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Leopold and Loeb Trial: 1924

The Perfect Murder… For Its Thrill, "i Have A Hanging Case", "they Should Be Permanently Isolated From Society"

Defendants: Nathan F. Leopold, Jr., and Richard Loeb
Crimes Charged: Murder and kidnapping
Chief Defense Lawyers: Clarence Darrow, Benjamin Bachrach, and Walter Bachrach
Chief Prosecutors: Robert E. Crowe, Thomas Marshall, Joseph P. Savage, John Sbarbaro, and Milton Smith
Judge: John R. Caverly
Place: Chicago, Illinois
Dates of Trial: July 23-September 10, 1924
Verdict: Guilty
Sentences: Life imprisonment for murder; 99 years for kidnapping

SIGNIFICANCE: Clarence Darrow, America's foremost criminal lawyer at the time, saved the defendants from execution for their "thrill murders" by changing their pleas from not guilty to guilty. The change took the case away from a jury so it was heard only by the judge, giving Darrow the opportunity to plead successfully for mitigation of punishment—life imprisonment rather than execution. The bizarre nature of the crime and the wealth of the victim and the defendants focused the nation's attention on the courtroom for nearly two months.

In May 1924, 18-year-old "Dickie" Loeb was the youngest graduate of the University of Michigan and already a postgraduate student at the University of Chicago. "Babe" Leopold, at 19 a law student at Chicago, had earned his Phi Beta Kappa key with his Bachelor of Philosophy degree. Each came from a wealthy and well-known Chicago family. Each believed his mental abilities set him apart as a genius superior to other people. Each dwelt in a fantasy world.

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1918 to 1940