CHICAGO On the seventy-sixth anniversary of famed attorney Clarence Darrow's death, this year's annual Darrow commemoration on Thursday, March 13, looks at the "The Death of the American Trial" with professor Robert P. Burns, author of a 2009 book by the same title.
A special unique aspect of this year's event will be several dozen Darrow-related items from the collection of the late actor Leslie Nielsen, courtesy of his widow Barbaree Earl. Nielsen was a fan but also played the attorney in theatrical productions. The collection includes videos, playbooks and other items treasured by the actor, known for his wide range of projects including Airplane!, The Naked Gun series and numerous TV roles.
The day begins with a brief ceremony near the Darrow Bridge in Jackson Park at 10 a.m., where Darrow's ashes were scattered after his death and where, as a bet, he once agreed his spirit would return if it turned out communication was possible from the afterworld. The bridge is closed due to construction, so the ceremony will be just to the east of the Darrow tribute marker. For the past 57 years, through the annual commemoration ceremony and lecture, Darrow's spirit has returnedusually to remind us that his work is not yet done.
After the ritual outdoor wreath-tossing ceremony, guests will move inside to the Museum of Science and Industry's New Columbia Room for a lecture and discussion on the uncertain future of the American trial.
The author of several books on the American trial, including "The Death of the American Trial" ( 2009 ), Robert Burns makes an impassioned case for reversing the rapid decline of the trial before we lose one of our public culture's greatest achievements. As a practice that is adapted for modern times yet rooted in ancient wisdom, the trial is uniquely suited to balance the tensionsbetween idealism and realism, experts and citizens, contextual judgment and reliance on rulesthat define American culture. In his books, Burns depicts the trial as "an institution employing its own language and styles of performance that elevate the understanding of decision makers, bringing them in contact with moral sources beyond the limits of law." Darrow exemplified this. The outcomes of his cases were often attributed to his ability to connect with the hearts and minds of the jurors or judge, more than his reliance on the evidence.
Robert Burns is a Professor of Law at Northwestern University School of Law. The author of numerous articles and books, including on the importance of the trial, advocacy, evidence, and professional responsibility, Professor Burns has won numerous excellence in teaching awards.
Darrow, who died March 13, 1938, is remembered for his crusading role as "attorney for the damned" in such controversial cases as the Scopes Monkey Trial, the Leopold and Loeb murder case, and the pardoning of the Haymarket anarchists.
Darrow's death on March 13, 1938, was memorialized throughout the world. The Darrow Bridge, where his ashes ( and later those of his wife Ruby and son Paul ) were scattered, was dedicated to his memory by the Chicago Park District in 1957.
The program starts at 10 a.m. just EAST of the Clarence Darrow Bridge in Jackson Park ( the bridge is under construction ) for the traditional wreath-tossing and brief speeches to commemorate Darrow; the Symposium begins at 10:45 a.m. in the Museum of Science and Industry: The Columbian Room. Beverages and rolls will be served. ( The Darrow Bridge is behind the Museum of Science and Industry: Driving south on Lake Shore Drive, pass the light at 57th Drive and turn right at the next light [Science Drive]. You will come almost immediately to Columbia Drive. If you turn left and follow Columbia Drive there is parking near the bridge. You may park near the OmniMax Theater and walk south to the bridge. Parking is only free by the bridge. )
For more details see www.darrowbridge.org .
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Leslie Nielson Darrow memorabilia also on display