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Famous Cases: LeDoux Versus the FVZA

Report Number: 2640
Date: Summer, 1923
Location:Akron, Ohio

On its surface, the case of Ray LeDoux was typical of the Depression era. A young man, out in the world alone, gets bitten by vampires and has to be destroyed by FVZA agents. But the Ray LeDoux case would prove to have a life of its own, a life that almost brought about the end of the FVZA.

A hobo camp
near Chicago
Background: Ray LeDoux grew up in a prosperous middle-class Ohio home, the son of an insurance company owner and a homemaker. Like many teenagers at that time, Ray was taken by the romance of the rails. During the summer of 1923, Ray and a friend embarked on one last adventure before college. They hopped a train in Akron and set off westward, overnighting in hobo camps along the way. The postcards Ray sent back home chronicle his journey: Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska. And then, late in June of 1923, the postcards abruptly stopped.

Incident:On the night of July 1, 1923, a hobo camp in the shadow of a trestle bridge along the Mississippi River was attacked by a pack of vampires. Six hobos were bitten; three escaped harm. By the time the FVZA Saint Louis team arrived, the vampires had vanished. One night later, another hobo camp was hit, this one 200 miles to the east near Indianapolis. A third attack took place one night later near Columbus, Ohio.

FVZA agents inspect
the train that
carried the vampires
Investigation: An FVZA team from Cleveland, Ohio, deduced that the vampire pack was using the railroad to flee from their crime scenes. A quick study of railroad timetables led the team to a railyard in Dayton, Ohio, on the afternoon of July 5, 1923. The team conducted a search of all the trains in the yard, using dogs. The dogs quickly ran to one vacant boxcar and began barking excitedly. The team surrounded the car and flushed out seven vampires, who were then destroyed. Among them was a teenage boy with identification bearing the name "Ray LeDoux."

Clarence Darrow
Post-Mortems: On July 6, 1923, two FVZA agents arrived at the home of Ray LeDoux' parents in Akron to give them the bad news. LeDoux was buried shortly thereafter, and the matter seemed to be closed. But a week after the funeral, the LeDoux family announced that they had hired the great lawyer Clarence Darrow to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit against the FVZA. At a press conference, Darrow told the assembled reporters, "the FVZA operates as judge, jury and executioner. They are like a closed, secret society within the confines of the United States Government, and it is high time we open them up for inspection."

The nation's newspapers
followed the trial closely
Throughout August of 1923, the LeDoux trial captivated the nation. The trial, held in Akron, turned into a showdown between the nation's two most prominent lawyers: Clarence Darrow for the LeDoux family, and William Jennings Bryan for the FVZA. Darrow's central point was that a person bitten by a vampire had committed no crime and thus had the same rights as any American citizen, including the right to trial by jury. William Jennings Bryan countered that capturing vampires and holding them for trial was absurdly dangerous and impractical. "What if the vampire is found innocent," Bryan asked. "Do we release it on its own recognizance?"

The Akron courtroom
as it looks today
In his closing argument, Darrow played on the jury's emotions. Rather than dwell on vampirism, he spoke of Ray LeDoux, the honor student, paperboy and fishing enthusiast. He even read some of the postcards Ray had sent back from his railway adventures. The jury was moved, and came in with a verdict against the FVZA. Trial judge Gavin Conley went a step further: he slapped a moratorium on the killing of vampires in Ohio. Despite vehement protests from many quarters, the Ohio State Supreme Court upheld the verdict.

Fortunately, by the time the case got to the Supreme Court, the folly of the Ohio decision had become clear. Numerous FVZA agents quit and, when ill-trained army troops were thrown into the fray, vampire attacks exploded. Finally, on November 3, 1923, the Supreme Court reversed the ruling of the Ohio judge and restored the Agency's right to destroy vampires. In the majority decision, Chief Justice and former President William Howard Taft wrote, "the FVZA provides a great service to our country, and the Court should not do anything to prevent them from the fulfillment of that service."

Comments from Dr. Pecos: Sadly, Chief Justice Taft's words were not heeded by future court justices. In 1935, the Supreme Court declared that vampires have the same rights as all citizens. The ruling essentially stripped away the FVZA's Powers of Termination, also known as the Right to Kill. In response, President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Emergency Relief Act of 1936, which turned the Agency into an undercover operation. For the next 39 years, the Agency did its brave work in the shadows, far from the prying eyes of the legal system.

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