Nathan Freudenthal Leopold, Jr. (November 19, 1904-August 29, 1971) and Richard Albert Loeb (June 11, 1905-January 28, 1936), often referred to as "Leopold and Loeb", were privileged and wealthy teenage University of Chicago students who murdered 14-year-old Robert "Bobby" Franks in 1924 in a desire to commit the “perfect crime” and were sentenced to prison for 99 years plus a life term.
Through correspondence, newspaper clippings, court documents, miscellanea, photographs, publications, and more, this collection traces the arc of Leopold's life. The story winds from the sentencing hearing, to his work and life in prison, to his efforts with lawyer Elmer Gertz to secure parole, to his parole in Puerto Rico and his life beyond.
The brutality of the crime shocked the nation and drew unprecedented media attention, becoming the first so-called "crime of the century." Both youths were highly intelligent and had graduated from college at a very young age. They were influenced in part by Nietzsche's philosophy of the Superman, who was superior to normal men in every way and was not bound by the morals or laws of common people. Though many of the details are unclear, it seems that Loeb was the one obsessed with crime and was the driving force behind the planning and execution of the kidnapping and murder. By many accounts, Leopold was motivated by an infatuation with Loeb, and participated in their crimes in order to perpetuate an intimate, and sometimes sexual, relationship with Loeb. Regardless of their motivations, they were both fully guilty and responsible for the kidnapping and murder of Bobby Franks on May 21, 1924.
After their story and fake alibi fell apart, the case against them grew increasingly airtight, and both young men confessed to the crimes. Their families brought in famous defense lawyer and anti-capital punishment crusader Clarence Darrow to help them escape the gallows. Darrows convinced the boys to plead guilty to the charges, and thus avoid a jury trial that would almost assuredly end in a death sentence. With the plea, Darrow only had to convince the judge in a sentencing hearing that their two lives should be spared. After an impassioned defense by Darrow, with the story captivating the city of Chicago and the entire country during the summer of 1924, Cook County Circuit Court Judge John R. Caverly pronounced on September 10, 1924 that they would not be executed, but would spend their lives plus 99 years in prison
Loeb would be murdered in a razor attack in prison in 1936 at the age of 30, while Leopold would serve over 33 years in jail, eventually being paroled in 1958. He went to Puerto Rico, working as an x-ray technician in a Church of the Brethren mission for several years. He successfully petitioned to be released from his parole, married a widow, traveled the world, and lived for years as a free man before dying of a diabetes-related heart attack in 1971, at age 66.
This collection was donated to Special Collections by lawyer Elmer Gertz (1906-2000), who represented Nathan Leopold in his bid to secure parole, and later a complete release from his parole. Gertz was a notable human rights and civil liberties campaigner, author, and, in addition to Leopold, he famously defended Henry Miller during his "Tropic of Cancer" obscenity trial, and helped Jack Ruby avoid the death penalty for murdering Lee Harvey Oswald. Gertz remained a close friend of Leopold throughout his life, corresponding regularly, and visiting him in Puerto Rico several times.