Devin Nunes, former Congressman (R-CA) and CEO of Trump Media & Technology Group, interviewed Gregg Jarrett, New York Times Best Selling Author and Fox News Legal Analyst, on his new book The Trial of the Century. The book details the famous Scopes Monkey Trial from nearly a century ago, in which liberal attorney Clarence Darrow defended Dayton, Tennessee school teacher John Scopes. “Darrow’s seminal defense of freedom of speech helped form the legal bedrock on which our civil liberties depend today” writes Simon and Schuster’s ‘About the Book’ webpage.
“That story changed my life” Jarrett tells Nunes. As a teenager, Jarrett read a biography about Darrow that inspired his own values, virtues and principles. The chapter that he “loved the most” was on the Scopes Trail; in 1925 “That trial was known as The Trial of the Century ”. In high school, Jarrett auditioned for, and received a small part in, Inherit The Wind, a fictionalized version of the Scopes Monkey Trial. He read the book “over and over” and it inspired him to become a lawyer.
Nunes asks Jarrett about the difficulties in doing research to write the book in the era of “fake news.” A lot of information on the trial is “inaccurate” and journalists are committing the worst “media malpractice” that Jarrett has ever seen, especially with regard to the Russia-hoax.
To research the book, Jarrett wanted to “take myself into the courtroom.” Along with his co-author Don Yaeger, the two traveled to Dayton, Tennessee. They met with town leaders and archivers for the old courthouse. They were escorted to the second floor courtroom which “is unchanged in almost 100 years.”
Jarrett was also taken to the basement and given an opportunity to go through the archives, where he was able to obtain incredible photographs of the trial and the town during that time. Jarrett goes into detail about how the trial became a “literal circus” in the town, with a “trained chimpanzee dressed up in a plaid suit.” People “paid money to shake his hand” and “watch him drink a soda.”
It was quite literally a “carnival atmosphere because journalists the world over converged on this tiny town of Dayton, Tennessee to watch these iconic figures clash in what was really a titanic battle.”
Jarrett explains the environment and psychology of the country during that time:
“This was during a time after World War I where America turned inward and there was a tremendous fundamentalist Christian movement led by William Jennings Bryan, a three time presidential candidate for the Democrats. He convinced states to start banning books on evolution because religious leaders at the time including Bryan, thought that Darwin’s cornerstone theory undermined the story of the creation described in Genesis in the bible. Which it didn’t.
…But they mistakenly believed that. And in Tennessee, it was the first state to pass a law that criminalized the teaching of evolution out of a text book that was state approved, that had a chapter on evolution.”
After the law passed, Jarrett explains the town leaders thought ‘ah ha! We could be the first test case and draw attention to our town, drive business and the economy.’ So leaders asked 25-year old schoolteacher Scopes to partake in a fascinating experiment. They asked Scopes to admit that he taught evolution as part of one of his books, in order to be a test case.
Scopes was made aware that he would be arrested for breaking the law, but felt as though it was a bad law, so he obliged and agreed. After Scopes went to jail, the trial and legal defense that followed became “The Trial of the Century.”