Leopold and Loeb
Leopold and Loeb pled guilty on Darrow's advice, and the trial, held before Judge John R. Caverly, focused solely on their punishment. Much of the defense hinged on the testimony of psychiatrists, who spoke of the defendants' immaturity, obsessions, and other problems. In a lengthy, emotional, and eloquent summation, Darrow argued for their lives, citing their upbringing, youth, and other factors but most of all condemning the death penalty itself. Caverly sentenced Leopold and Loeb to imprisonment—life for murder, 99 years for kidnapping. Loeb was murdered by a fellow prison inmate, but Leopold was paroled in 1958, moved to Puerto Rico, married, taught, and wrote a book on ornithology.
The sensational murder and subsequent trial transfixed the public's imagination and were widely called
the crime and the trial of the century. The events came to wide attention again in the second half of the 20th cent. with the publication of a fictionalized version, Meyer Levin's best-selling novel Compulsion (1956), and the popular film that followed in 1959.
See Leopold's Life plus 99 Years (1958); M. McKernan, The Amazing Crime and Trial of Leopold and Loeb (1924); H. Higdon, The Crime of the Century (1975); S. Baatz, For the Thrill of It (2008).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2023, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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