Lawrence Harmon

The lead defense attorney in the second Luetgert trial.

Born: 1845, in Ireland.
Work history: Practiced law in Peoria with partner William O’Brien.
Moved: Came to Chicago in 1890.
Political history: He had run for Illinois attorney general as a Democrat.
Later history: At the time of a Chicago Tribune article in 1913, Harmon was practicing law in Seattle.
Wife: Catherine.
Children: Mrs. Mary Hundley of California, Mrs. Anna Byrne (2652 Logan-blvd.), Lawrence G., John R., Robert E., Mrs. Helen Resek and Katherine Rohrer. His daughter Anna was married to Thomas H. Byrne, who was Chicago's superintendent of streets in 1923.
Died: August 11, 1923 at the Kankakee State Hospital; buried in Peoria.

Read about Harmon's death at an insane asylum.


Harmon tells of his early career

A Nov. 30, 1897, Chicago Daily News article includes an extended quote from Lawrence Harmon discussing his career:

"William O'Brien, for many years my partner, defended 100 men accused or murder and not one of his clients was ever hanged. My record is long as long, but it is, like his, unmarred by an execution. I believe I will be successful in the case of Adolph Luetgert and that I will win an acquittal for a man whom I believe to be absolutely innocent."

Lawrence Harmon... spoke with emphasis and decision, and young Arnold Luetgert applauded vigorously. Mr. Harmon... is aged 52, resolute, keen-eyed and active. He looked more powerful, physically than Mr. Phalen, but lacks the massive front of ex-judge Vincent.

"I have not as yet... seen a word of the testimony and have a Herculean task ahead of me in reading and absorbing it. I have been to the Luetgert factory and examined the scene of the alleged crime thoroughly, but have as yet had little time for an extended talk with the defendant. Nevertheless, I enter the case with a firm belief in his innocence a feeling of confidence which counts much for a lawyer.

"For thirty-two years I have practiced law. Coming from Ireland when a baby, I made the law my life study and began practice when but 20 years of age. I was a student with William O'Brien, then his partner in Peoria. He asked me to join him when he came to Chicago, but I could not come at that time and did not locate here till 1890. Some years since I was a candidate for attorney general on the Democratic ticket.

"So far, I have made the best fight I could before Judge Gary, who has treated me with the greatest courtesy. I think that nearly every lawyer in the courtroom Monday was with me, and believed my position well taken. Judge Gary has a great responsibility placed upon him, and is evidently weighing matters with the skill of an able lawyer and the feelings of an upright judge.

"Yes, sir! I expect to come out on top to maintain my record and to clear this man. It will be a long, hard struggle, but I think that I can succeed.

"I remember... some cases of the past in which I was engaged hard cases, which served well to give me the courage and endurance necessary for such a fight as this will be. I defended, along in 1880, Luther B. McKinney, accused of the murder of Jacob Fry at Peoria a case where the men met at noon on the street, drew revolvers and fought till Fry fell dead. It was shown that McKinney had followed Fry five blocks, looking for trouble. Yet, after two trials, I secured a verdict of acquittal.

"Again, there was the case of Enoch and Edward Noble, father and son, accused of the murder of Jacob Walgamont. Nine witnesses testified that the Nobles had knocked Walgamont down, and, while the son stamped upon him, the father beat in his head with a rail. I had no witnesses except the defendant himself. I managed to tear the testimony of each witness to pieces, to make each of the nine contradict himself and the others, and, to the surprise, I believe, of every man in the country excepting myself, won a verdict of not guilty.

"William O'Brien and I once defended the well-remembered Barrett and Shannon case, in which the two men... were charged with following Barrett's brother-in-law, a man named Marlett, to his house at night, calling him outside and clubbing him to death in his own yard. There were two trials and ex-Gov. Joseph Fifer prosecuted in both of them. The first case ended in a disagreement, the second resulted in acquittal for both men.

"I could recall other cases, but I must get over to Judge Gary's domain."

And Luetgert's new lawyer, armed with a bulky bundle of authorities, hurried northward.

Picture: Chicago Journal, Dec. 13, 1897.