Malice Aforethought: The Sweet Trials

1987 performance

Written by Arthur Beer, Professor and Performing Arts Co-Chair of the University of Detroit Mercy, the play tells the story of the 1924 trial of Ossian Sweet and his family and friends who sought to defend thenselves from angry neighbors from the defendents' point of view.

The historic importance of this event was not just the verdict, but the interaction of those who participated. This one event had wide-sweeping consequences that effected the city of Detroit and the people who lived there long after the trial itself. The stress here is not just on the fact that this was Clarence Darrow's last important trial or that an African American family was acquitted of murder by an all-white judge and jury, but that for the first time justice prevailed over bigotry in an American courtroom. Reason broke through the color barrier in a public arena and its aftermath spread throughout a city chained to its own social restrictions and limitations. The play calls attention to the realization that we are all human beings trying to live a quality life.

First performed in 1987, the play returns for its encore engagement in 2007. This marks the twentieth anniversary of this important work.


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