starring Professor Bennett L. Gershman, one of the law school’s original faculty members, as the renowned American lawyer Clarence Darrow.  Darrow, one of the most famous trial lawyers in US history, was a vital member of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Professor Gershman stunned viewers with his impressive ability to transform a script adapted from Darrow’s memoirs and speeches into a powerfully effective and moving story. Gershman embodied Clarence Darrow’s wit and passion throughout the performance as the audience journeyed through Clarence Darrow’s career history. Throughout Gershman’s rendition, he captivated the audience. Beginning in a chair in Darrow’s office, the story commenced with his first career milestone, defending the Pullman Railway Company strikers led by Eugene Debs.  The audience followed Darrow through one of his more difficult trials in which he defended two union officials accused of murder in the dynamiting of the Los Angeles Times Building; that case nearly ruined Darrow’s career and reputation. Finally, the audience roared with laughter as Gershman depicted Darrow’s cross-examination of William Jennings Bryan in The Scopes Trial, a pivotal moment in which Darrow defended a schoolteacher against a Tennessee Butler Act banning state funded schools to teach the theory of Evolution.

Viewers unfamiliar with Darrow’s career left having acquired insight into Clarence Darrow’s personal and professional career, and an inspiring look at the character that remains among the most famous attorneys in American history.

Questions of right and wrong are not determined by strict rules of logic … as long as crime is regarded as moral delinquency and punishment savors of vengeance, every possible safeguard and protection must be thrown around the accused.
Clarence Darrow, Crime: Its Cause and Treatment 283 (1922).

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