Clarence Darrow, “Plea for Leopold and Loeb” (22, 23, and 25 August, 1924)

Rohini S. Singh
University of Illinois at Urbana‐Champaign

Abstract: When teenagers Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb went to trial  after  killing  an  acquaintance  “for  the  thrill  of  it,”  their  lawyer,  Clarence  Darrow,  delivered  a  twelve  hour  summation  over  three  days  to  save  his  clients  from  the  hangman’s  noose.  Darrow  used  three  strategies of transformation to invert prevailing concepts of justice and crime.

Through  such  reversals,  he  deflected  criminal  culpability  from  his  clients  to  their  upbringing, the prosecutors, and the legal system itself.

Keywords:  Clarence  Darrow,  Leopold‐Loeb  trial,  death  penalty,  homo‐ phobia, anti‐Semitism, justice.

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