The plea of Clarence Darrow, August 22nd, 23rd & 25th, MCMXXIII, in defense of Richard Loeb and Nathan Leopold, Jr., on trial for murder/The Facts
On May 21, 1924, Robert Franks, aged fourteen, was picked up on one of the prominent streets of Chicago by an automobile which was in the possession of Nathan Leopold, Jr., and Richard Loeb. He was driven within half a block of Loeb's house and about the same distance from Frank's house, was hit on the head with a chisel and killed.
Robert Franks was in the front seat when the blow was struck. He was then pulled into the back seat and driven about twenty miles through some of the principal streets of Chicago and along the main automobile way. He was taken into the machine about half past four o'clock and taken by daylight through the main populated parts of the south side and that portion which is mostly frequented by automobiles. He was killed instantly and after this ride, his body was stripped and he was put into a culvert in a lonely spot about twenty miles from where he was picked up.
Nathan Leopold, Jr., was nineteen years old and Richard Loeb, eighteen years old. Loeb was well acquainted with young Franks. Before this time, Leopold and Loeb had prepared a letter addressed "Dear Sir," in which they demanded $10,000 ransom. Even the minute before Franks was picked up on the street neither Leopold nor Loeb had settled on the person they should kidnap. Immediately after the killing the ransom letter was addressed and mailed to the father of Robert Franks. All three families are people of considerable wealth.
Leopold was the youngest boy who ever graduated from the Chicago University and at the time, was preparing to enter Harvard Law College. Before entering Harvard, he was to take a trip to Europe and had already purchased his ticket for the ocean voyage.
Loeb was the youngest graduate of the University of Michigan and was intending to study law. Both Leopold and Loeb had always been well supplied with money and there was no financial reason why they should have committed either the crime of kidnaping or that of murder.
When the body of Robert Franks was placed in the culvert, the eye glasses of Leopold dropped from his pocket and, after several other arrests, these were found by the police and identified as Leopold's glasses. At the time of their arrest, no one believed that they had anything to do with the kidnaping and killing. They were taken to the State's Attorney's office and after being in the custody of the attorneys and officers for about sixty hours, they confessed to the full details of the crime.
It was claimed by the defense that their minds were diseased and also that on account of their extreme youth, they should not be hanged.
The Illinois statutes provide that on a verdict or plea of guilty, a defendant may be sentenced to death or to a term in the penitentiary for not less than fourteen years and up to life.
The statute also provides that on a plea of guilty, "In all cases where the court possesses any discretion as to the extent of the punishment, it shall be the duty of the court to examine witnesses as to the aggravation and mitigation of the offense."
The defendants in this case pleaded guilty before Judge Caverly; thereupon evidence was offered both by the State and the defense on the question of aggravation and mitigation. Alienists were introduced by both sides, touching the mental condition of the two boys.
The hearing occupied about thirty days. The defendants were sentenced to the penitentiary for life.