Publication Date

Fall 2013

Faculty Supervisor

Joseph Walwik


In 1924, Nathan Leopold, Jr., and Richard Loeb, two privileged and intelligent students from the University of Chicago, initiated a plan to kidnap and hold for ransom a boy from a wealthy neighboring family, all the while intending to kill him. The sensational trial that followed, in which Clarence Darrow delivered a 12-hour closing argument for life imprisonment rather than the death penalty, would have implications far broader than the crime itself. This trial became the focus of the nascent culture war brewing in the 1920’s, a culture war that pitted radically different philosophies against each other in a battle that would come to forever alter American conceptions of crime and punishment. The Loeb and Leopold trial would become a cultural and ideological landmark in an evolving nation. The Cook County Courthouse soon became the point of convergence between vestiges of the Enlightenment and burgeoning post-modernism. The trial of Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb came to epitomize the controversy, confusion, and excess of America during the 1920’s, and would prove to have a permanent influence on future trials.


History 105


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