Sorry for the break there, I had to do some assignments – and I still have to do a couple of exams on Thursday – but now I have the time to focus on the really important stuff. Like Richard Loeb and Nathan Leopold!
When we left Leopold (left) and Loeb (right), they had just been arrested for the moi’der of wee Bobby Franks.
Now, what do you do when you and your fellow rich chum get caught up in some unpleasant business such as being arrested for murder. Your wealthy parents hire the best lawyer in the U S of A!
Mr. Clarence. Darrow.
Clarence Darrow was, and now due to the lasting record of his arguments, still is one of the greatest legal minds of all time. He is most well-known for the Scopes trial, defending a teacher’s right to teach Darwin’s theory instead of good l’fashioned Creationism.
But that came after his masterly defence of Leob and Leopold.
Now, because of their confessions and the evidence against them, the trial was never going to be a question of guilt. It was a question of whether the state of Illinois would execute two teenagers, or whether they would spare their lives.
Much to the surprise of the prosecution, he did not enter a plea of Insanity. Instead, he argued that – of little fault of their own – Leopold and Loeb were just “bad”. Their wealth, their parents, America, everyone contributed to the malaise of these two. His closing argument, the summation for the defence, is one of my favourite speeches of all times.
It’s lengthy, it took him two hours in Court to present it to Judge Cavalry. But read it and savour it, just for the lines like this:
“Why did they kill little Bobby Franks? Not for money, not for spite; not for hate. They killed him as they might kill a spider or a fly, for the experience. They killed him because they were made that way. Because somewhere in the infinite processes that go to the making up of the boy or the man something slipped, and those unfortunate lads sit here hated, despised, outcasts, with the community shouting for their blood. Mr. Savage, with the immaturity of youth and inexperience, says that if we hang them there will be no more killing. This world has been one long slaughterhouse from the beginning until today, and killing goes on and on and on, and will forever. Why not read something, why not study something, why not think instead of blindly shouting for death?”
One more time:
“This world has been one long slaughterhouse from the beginning until today, and killing goes on and on and on, and will forever. ”
MY GOD. Hits me right in that space where I’m told other people have hearts.
Now, when the judge returned (yes, they managed to get a judge-only trial, because a jury would have torn them to bits), he sentenced the pair to 99 years for kidnapping, plus life for murder, with no eligibility for parole. This,rather than hanging – a difficult decision which he put squarely on the fact that the two were under the ‘age of majority (being 21)’ when they committed the killing.
So our boys Leopold and Loeb go to prison and that’s the end of it, right? Wrong!
The pair were initially separated, but soon drifted back to each other in prison. Because really, once you have committed kidnapping and murder, been sentenced to life imprisonment, there isn’t a whole lot of reasoning that you should ‘stay away’ from this person because ‘they’re a bad influence’. Like, that ship has sailed.
Things looked quite redeeming for a while. Leopold and Loeb set up a school in the prison for their fellow inmates.
Do you think these cheeky devils can keep out of trouble? Absolutely not. And that is a ridiculously callous way to lead into the demise of Loeb. in 1936, 11 years after killing Bobby Franks, the ‘pretty boy’ was attacked by another inmate with a straight razor in the showers and bled to death from over fifty wounds.
So, Leopold was alone. He served 33 years in prison but at the age of 53, he was released. He moved to Puerto Rico and married in 1961.
Nathan Leopold then died of a heart attack in 1971.
So goes the tale of Leopold and Loeb. Darrow died in 1938, but had continued to be a fierce opponent of the death penalty for his entire professional life.
Of all of the cases i have read about, there is something about these two. I don’t know what it is, I obviously think that to kill is wrong and irredeemable. But I understand why the brilliant Leopold (he spoke 5 languages fluently and studied another 10, and was an accomplished ornithologist) was attracted to the sociable and goddamned symetrically-faced Loeb. Do I think too much money, philosophy and stigma (they were definitely ~involved~ with each other and if you are going to break one taboo you may as well break them all, amirite?) led to them doing a really awful and dumb thing? Yes. Can I still relate to them as fellow human beings trying to claw our ways through the impassable universe? Yes as well.
Let’s move away from the heavy stuff and weird contemplation of humanity, and instead answer the real question here. How is Michael Pitt involved with this?
Well, there have been numerous plays, books and films written about the pair. I am yet to see/read a lot of these, including the book Leopold wrote in order to impress the parole board. But one I have seen, by golly, is Barbet Schroeder’s Murder By Numbers.
Imagine the above case set in the 1990s/early 2000s (shudders internally), starring a baby Ryan Gosling as the “Loeb” and Michael Pitt as the “Leopold”, and instead of the court case there’s an investigation led by Sandra Bullock.
I was really excited to watch this again after reading more on the case. I was not disappointed. Every time I watch this film, I notice something else. I really recommend you watch it, there’s something fro everyone – from your everyday thriller lover, to those weirdoes of you who are now collecting every single movie Michael Pitt has ever done.
I have to say, I don’t want to outshine the rest of the movie with his ridiculous bone structure. Sandra Bullock’s character and her development throughout the film is a privilege to watch, and to see a woman leading a ‘crime’ movie is a rare pleasure.
Finally, go and youtube search Leopold and Loeb to watch multiple documentaries that do a much better job than I on covering this case.
P.S Michael Pitt has done horror movies as well, so prepare yourself for some intense coverage of those…