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D.C. Stephenson Trial: 1925

"i Am The Law In Indiana", In A Pullman-car Drawing Room, A Secondary Staphylococci Infection

Defendants: Earl Gentry, Earl Klinck, and David Curtis Stephenson
Crime Charged: Murder
Chief Defense Lawyers: Floyd Christian, Ira W. Holmes, and "Eph" Inman
Chief Prosecutors: Charles E. Cox, Ralph Kane, William H. Remy
Judge: Will M. Sparks
Place: Noblesville, Indiana
Dates of Trial: October 28-November 14, 1925
Verdicts: Stephenson: guilty; Gentry and Klinck: not guilty
Sentence: Life imprisonment

SIGNIFICANCE: Specific events often make or break entire movements. The D.C. Stephenson case was such an event. The defendant had been Grand Dragon—and the most influential Northern leader—of the notorious Ku Klux Klan, dedicated to hatred and racial and religious intolerance. The trial and conviction of Stephenson, calling America's attention to the sinister hypocrisy of the organization, marked the high tide of Klan membership, which dropped within three years from 10 million to a few thousand. The case also established that a defendant who committed a criminal assault that caused the victim to commit suicide could be tried on murder charges.

David Curtis Stephenson was a Texan who settled in Indiana in 1920 when he was 29. There he joined the Ku Klux Klan, a fraternal organization that had been created during Reconstruction in the South to "maintain white supremacy." Expanding nationally after World War I, the Klan had broadened its program to include nativism, anti-Catholicism, and anti-Semitism. It grew rapidly in the North.

Stephenson worked tirelessly to expand the Klan in Indiana, recruiting more than 300,000 fanatics in less than two years and becoming Grand Dragon of the Realm of Indiana. Next, under contract from the Klan, he became supreme organizer in 19 other states, was paid $4 out of every $10 initiation fee, and pocketed $4.25 from every $6 robe and hood a Klansman bought.

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1918 to 1940