Leopold and Loeb
Nathan Leopold in Stateville Penitentiary, 1931
|Born||Nathan Freudenthal Leopold, Jr.
November 19, 1904
Chicago, United States
|Died||August 29, 1971
Cause of death
|Life + 99 years imprisonment|
Richard Loeb (left) and Nathan Leopold (right)
|Born||Richard Albert Loeb
June 11, 1905
Chicago, United States
|Died||January 28, 1936
Joliet, Illinois, United States
Cause of death
|Life +99 years imprisonment|
Nathan Freudenthal Leopold, Jr. (November 19, 1904 – August 29, 1971) and Richard Albert Loeb (June 11, 1905 – January 28, 1936), more commonly known as "Leopold and Loeb", were two wealthy University of Chicago students who kidnapped and murdered 14-year-old Robert "Bobby" Franks in 1924 in Chicago.
The duo was motivated to murder Franks by their desire to commit a perfect crime.
Once apprehended, the men's parents retained Clarence Darrow as counsel for the defense. Darrow's summation in their trial is noted for its influential criticism of capital punishment as retributive, rather than transformative justice. Both were sentenced to life imprisonment. Loeb was killed by a fellow prisoner in 1936; Leopold was released on parole in 1958.
The Leopold and Loeb crime has been the inspiration for several works in film, theatre, and fiction, such as the 1929 play Rope by Patrick Hamilton, and Alfred Hitchcock's take on the play in the 1948 film of the same name. Later movies such as Compulsion and Swoon were also based on the crime.
- 1 Early lives
- 2 Adolescence, Nietzsche, and early crimes
- 3 Murder of Bobby Franks
- 4 Trial
- 5 Prison
- 6 Leopold's post-prison years
- 7 In popular culture
- 8 Notes
- 9 References
- 10 External links
Nathan Leopold was born on November 19, 1904 in Chicago, Illinois, to a wealthy immigrant Jewish family from Germany. A child prodigy who spoke his first words at the age of four months, he reportedly scored an intelligence quotient of 210, though test results from that era are not directly comparable to scores on modern IQ tests. At the time of the murder he had already completed an undergraduate degree at the University of Chicago with Phi Beta Kappa honors, and planned to begin studies at Harvard Law School after a family trip to Europe. He reportedly had studied 15 languages and spoke at least five fluently, and had achieved a measure of national recognition as an ornithologist. He and several other ornithologists identified Kirtland's Warbler, an endangered songbird that had not been observed in the Chicago area in over half a century.
Richard Loeb was born on June 11, 1905, in Chicago to the family of Anna Henrietta (née Bohnen) and Albert Henry Loeb, a wealthy lawyer and retired vice president of Sears, Roebuck & Company. His father was Jewish and his mother Catholic. Like Leopold, Loeb was exceptionally intelligent. Though he skipped several grades in school, and became the University of Michigan's youngest graduate at age 17, he was described as "lazy", "unmotivated", and "obsessed with crime", and spent most of his time reading detective novels.
Adolescence, Nietzsche, and early crimes
The two young men grew up with their respective families in the affluent Kenwood neighborhood on Chicago's South Side. The Loebs owned a summer estate, Castle Farms, in Charlevoix, Michigan, in addition to their mansion in Kenwood, two blocks from the Leopold home.
Though Leopold and Loeb knew each other casually while growing up, their relationship flourished at the University of Chicago, particularly after they discovered a mutual interest in crime. Leopold was particularly fascinated by Friedrich Nietzsche's concept of supermen (Übermenschen) — transcendent individuals, possessing extraordinary and unusual capabilities, whose superior intellects allowed them to rise above the laws and rules that bound the unimportant, average populace. Leopold believed that he was one of these individuals, and as such, by his interpretation of Nietzsche's doctrines, he was not bound by any of society's normal ethics or rules. Before long he had convinced Loeb that he, too, was an Übermensch. In a letter to Loeb, Leopold wrote, "A superman ... is, on account of certain superior qualities inherent in him, exempted from the ordinary laws which govern men. He is not liable for anything he may do."
Armed with this delusion of superiority, the pair began asserting their perceived immunity from normal restrictions with acts of petty theft and vandalism. Breaking into a fraternity house at the university, they stole penknives, a camera, and a typewriter that they later used to type their ransom note. Emboldened, they progressed to a series of more serious crimes, including arson; but no one seemed to notice. Disappointed with the absence of media coverage of their crimes, they decided to plan and execute a sensational "perfect crime" that would garner public attention, and confirm their self-proclaimed status as "supermen".
Murder of Bobby Franks
Leopold (then 19 years old) and Loeb (18) settled on the kidnapping and murder of a young boy as their perfect crime. They spent seven months planning everything from the method of abduction to disposal of the body. To obfuscate the precise nature of their crime, and their motive, they decided to make a ransom demand, and devised an intricate plan for collecting it, involving a long series of complex delivery instructions to be communicated, one set at a time, by phone. They typed the final set of instructions involving the actual money drop in the form of a ransom note, using the typewriter stolen from the fraternity house. A chisel was selected as the murder weapon, and purchased.
After a lengthy search for a suitable victim, mostly on the grounds of Harvard School For Boys in the Kenwood area, where Loeb had been educated, they decided upon Robert "Bobby" Franks, the 14-year-old son of wealthy Chicago watch manufacturer Jacob Franks. Loeb knew Bobby Franks well; he was his second cousin, an across-the-street neighbor, and had played tennis at the Loeb residence several times.[note 1]
The pair put their carefully crafted plan in motion on the afternoon of May 21, 1924. Using an automobile that Leopold had rented under the name "Morton D. Ballard", they offered Franks a ride as he walked home from school. The boy refused initially, since his destination was less than two blocks away; but Loeb persuaded him to enter the car to discuss a tennis racket that he had been using. The precise sequence of the events that followed remains in dispute, but a preponderance of opinion placed Leopold behind the wheel of the car, while Loeb sat in the back seat with the chisel. Loeb struck Franks, sitting in front of him in the passenger seat, several times in the head, then dragged him into the back seat and gagged him with a rag, where he died.
With the body on the floorboard out of view, they drove to their predetermined dumping spot near Wolf Lake in Hammond, Indiana, 25 miles (40 km) south of Chicago. After nightfall they removed and discarded Franks's clothes, then concealed the body in a culvert along the Pennsylvania Railroad tracks north of the lake. To obscure the body's identification they poured hydrochloric acid on the face, and on a distinctive abdominal scar, as well as the genital area (to conceal the fact that he was circumcised).
By the time the two men returned to Chicago, word had already spread that Franks was missing. Leopold called Franks's mother, identifying himself as "George Johnson", and told her that Franks had been kidnapped; instructions for delivering the ransom would follow. After mailing the typed ransom note, burning their blood-stained clothing, and cleaning the bloodstains from the rented vehicle's upholstery as best they could, they spent the remainder of the evening playing cards.
Once the Franks family received the ransom note the following morning, Leopold called a second time and dictated the first set of ransom payment instructions. The intricate plan stalled almost immediately when a nervous family member forgot the address of the store where he was supposed to receive the next set of directions; and it was abandoned entirely when word came that a man named Tony Minke had found the boy's body. Their kidnapping ruse exposed, Leopold and Loeb destroyed the stolen typewriter and burned a robe used to move the body. Convinced that they had done everything they could to hide their tracks, they went about their lives as usual.
Chicago police launched an intensive investigation; rewards were offered for information. While Loeb went about his daily routine quietly, Leopold spoke freely to police and reporters, offering theories to any who would listen. He even told one detective, "If I were to murder anybody, it would be just such a cocky little son of a bitch as Bobby Franks".
Police found a pair of eyeglasses near the body. Though common in prescription and frame, they were equipped with an unusual hinge mechanism purchased by only three customers in Chicago; one was Nathan Leopold. When questioned, Leopold offered the possibility that his glasses (now on display at the Chicago History Museum) might have dropped out of his pocket during a bird-watching trip. The destroyed typewriter was discovered soon thereafter.
The two men were summoned for formal questioning on May 29. They asserted that on the night of the murder, they had picked up two women, Edna and May, in Chicago, using Leopold's car, then dropped them off sometime later near a golf course without learning their last names. Their alibi was exposed as a fabrication when Leopold's chauffeur told police that he was repairing Leopold's car that night, while the men claimed to be using it. The chauffeur's wife later confirmed that the car was parked in the Leopold garage on the night of the murder.
Loeb confessed first. He asserted that Leopold had planned everything, and had killed Franks in the back seat of the car while he, Loeb, drove. Leopold's confession followed swiftly; but he insisted that he was the driver, and Loeb the murderer. Their confessions otherwise corroborated most of the evidence in the case. Leopold later claimed, in his book (long after Loeb was dead), that he pleaded in vain with Loeb to admit to killing Franks. "Mompsie feels less terrible than she might, thinking you did it," he quotes Loeb as saying, "and I'm not going to take that shred of comfort away from her." While most observers believed that Loeb did indeed strike the fatal blows, some circumstantial evidence—including testimony from eyewitness Carl Ulvigh, who said he saw Loeb driving and Leopold in the back seat minutes before the kidnapping—suggested that Leopold could have been the killer.
Both admitted that they were driven by the thrill of the kill, their Übermensch delusions, and their aspiration to commit a "perfect crime". Leopold, at least, considered the incident an intellectual exercise. "The killing was an experiment," he told his attorney. "It is just as easy to justify such a death as it is to justify an entomologist killing a beetle on a pin."
The trial of Leopold and Loeb, at Chicago's Courthouse Place, became a media spectacle, and the third — after those of Harry Thaw and Sacco and Vanzetti — to be labeled "The Trial of the Century". Loeb's family hired Clarence Darrow, one of the most renowned criminal defense lawyers in the country and a staunch opponent of capital punishment, at a rumored fee of $1 million. While it was generally assumed that the men's defense would be based on a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity, Darrow concluded that a jury trial would almost certainly end in conviction and the death penalty. Thus, he elected to enter a plea of guilty, hoping to convince Cook County Circuit Court Judge John R. Caverly to impose sentences of life imprisonment. The trial (technically a sentencing hearing because of the entry of guilty pleas) ran for 32 days. The state presented over a hundred witnesses documenting details of the crime. The defense presented extensive psychiatric testimony in an effort to establish mitigating circumstances.
Darrow's impassioned 12-hour-long "masterful plea" at the conclusion of the hearing has been called the finest speech of his career. Its principal theme was the inhuman methods and punishments of the American justice system:
This terrible crime was inherent in his organism, and it came from some ancestor... Is any blame attached because somebody took Nietzsche's philosophy seriously and fashioned his life upon it?... It is hardly fair to hang a 19-year-old boy for the philosophy that was taught him at the university.
Now, your Honor, I have spoken about the war. I believed in it. I don't know whether I was crazy or not. Sometimes I think perhaps I was. I approved of it; I joined in the general cry of madness and despair. I urged men to fight. I was safe because I was too old to go. I was like the rest. What did they do? Right or wrong, justifiable or unjustifiable—which I need not discuss today—it changed the world. For four long years the civilized world was engaged in killing men. Christian against Christian, barbarian uniting with Christians to kill Christians; anything to kill. It was taught in every school, aye in the Sunday schools. The little children played at war. The toddling children on the street. Do you suppose this world has ever been the same since? How long, your Honor, will it take for the world to get back the humane emotions that were slowly growing before the war? How long will it take the calloused hearts of men before the scars of hatred and cruelty shall be removed?
We read of killing one hundred thousand men in a day. We read about it and we rejoiced in it—if it was the other fellows who were killed. We were fed on flesh and drank blood. Even down to the prattling babe. I need not tell you how many upright, honorable young boys have come into this court charged with murder, some saved and some sent to their death, boys who fought in this war and learned to place a cheap value on human life. You know it and I know it. These boys were brought up in it. The tales of death were in their homes, their playgrounds, their schools; they were in the newspapers that they read; it was a part of the common frenzy—what was a life? It was nothing. It was the least sacred thing in existence and these boys were trained to this cruelty.
It will take fifty years to wipe it out of the human heart, if ever. I know this, that after the Civil War in 1865, crimes of this sort increased, marvelously. No one needs to tell me that crime has no cause. It has as definite a cause as any other disease, and I know that out of the hatred and bitterness of the Civil War crime increased as America had never seen before. I know that Europe is going through the same experience today; I know it has followed every war; and I know it has influenced these boys so that life was not the same to them as it would have been if the world had not made red with blood. I protest against the crimes and mistakes of society being visited upon them. All of us have a share in it. I have mine. I cannot tell and I shall never know how many words of mine might have given birth to cruelty in place of love and kindness and charity.
Your Honor knows that in this very court crimes of violence have increased growing out of the war. Not necessarily by those who fought but by those that learned that blood was cheap, and human life was cheap, and if the State could take it lightly why not the boy? There are causes for this terrible crime. There are causes as I have said for everything that happens in the world. War is a part of it; education is a part of it; birth is a part of it; money is a part of it—all these conspired to compass the destruction of these two poor boys.
Has the court any right to consider anything but these two boys? The State says that your Honor has a right to consider the welfare of the community, as you have. If the welfare of the community would be benefited by taking these lives, well and good. I think it would work evil that no one could measure. Has your Honor a right to consider the families of these defendants? I have been sorry, and I am sorry for the bereavement of Mr. and Mrs. Franks, for those broken ties that cannot be healed. All I can hope and wish is that some good may come from it all. But as compared with the families of Leopold and Loeb, the Franks are to be envied—and everyone knows it.
I do not know how much salvage there is in these two boys. I hate to say it in their presence, but what is there to look forward to? I do not know but what your Honor would be merciful to them, but not merciful to civilization, and not merciful if you tied a rope around their necks and let them die; merciful to them, but not merciful to civilization, and not merciful to those who would be left behind. To spend the balance of their days in prison is mighty little to look forward to, if anything. Is it anything? They may have the hope that as the years roll around they might be released. I do not know. I do not know. I will be honest with this court as I have tried to be from the beginning. I know that these boys are not fit to be at large. I believe they will not be until they pass through the next stage of life, at forty-five or fifty. Whether they will then, I cannot tell. I am sure of this; that I will not be here to help them. So far as I am concerned, it is over.
I would not tell this court that I do not hope that some time, when life and age have changed their bodies, as they do, and have changed their emotions, as they do—that they may once more return to life. I would be the last person on earth to close the door of hope to any human being that lives, and least of all to my clients. But what have they to look forward to? Nothing. And I think here of the stanza of Housman:
Now hollow fires burn out to black,
And lights are fluttering low:
Square your shoulders, lift your pack
And leave your friends and go.
O never fear, lads, naught's to dread,
Look not left nor right:
In all the endless road you tread
There's nothing but the night.
I care not, your Honor, whether the march begins at the gallows or when the gates of Joliet close upon them, there is nothing but the night, and that is little for any human being to expect.
But there are others to consider. Here are these two families, who have led honest lives, who will bear the name that they bear, and future generations must carry it on.
Here is Leopold's father—and this boy was the pride of his life. He watched him, he cared for him, he worked for him; the boy was brilliant and accomplished, he educated him, and he thought that fame and position awaited him, as it should have awaited. It is a hard thing for a father to see his life's hopes crumble into dust.
Should he be considered? Should his brothers be considered? Will it do society any good or make your life safer, or any human being's life safer, if it should be handled down from generation to generation, that this boy, their kin, died upon the scaffold?
And Loeb's the same. Here are the faithful uncle and brother, who have watched here day by day, while Dickie's father and his mother are too ill to stand this terrific strain, and shall be waiting for a message which means more to them than it can mean to you or me. Shall these be taken into account in this general bereavement?
Have they any rights? Is there any reason, your Honor, why their proud names and all the future generations that bear them shall have this bar sinister written across them? How many boys and girls, how many unborn children will feel it? It is bad enough as it is, God knows. It is bad enough, however it is. But it's not yet death on the scaffold. It's not that. And I ask your Honor, in addition to all that I have said to save two honorable families from a disgrace that never ends, and which could be of no avail to help any human being that lives.
Now, I must say a word more and then I will leave this with you where I should have left it long ago. None of us are unmindful of the public; courts are not, and juries are not. We placed our fate in the hands of a trained court, thinking that he would be more mindful and considerate than a jury. I cannot say how people feel. I have stood here for three months as one might stand at the ocean trying to sweep back the tide. I hope the seas are subsiding and the wind is falling, and I believe they are, but I wish to make no false pretense to this court. The easy thing and the popular thing to do is to hang my clients. I know it. Men and women who do not think will applaud. The cruel and thoughtless will approve. 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 about their own—these will join in no acclaim at the death of my clients.
These 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. But, your Honor, what they shall ask may not count. I know the easy way. I know the future is with me, and what I stand for here; not merely for the lives of these two unfortunate lads, but for all boys and all girls; for all of the young, and as far as possible, for all of the old. I am pleading for life, understanding, charity, kindness, and the infinite mercy that considers all. I am pleading that we overcome cruelty with kindness and hatred with love. I know the future is on my side. Your Honor stands between the past and the future. You may hang these boys; you may hang them by the neck until they are dead. But in doing it you will turn your face toward the past. In doing it you are making it harder for every other boy who in ignorance and darkness must grope his way through the mazes which only childhood knows. In doing it you will make it harder for unborn children. You may save them and make it easier for every child that sometime may stand where these boys stand. You will make it easier for every human being with an aspiration and a vision and a hope and a fate. I am pleading for the future; I am pleading for a time when hatred and cruelty will not control the hearts of men. When we can learn by reason and judgment and understanding and faith that all life is worth saving, and that mercy is the highest attribute of man.
I feel that I should apologize for the length of time I have taken. This case may not be as important as I think it is, and I am sure I do not need to tell this court, or to tell my friends that I would fight just as hard for the poor as for the rich. If I should succeed, my greatest reward and my greatest hope will be that for the countless unfortunates who must tread the same road in blind childhood that these poor boys have trod—that I have done something to help human understanding, to temper justice with mercy, to overcome hate with love.
I was reading last night of the aspiration of the old Persian poet, Omar Khayyam. It appealed to me as the highest that I can vision. I wish it was in my heart, and I wish it was in the hearts of all:
So I be written in the Book of Love,
I do not care about that Book above.
Erase my name or write it as you will,
So I be written in the Book of Love.
The judge was persuaded; in September 1924 he sentenced both men to life imprisonment for the murder, and an additional 99 years for the kidnapping. Less than a month later Loeb's father died of heart failure.
Leopold and Loeb were initially held at Joliet Prison. Although they were kept apart as much as possible, the two managed to maintain their relationship. Leopold was later transferred to Stateville Penitentiary, and Loeb was soon transferred there as well. Once reunited, the two taught classes in the prison school.
Initially, both Leopold and Loeb were receiving money from their families, but this was later cut to five dollars per week. The money was used to purchase goods such as cigarettes from the prison store. Other prisoners were not aware that Leopold and Loeb were no longer receiving larger amounts of money. They were both seen as rich snobs. This made them targets for other prisoners. One day in the prison yard, Leopold was threatened at knife point for money. After trying to explain that he didn't have any, he was saved when Loeb and some of his other friends intervened.
The allowance cut had also caused problems for Loeb. Some of Loeb's money went to former cell-mate of his, James E. Day, as a bribe not to hurt him. After several accounts of abuse and threatening, Day was moved away from Loeb.
On January 28, 1936, Leopold and Loeb were working on assignment at the prison school. While they were working, Day passed them and reportedly said "I'll see you later" (referring to Loeb). Loeb was later attacked by Day with a straight razor (shaving blade) in a shower room. He was taken directly to the prison hospital where doctors tried to save his life. Leopold went to the hospital to find his friend barely conscious and slashed all over. Leopold offered to have his blood tested for a transfusion but was denied by the doctors, who knew there was no hope. Loeb's last words to Leopold were "I think I'm going to make it." Leopold then washed his friend's body as an act of affection.
Day claimed afterward that Loeb had attempted to sexually assault him. However, it may have been the other way around. Rumors suggested that Day had desired sexual favors from Loeb, who refused him. Many doubted that Day's story was true. It wasn't likely that he acted in self-defense. Day emerged unharmed from the attack, while Loeb sustained more than 50 wounds from the attack, including numerous self-defense wounds on his arms and hands. Loeb's throat had also been slashed from behind suggesting that he was attacked by surprise. Nevertheless, an inquiry accepted Day's testimony. The prison authorities, perhaps embarrassed by publicity sensationalizing alleged decadent behavior in the prison, ruled that Day's attack on Loeb was indeed in self-defense. According to one widely reported account, newsman Ed Lahey wrote this lead for the Chicago Daily News: "Richard Loeb, despite his erudition, today ended his sentence with a proposition." Some papers went as far as to say that Loeb deserved what he got, and appeared to praise James Day for his murder.
Another possible motive for Loeb's murder was money. Because his money had been cut Loeb could no longer afford to bribe Day with gifts in return for safety.
There is no evidence that Loeb was a sexual predator while in prison, but Day was later caught at least once in a sexual act with a fellow inmate. In his autobiography, Life Plus 99 Years, Leopold called Day's claim that Loeb had attempted to sexually assault him ridiculous and laughable. This is echoed in an interview with the Catholic chaplain at the prison, Father Eligius Weir, who had been a personal confidant of Loeb. Weir stated that James Day had been the sexual predator and had gone after Loeb because Loeb refused to have sexual relations with him.
Leopold dedicated much time to reclaim the name of Loeb, who had died a famous child killer and a named sexual predator. Leopold composed books for the prison school. On the cover of these books he wrote in Latin "Ratione autem liberamur" which translates to "by reason, however, we are set free."
Although Leopold continued with his work in prison after Loeb's death, he suffered from depression. Leopold reportedly screamed for hours in his cell before being moved to the prison psychologists. This was meant to help him, but according to Leopold it was a punishment because James Day was also among the patients.
Leopold's prison life
Leopold became a model prisoner. He reportedly mastered 12 languages — in addition to the 15 he already spoke — and made multiple significant contributions to improving conditions at Stateville Penitentiary. These included reorganizing the prison library, revamping the schooling system and teaching its students, and volunteer work in the prison hospital. In 1944 Leopold volunteered for the Stateville Penitentiary Malaria Study; he was deliberately inoculated with malaria pathogens, then subjected to multiple experimental malaria treatments.
In the early 1950s author Meyer Levin, a University of Chicago classmate, requested Leopold's cooperation in writing a novel based on the Franks murder. Leopold responded that he did not wish his story told in novelized form, but offered Levin a chance to contribute to his own memoir, which was in progress. Levin, unhappy with that suggestion, went ahead with his book alone. Leopold later wrote that reading the novel, entitled Compulsion, made him "... physically sick ... More than once I had to lay the book down and wait for the nausea to subside. I felt as I suppose a man would feel if he were exposed stark-naked under a strong spotlight before a large audience."  Leopold's autobiography, Life Plus 99 Years, was published in 1958. In 1959 he sought unsuccessfully to block production of the film version of Compulsion on grounds of invasion of privacy, defamation, and profiting from his life story.
Leopold's post-prison years
After 33 years and numerous unsuccessful parole petitions, Leopold was released in 1958. In April of that year he attempted to set up the Leopold Foundation, to be funded by royalties from Life Plus 99 Years, "to aid emotionally disturbed, retarded, or delinquent youths". The State of Illinois voided his charter, however, on grounds that it violated the terms of his parole.
Leopold moved to Santurce, Puerto Rico, to avoid media attention and married a widowed florist. The Brethren Service Commission, a Church of the Brethren affiliated program, accepted him as a medical technician at its hospital in Puerto Rico. He expressed his appreciation in an article: "To me the Brethren Service Commission offered the job, the home, and the sponsorship without which a man cannot be paroled. But it gave me so much more than that, the companionship, the acceptance, the love which would have rendered a violation of parole almost impossible." He was known as "Nate" to neighbors and co-workers at Castañer General Hospital in Adjuntas, Puerto Rico, where he worked as a laboratory and X-ray assistant. Subsequently he earned a master's degree at the University of Puerto Rico, then taught classes there; became a researcher in the social service program of Puerto Rico's department of health; worked for an urban renewal and housing agency; and did research in leprosy at the University of Puerto Rico's school of medicine. He was also active in the Natural History Society of Puerto Rico, traveling throughout the island to observe its birdlife. In 1963 he published Checklist of Birds of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. While he spoke of his intention to write a book entitled Snatch for a Halo, about his life following prison, he never did so.
In popular culture
Darrow's condemnation of the death penalty during his legendary 12-hour closing argument marked the beginning of a major reversal in American attitudes toward execution. In the years that followed the Leopold and Loeb trial the number of executions, which had been rising steadily since the early 1800s, began a rapid decline that eventually culminated in a complete suspension of the death penalty from 1972 until 1976.
The Franks murder has inspired works in film, theatre, and fiction, including the 1929 play Rope by Patrick Hamilton, performed on BBC television in 1939, and Alfred Hitchcock's film of the same name in 1948. A fictionalized version of the events formed the basis of Meyer Levin's 1956 novel Compulsion and its 1959 film adaptation. Never the Sinner, John Logan's 1988 play,  was based on contemporary newspaper accounts of the case, and included an explicit portrayal of Leopold and Loeb's homosexual relationship.
Other notable influences include Richard Wright's 1940 novel Native Son, Tom Kalin's 1992 film Swoon, Michael Haneke's 1997 Austrian film Funny Games (and the 2008 American remake), Barbet Schroeder's Murder by Numbers (2002), and Stephen Dolginoff's 2005 Off-Broadway musical Thrill Me: The Leopold and Loeb Story.
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- Famous American Trials: Illinois v. Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb. University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law, Prof. Douglas Linder. Retrieved March 7, 2012.
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- John Thomas Scopes, World's greatest court trial. Cincinnati : National Book Co., 1925, pp. 178-179, 182.
- Daily Illini, University of Illinois, October 28, 1924
- Leopold worked in the prison hospital and showed that he was the perfect model prisoner. He has also organised the prison library. Leopold later said that all his good work later in life was a way of making up for his earlier crime. Life & Death In Prison by Marilyn Bardsley. Crime Library — Courtroom Television Network, LLC. Retrieved April 11, 2007.
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- Leopold, Loeb & The Crime of the Century by Hal Higdon, pg 292
- Leopold, Loeb & The Crime of the Century, pg 302
- Leopold, Loeb & The Crime of the Century, pg 293
- Higdon, H. The Crime of the Century (1975). New York, Putnams. ASIN: B000LZX0RO pp. 281-317.
- Levin, M. Compulsion(1956). New York, Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0786703199
- In Nathan Leopold's Own Words. UMKC archive. Retrieved August 1, 2014.
- Leopold, N. Life Plus 99 Years (1958). New York, Doubleday & Co. ISBN 1131524608
- "E-mailed comment". Law.umkc.edu. Retrieved 2012-10-29.
- Leopold v. Levin, et al. Supreme Court of Illinois. http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/leoploeb/LEO_SUIT.HTM. Retrieved August 1, 2014.
- Daily Defender; May 29, 1958; p9
- Chicago Daily Tribune, July 16, 1958 p.23
- "The Companionship, the Acceptance." The Brethren Encyclopedia. Vol. 2 1983. Print.
- Higdon (1975), p.332
- Leopold, N. Checklist of Birds of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands (1963). University of Puerto Rico Agricultural Experiment Station. ASIN: B006D31YB2
- Higdon (1975), p.361
- Death Penalty Pros and Cons. deathpenalty.procon.org. Retrieved October 15, 2014.
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- "Rope (1939)". IMDb.com. Retrieved 2012-10-29.
- Jake Hinkson (October 19, 2012). "Leopold and Loeb Still Fascinate 90 Years Later". criminalelement.com. Retrieved October 23, 2012.
- Logan, Josh. "Never the Sinner". Samuel French. Retrieved 10 August 2013.
- Christiansen, Richard. "Revised 'Never The Sinner' An Even More Riveting Work". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 10 August 2013.
- Leopold, Nathan F. Life plus 99 Years, 1958 (Introduction by Erle Stanley Gardner)
- Baatz, Simon. For the Thrill of It: Leopold, Loeb and the Murder that Shocked Chicago (HarperCollins, 2008).
- Baatz, Simon. "Criminal Minds", Smithsonian Magazine 39 (August 2008): 70-79.
- Higdon, Hal. Leopold and Loeb: The Crime of the Century, University of Illinois Press, 1999. (originally published in 1975) ISBN 0-252-06829-7
- Kalin, Tom (director), Swoon. Film, 1990
- Levin, Meyer. Compulsion, Carroll & Graf Publishers, 1996. (originally published in 1956). ISBN 0-7867-0319-9
- Logan, John (author), Never the Sinner (play), Samuel French, Inc., 1987
- Saul, John (author). In the Dark of the Night, 2006 ISBN 0-345-48701-X
- Dolginoff, Stephen (author/composer). Thrill Me: The Leopold & Loeb Story (musical, published by Dramatists Play Service) ISBN 0-8222-2102-0
- Galluzzo, Mark Anthony (director). R.S.V.P. Film, 2002
- Vonnegut, Kurt (author). "Jailbird" (page 171) Published by Delacorte Press/Seymour Lawrence ISBN 0-440-05449-4
- The Sopranos (Season 1, Episode 7) TV series distributed by HBO Pictures
- "Yesterday" (Season 1, Episode 18), Law & Order: Criminal Intent. By Rene Balcer and Theresa Rebeck. Performed by Vincent D'Onofrio, Kathryn Erbe, Jamey Sheridan, Courtney B. Vance, Jim True-Frost, Danton Stone. NBC. WNBC, New York City. April 14, 2002
- Morita, Yoshimitsu (director). Copycat Killer. Film, 2002
- Leopold, N.F. 1963. Checklist of the Birds of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras.
- "Boardwalk Empire" (Season 4, Episode 7) TV series distributed by HBO Pictures
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Leopold and Loeb.|
- Leopold and Loeb Trial Home Page by Douglas Linder. Famous American Trials — Illinois v. Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb. University of Missouri at Kansas City Law School. 1997. Retrieved September 14, 2008.
- Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb, Crime of the 20th Century by Marilyn Bardsley. Crime Library — Courtroom Television Network. Retrieved April 11, 2007.
- Northwestern University Archives
- Thrill Me:The Leopold and Loeb Story - main site/CD ordering
- Thrill Me:The Leopold and Loeb Story Review quotes from York Theatre Company
- Harold S. Hulbert Papers from Northwestern University Archives, Evanston, Illinois
- "Leopold and Loeb Collection" from Northwestern University Special Collections, Evanston, Illinois
- Charles DeLacy (August 1930). "Inside Facts on the Leopold-Loeb Crime". True Detective Mysteries. Retrieved May 7, 2014.
- The Loeb-Leopold case : with excerpts from the evidence of the alienists and including the arguments to the court by counsel for the people and the defense (1926) stored on Archive.org