The papers also reported a story about Leopold's father. He was shocked at the unspeakable tragedy his son had perpetrated.
The unexpected turn of events - with Nathan Jr. in the middle of one of Chicago's most notorious crimes - caused great strain for this father of a brilliant son. He had to hire a fantastic lawyer. His son needed the best anyone could find, at the time.
The families called Clarence Darrow.
Known as a winning lawyer who championed lost causes, Darrow agreed to take the case. One of his first moves completely shocked the prosecution.
Darrow decided to withdraw the "not guilty" plea. Why would he even consider doing such a thing? Because a "not guilty" plea would assure Leopold and Loeb of a jury trial. And a jury trial, thought Darrow, would assure his young clients of a death sentence.
As a matter of personal conscience, Darrow absolutely opposed capital punishment. However, any impassioned plea to show mercy would likely fall on deaf juror ears.
If these two young killers had any chance to avoid the death penalty, it would be with a judge, not a jury. Darrow knew that, and his strategy was flawless.
The prosecuting attorneys, however, demanded the ultimate punishment. Asking Judge Caverly to impose the death sentence, Thomas Marshall reminded the court about the heinous nature of the crime:
If this is not a murder of the extreme type on the facts, then, of course, a lesser penalty than death can be invoked; but when months of planning, careful execution of every detail, a money motive, a kidnapping for ransom, the cruel blows of a sharp steel chisel, the gagging, the death, and the hiding of the body all appear, as they do here, the malice and deliberation take the crime out of the scale of lesser penalties and prescribe death. (The Loeb-Leopold Case, compiled by Alvin V. Sellers, page 41.)
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