Less than a decade short of 100 years ago, in Chicago, the trial of Leopold and Loeb took place with Clarence Darrow, the famed attorney assigned with the responsibility of defending the two young men.
Loeb and Leopold developed a strategy to kill and did, in fact, kill a 14-year-old, Bobby Franks. (At the time of the trial, Leopold, at 19, was the youngest person in history to graduate from the University of Chicago, and Loeb, at 17, was the youngest person to graduate from the University of Michigan.) Furthermore, Leopold and Loeb came from two of Chicago’s wealthiest and most privileged families. The citizenry of the Midwest was incensed, and it was a forgone conclusion that both young men would receive the death penalty. But did they?
Fifty-five years ago, in the beginning of my career as a psychologist, a district court judge assigned to me the task of reading Darrow’s summary pleading to the jury. It was an incredible and enlightening defense. At the end of Darrow’s summary, the press, jury and judge reportedly were crying.
The recent Aurora shootings, along with the Herald headline: “Suspect known as a brilliant student” (July 21), was one of the dozen or so occasions in my life that I reread Darrow’s famed defense. I encourage my fellow citizens to read it. I believe it probably will be for you what it has been for me: a rare reading/therapeutic and enlightening experience.
Darrow’s almost complete summary may be read in: Alvin B. Sellers, The Loeb-Leopold Case, Brunswick, GA: Classic Publishing Co., 1926. Reprints from Making of Modern Law are available on e-book.