Horace Appel was a very capable attorney and like Earl Rogers, a tortured soul who wrestled with personal demons and struggled to stay grounded in his personal life.
Appel was actively involved, on his feet, throughout the entire trial, ready to do battle on every legal issue, armed with the controlling case law. As originally contemplated by Rogers and Darrow, “cocounsel” was to have been Cyrus McNutt who was part of the McNamara defense team. The 79-year-old retired judge was a quiet and unassuming person, who was respected enormously in the Los Angeles legal community. He was the archetypal retired judge: thoughtful in all his words and deeds; generous to everyone in dispensing wisdom; and, above the fray, interested only in justice. Judge McNutt’s arguments in court were earnest, engaging and highly persuasive with the California bench. His unexpected illness (he died during jury selection) was a loss to the Darrow defense team and delayed the start of trial to permit the selection of substitute co-counsel. Rogers reached out to his colleague, Horace Appel. Despite their many personal and life-style differences, Rogers and Appel shared a trait that mattered greatly; once retained by a criminal defendant, their commitment to gaining an acquittal was total.
Horace Appel was a pro. Nine years younger than Darrow and several years older than Rogers, Appel knew his way around the courtrooms of Los Angeles and had been involved in a fair number of high-profile trials with the district attorney’s office. Appel and D.A. Fredericks weren’t friends, nor were they friendly adversaries. Also, like Rogers, the law was not his first choice. Upon graduating from high school in Tucson, Arizona, Appel’s credentials earned him an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point: the first person from Arizona to matriculate there. Within days of his arrival in New York, Appel learned that his father had passed away and was forced to return home. He abandoned a military career and enrolled in St. Mary’s College in San Jose.
As described by news reporter Hugh Baillie who was present throughout the entire trial, “Appel was an entirely different sort [from the eloquent Rogers], a Mexican Jew with a vast command of accented English, who could goad the district attorney and his staff almost beyond endurance with his easy contempt.”
It’s likely Appel was selected as co-counsel not only for his brilliance but because of his knack for disrupting the district attorney’s office. As was learned during the trial, Judge Hutton’s inability to control his courtroom combined with the volatile relationship between Fredericks and Appel ultimately produced violence in the presence of the jurors.
(Note: Featured photo from Ashley Van Haeften on Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/wikimediacommons/16449246407)