Nelson Johnson, "Darrow's Nightmare: The Forgotten Story of America's Most Famous Trial Lawyer" (Rosetta Books, 2021)


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Today I talked to Nelson Johnson about his new book Darrow's Nightmare: The Forgotten Story of America's Most Famous Trial Lawyer (Rosetta Books, 2021)

In 1911 the 26-year-span in which Clarence Darrow took on capital punishment, advocated for civil rights, and handled the Scopes trial was still before him. Those accomplishments might never have happened if he hadn’t survived two torturous years in Los Angeles. First, he sought to settle the case of labor activists bombing the Los Angeles Times building and killing 20 people. Then, Darrow on trial himself on charges of having tried to bribe a prospective juror in the LA Times case. Up against Darrow was the power structure of L.A. On Darrow’s side, was his wife and two brilliant attorneys, one of whom later drank himself to death (Earl Rogers) and another who was later committed to a mental institution (Horace Appel). In between, all sorts of legal and extra-legal connivances took place as touched on in this episode.

Nelson Johnson is a retired N. J. Superior Court Judge who practiced law for 30 years prior to serving on the bench. Early in his career he represented the Atlantic City Planning Board. That experience resulted in “Boardwalk Empire,” which inspired the HBO series.

Dan Hill, PhD, is the author of eight books and leads Sensory Logic, Inc. ( To check out his related blog, visit

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