Trivia Minute May 21, 2015

Episode 82: Leopold and Loeb

by Marcus Michelson
Richard Loeb, left, and Nathan Leopold (Photo from German Federal Archive via Wikipedia)
Richard Loeb, left, and Nathan Leopold (Photo from German Federal Archive via Wikipedia)

Ninety-one years ago, Nathan Leopold Jr. and Richard Loeb murdered 14-year-old Bobby Franks, leading to the third case to be described as “The Trial of the Century.”

Here are some things you may not have known about it:

First: Leopold and Loeb decided to kill Franks as an intellectual exercise to demonstrate that a perfect crime could be committed. The duo kidnapped Franks, who was Loeb’s second cousin, two blocks from his home, which was located across the street from Loeb’s home. Franks was killed by several chisel blows to the head. The murderers dumped Franks’ body 25 miles from Chicago.

Second: Leopold and Loeb planned to pretend to hold Franks for ransom to throw investigators off their trail. Once the body was found, they pair continued acting as normal. Police found a pair of glasses which had a rare hinge mechanism, owned by only three people in the Chicago area. One of them was Nathan Leopold. After their alibi was proven false, the two confessed to the killing.

Third: The “Trial of the Century” wasn’t even a trial at all. The pair pleaded guilty in hopes of avoiding the death penalty and hired legendary defense attorney Clarence Darrow to convince a judge to spare their lives. The judge did that, sentencing them to life sentences for the murder and an additional 99 years for kidnapping. Loeb was killed by a fellow inmate in 1936. Leopold was paroled in 1958 and moved to Puerto Rico, where he died in 1971.

Our question: Whose trial was the last of the 20th Century to be called “The Trial of the Century”?

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