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Earl Rogers 
​(1869 - 1922)


Described as the greatest trial lawyer who ever lived, Earl Rogers was an extraordinary attorney whose success has landed him among giants like Clarence Darrow and Earl Warren. His reputation became so well-known that ‘Get me Earl Rogers’ became the catchphrase of murderers and convicted criminals.

Rogers' unparalleled career is a particular standout during an era of the law when the pursuit of justice abutted with witness and evidence manipulation. Of the 77 homicide defense cases Rogers defended, he won 74 full acquittals. 

Portrait of Earl Rogers, head and shoulders.
Rogers, Earl. 24" x 32". 2002. Collection of Thomas Mills. Mills and Willaims, Dallas, TX.

Innovation in the Courtroom

Rogers’ success had much to do with his creativity, flamboyance, and innovative techniques. He opened new possibilities to trial lawyer practice by departing from his generation’s expectations of attorney expertise, which had involved expounding scripture and quoting historical poetic and literary greats during their orations.

Instead, he used visual aids such as trial exhibits to recreate crime scenes. With his matter-of-fact demeanor, he revolutionized the tradition of evidence demonstration and reinvented methods of cross-examination in unprecedented ways. He regularly surprised professionals and the courtroom with his expert medical knowledge and a compelling use of forensic evidence. He became a professor of medical jurisprudence and insanity at the University of Southern California Law School and its College of Physicians and Surgeons.

The Clarence Darrow Trial

Among Rogers’s most well-known cases is the defense of attorney Clarence Darrow against charges of attempted jury bribery. The case is famous not only because of the scandal or the involvement of two legal giants, but because of how challenging it was for the two attorneys to reach consensus on how to try the case. It would have been a privilege to witness Rogers’ presence shock and upturn the courtroom.

Lawyer and novelist Erle Stanley Gardner retold Rogers’ extraordinary career through the character Perry Mason.

Legacy

Rogers' noteworthy life bore an extraordinary influence on the character of trial law and impacted popular depictions of law. Lawyer and novelist Erle Stanley Gardner retold Rogers’ extraordinary career through the character Perry Mason, a personage that appears exaggerated but has proven an accurate representation. Rogers’ life was also analyzed in the biography Final Verdict by his daughter Adela Rogers St. Johns and Michael Lance Trope's Once Upon a Time in Los Angeles.

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"The credit belongs to the one who is actually in the arena."

Theodore Roosevelt

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