Leopold and Loeb - Darrow's Final Argument

Clarence Darrow, one of America's great trial lawyers, despised the death penalty.  He believed that it was wrong for the government to kill a human being even if that person had killed another.

Known as a lawyer who argued lost-cause cases, Darrow agreed to defend two notorious murderers during the summer of 1924.  Nathan Leopold (19) and Richard Loeb (18) had kidnapped and killed a fourteen-year-old boy named Bobby Franks.  Loeb thought he had concocted the "perfect crime," but within ten days, both Leopold and Loeb had confessed.

The young men had committed a heinous crime, and the prosecutors reflected the public's attitude when they asked for two death sentences.  Darrow knew that if he tried the case to a jury, he would have little chance to spare his clients' lives.  Instead, he withdrew both "not guilty" pleas so he could have a bench trial (with the Judge deciding the fate of his clients).

This scene from the film Compulsion - in which Orson Welles plays a lawyer based on Clarence Darrow - recreates Darrow's actual argument in the Leopold and Loeb case.

The real events took place on the 22nd of August, 1924. Darrow talked to the Court for hours in that famous argument.  Throughout, he railed against the death penalty.

Media Credits

Clip from "Compulsion," a 1959 film based on the story of Leopold and Loeb. 
Online, courtesy YouTube.

Richard Fleischer

Richard D. Zanuck

Screenplay by:   
Richard Murphy

Based on the book, Compulsion,
By Meyer Levin


Orson Welles - Jonathan Wilk

Diane Varsi - Ruth Evans

Dean Stockwell - Judd Steiner

Bradford Dillman - Artie Strauss

E.G. Marshall - District Attorney Harold Horn

Martin Milner - Sid Brooks

Richard Anderson - Max Steiner

Gavin MacLeod - Padua, Horn's Assistant

Lionel Newman

William C. Mellor


William H. Reynolds

Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation

Release date:

April 1, 1959

Run Time:
103 minutes


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"Leopold and Loeb - Darrow's Final Argument" AwesomeStories.com. Oct 07, 2013. Dec 10, 2019.
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