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Leopold, Nathan F. (1904-1971), and Richard A. Loeb (1905-1936)  
 
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Finally, Darrow made a dramatic and moving plea for his clients' lives. After quoting a stanza from a Housman poem that ends "There's nothing but the night," he argued that sending his clients to the gallows might be merciful for them, but that it would not be right for society or civilization.

He concluded by attacking the death penalty itself and appealing to a more enlightened future.

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He first told the Judge, "The easy thing and the popular thing to do is to hang my clients. . . . Men and women who do not think will applaud. The cruel and thoughtless will approve."

However, he continued, "It will be easy today; but in Chicago, and reaching out over the length and breadth of the land, more and more fathers and mothers, the humane, the kind and the hopeful, who are gaining an understanding and asking questions not only about these poor boys, but their own--these will join in no acclaim at the death of my clients. They would ask that the shedding of blood be stopped, and that the normal feelings of man resume their sway. And as the days and the months and the years go on, they will ask it more and more."

The prosecution presented two days of closing arguments, but with none of the eloquence of Darrow.

On September 19, 1924, Judge Caverly announced his decision. In sparing the lives of Leopold and Loeb, he echoed many of the arguments put forward by Darrow.

Describing the crime as "a singular atrocity," "inhuman," and "repulsive," Caverly remarked that "It would have been the path of least resistance to impose the extreme penalty of the law."

He added that "Life imprisonment may not, at the moment, strike the public imagination as forcibly as would death by hanging; but to the offenders, particularly of the type they are, the prolonged suffering of years of confinement may well be the severer form of retribution and expiation."

In choosing imprisonment instead of death, he said "the court is moved chiefly by the consideration of the age of the defendants."

Judge Caverly sentenced the defendants to life imprisonment for the crime of murder and a term of ninety-nine years for the crime of kidnapping for ransom. He also urged that they never be deemed eligible for parole.

Prison Life

Although authorities at the state prison in Joliet at first intended to keep Loeb and Leopold apart, eventually they relented. However, they saw each other only seldom during their first year of incarceration and then they were separated for seven years when Loeb was transferred to a new prison at Stateville. They were reunited in Joliet in 1931.

Perhaps heeding Darrow's advice, upon incarceration the prisoners avoided the kind of publicity they had seemed to revel in upon their arrest. Moreover, both soon began showing signs of rehabilitation.

By 1932, Leopold and Loeb had established a high school for prisoners. They, along with other educated inmates, taught classes, developed curricula, and administered the school. According to Leopold, during this time he and Loeb "were as close as it is possible for two men to be."

However, this period of constructive collaboration would not last. On January 28, 1936, Loeb's cellmate, James Day, attacked him in the shower with a straight razor, probably as a result of a dispute over the amount of money Loeb had been distributing among the prisoners for candy and cigarettes.

Although Day claimed that he acted in self-defense after a sexual overture on Loeb's part, that is unlikely, particularly since Loeb's throat was slashed from behind. Nevertheless, Day was exonerated in a trial that featured a "homosexual panic" defense, with Day's lawyers conjuring and Gomorrah.

Leopold mourned the loss of his "best pal." "I felt like half of me was dead,'' he wrote. He later described Loeb as "a living contradiction," someone who possessed some very fine qualities, including a desire to help others, but who lacked a sense of morality and who never felt remorse for the murder of Bobby Franks.

In contrast, Leopold clearly felt remorse. In seeking expiation for his crime, he devoted himself to good works in prison. He volunteered for medical experiments, reformed the prison library, and worked in the prison hospital. He also continued his obsession with learning, mastering additional languages and studying mathematics, as well as other subjects.

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