Rogers Defends Darrow. 24" x 30". 2014. Collection of Tom Girardi. Girardi Keese. Los Angeles, CA.
When the brilliant trial lawyer Clarence Darrow was accused of bribing the jury during his defense of J. B. McNamara in the tragic bombing of the Los Angeles Times in 1912, he hired Earl Rogers to defend him. Darrow eventually gave his own closing argument and was acquitted.
Rogers' Court Presence
Rogers was truly a trial lawyer extraordinaire who appeared in the defense of seventy-seven murder trials and lost only three. His medical forensic knowledge astonished medical experts on the witness stand and his sartorial elegance and demonstrative evidence techniques swayed juries and public alike. He was the model for Erle Stanley Gardner's character, Perry Mason.
Rogers Defends Darrow
Rogers is a wonderful example of using intuitive, visual persuasion in the courtroom well over 20 years before the demonstrative evidence innovations of Melvin Belli in San Francisco. He was the first to use charts, blackboards, and diagrams in trial and often changed his immaculate suits along with patent leather shoes, silk waistcoats, colorful cravats, jewelry, and lorgnettes several times a day.
In one famous gambling and murder case, Rogers surprised the District Attorney by bringing into the court room the card table and chairs around which the shooting had occurred and invited the prosecutor to sit in one of the chairs during cross examination. He pioneered the use of ballistic studies in the US legal system, introduced the skull of a victim to demonstrate his client's innocence, and used a fencing coach to dramatically show how his client was parrying a blow from his aggressor.
Rogers was as logical and academic as any lawyer, lecturing on trial practice and medical jurisprudence at University Southern California and College of Physicians and Surgeons and participating in numerous autopsies. However, it was his ability to intuitively know how to ask questions, how to destabilize a witness, and how to touch a jury's emotions that made him the finest court room artist of his time.