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Thomas Massie Trial: 1932

"is This Your Handwriting?"

Darrow called Thalia Massie. She sobbed through her description of the kidnapping and Jones' telling her of Kahahawai's death. The courtroom was awash in tears. Then, cross-examining, Kelley handed her a sheet of paper—a psychological self-analysis she had made while a student at the University of Hawaii—while asking, "Is this your handwriting?"

Instantly, Thalia Massie was transformed from a pathetic mass of tears to an indignant blaze of fury. "Where did you get this? Don't you know this is a confidential communication between doctor and patient?" She tore the paper into tiny bits. "I refuse to say whether that is my handwriting or not. What right have you to bring this into a public court?" To a burst of applause, she tossed the fragments aside.

"Thank you, Mrs. Massie," said Kelley. "At last you've shown yourself in your true colors."

Said Darrow to reporters afterward, "I've seen some pretty good court scenes but nothing like that one. I was pretty limp when it was all over."

It took the jury nearly 50 hours to find the four defendants guilty of manslaughter. Judge Charles S. Davis sentenced each to 10 years at hard labor. Governor Lawrence Judd then said he would grant executive clemency if the Massies and Fortescue would agree not to press for a retrial of the rape case, for the governor was determined to end the racial disturbances throughout Hawaii caused by the issue. The prosecutors agreed. Darrow got Thalia Massie to agree. The governor commuted the sentences to one hour in the courtroom dock.

Massie's naval career was destroyed by the trial. He died at 44 in 1944, 10 years after he and Thalia Massie were divorced. Thalia Massie died in 1963 after years of depression and several attempted suicides. Her mother had died years earlier.

Clarence Darrow had worked all his life toward reducing tension and conflict between races. While he lost the Massie trial in terms of the jury verdict, he was pleased to have accepted a jury of mixed races and to have avoided racial overtones in the testimony despite his clients' attitudes.

He died in 1938 without ever again handling a headline-making trial.

Bernard Ryan, Jr.

Suggestions for Further Reading

Nash, Jay Robert. Encyclopedia of World Crime. Wilmette, Ill.: CrimeBooks, 1991.

Tierney, Kevin. Darrow: A Biography. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, Publishers, 1979.

Weinberg, Arthur and Lila Weinberg. Clarence Darrow: A Sentimental Rebel. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1980.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1918 to 1940Thomas Massie Trial: 1932 - Mother-in-law Takes Charge, "is This Your Handwriting?"