Closing Argument
The State of Illinois v. Nathan Leopold & Richard Loeb
Delivered by Robert Crowe
Chicago, Illinois, August 27, 1924 

Crowe addressing court

Crowe's summation lasted for two very hot days.  The State's Attorney was dripping with sweat during his address.  Here are excerpts from his closing argument.

An Act of Divine Providence

Leopold has proclaimed since he was eleven years of age that there is no God. "The fool in his heart hath said there is no God." I wonder now, Nathan, whether you think there is a God or not. I wonder whether you think it is pure accident that this disciple of Nietzschian philosophy dropped his glasses or whether it was an act of Divine Providence to visit upon your miserable carcasses the wrath of God in the enforcement of the laws of the State of Illinois.

Ridicule for the Defense's Mitigation Theory

Mitigation. Mitigation. I have heard so many big words, and foreign words in this case that I sometimes thought that probably we are letting error creep into the record. So many strange, foreign words have been used here; and the Constitution provides that the trial must be conducted in the English language. I don't know; maybe I have got aggravation and mitigation mixed up.

It is a mitigating circumstance, if Your Honor please, that when they were outlining the plan of this conspiracy and murder, they wanted to take a little girl, the daughter of the rich and first rape her and then murder her, and then collect the ransom. If that evidence had been put in by the State, I would have thought it was an aggravation.

These three wise men, with their distorted theories, hired by the defense, put that evidence in. Clarence Darrow calls it a mitigating circumstance. Why, when they murder a boy, they ought to be treated with kindness and consideration. If they had taken a little tot, a little girl, debauched her and raped her, I suppose we ought to give them each a medal and tell them to go on their ways.

Just Crazy Enough

The State was peculiarly fortunate in this case, in that we took time by the forelock. Mr. Bachrach, Jr., was guileless enough to believe that after I had gotten their confessions and corroborated them in every detail, that I had a suspicion in my mind that these two young perverts and murderers were insane. Mr. Darrow knows me a little longer, and he is not quite as guileless as the younger Bachrach, and he guessed that maybe after I knew they had no defense on the fact, and I knew how much money they had, that I might think that they were going to put in some kind of a fancy insanity defense.

And that is the reason I sent for the four best alienists in the City of Chicago, while I still had these young, egotistical, smart alecks--that is all they are, they are not supermen, they are not men of super intelligence, they are just a couple of spoiled smart alecks, spoiled by the twaddling and petting of their folks and by the people who fawn upon them on account of their wealth. They repeat, parrot like, things that they have remembered and assume the solemn expression of an owl and talk about supermen. In one breath one of these wise men from the East will you that the two defendants still believe in Santa Claus, and then in the next breath, Mr. Darrow will tell you they do not know or believe in God.

Ornithology and Urine

I think sometimes that we are dreaming here. When the learned doctor got on the stand who had been employed to find out jut how crazy these two fellows were, he was probably instructed: "Just make them crazy enough so they won't hang, but don't make them crazy enough to make it necessary to put this up to twelve men, because twelve men are not going to be fooled by your twaddle. Just make them insane enough so it will make a mitigating circumstance that we can submit to the Court."

One of these men who had been employed to examine into the mental condition of Leopold, got upon the stand and he is asked:

"Doctor, do you know that Leopold has written a great deal upon the subject of Ornithology, that he is one of the authorities on that subject in the United States, that he had lectured before the students at Harvard University upon that subject?"

"Yes, sir; I do." "Did you see his work?"


"Did you read that?"


"You were employed to examine that man, weren't you?"


"What did you do?"

"I examined his urine."

"Don't you think you could get a better idea of his mental condition by reading the things that he wrote, the product of his brain, than you could by examining his urine?"

"I don't know," was his reply.

Why No Lay Witnesses

I called in every person that I understood knew either one of these boys, at once, and placed them under oath and asked them what they knew about the mental condition of the defendants.

If I had not, the defense in this case would have been insanity, and not a mental disease that goes all around insanity in order to avoid a jury trial. Instead of having one witness perjure herself as Miss Nathan did, we would have had a flock of them called in to perjure themselves. Supposing the State's Attorney had not talked to Miss Nathan, and didn't have her statement that Loeb was a perfectly rational, normal boy, one of the manliest boys she had ever met, a perfect gentleman at all times. How could I have destroyed her on the stand, if I didn't have that statement?

I don't wonder that the senior counsel, in his wisdom gained through many years of practice, made the proposition to the State, when he found out what the State had done in the way of preparation: "Don't you call any of your lay witnesses, and I won't call any of mine."

And I told him: "Bring on your lay witnesses. The law is well fortified."

Why didn't the State call more lay witnesses? Why didn't I call the brothers of the defendants? Why didn't I call Loeb's valet, whose statement I took down in the State's Attorney's office? Why didn't I call the employees of both families, with all of their fraternity brothers, in addition to those that I did call?

Clarence Darrow knows why I didn't call them. Because if I put them on the stand, if I put Miss Nathan on the stand, I was bound by her perjury. They are my witnesses. I vouch for their truthfulness when I put them on.

And I knew they had all been up in Clarence Darrow's office, as Miss Nathan had. I knew that he would not call them, because I could destroy them.

Age Should Not Be a Defense

Mr. Darrow has referred in the case to hanging. Mr. Darrow is a student of criminology; he has written a book on it and he says the criminal age, the time when crimes are committed, is between the age of 17 and 24. And Your Honor and I know that the average criminal age is 22.

If we are going to punish crime and by the punishment stop it, and the criminal age is between 17 and 24, how can we punish it if the age is a defense?

The Statute that Your Honor is bound to enforce in this case, and the statute under which we are trying these defendants further provides that from 14 years of age up the law presumes that he has the capacity to commit a crime and is entirely and thoroughly responsible for it.

Cowboy Suits and Darrow's Determination

The only explanation I can give of the testimony of Dr. White is that he is in his second childhood. I would hate to think a man of his attainments would prostitute his profession and prostitute his learning to tell the story that he told to Your Honor.

One of the very significant and distinguishing things the eminent doctor says was the fact that little Dick had his picture taken in a cowboy's uniform when he was four years of age; and that is a distinguishing thing and stamped him a man of diseased mind, with homicidal tendencies; and I saw a shudder go through every woman in the court room that has a "kid" four or five years of age, and I began to think of my four "kids."

I suppose Marshall Field's sale of cowboy suits must have fallen off at least one hundred thousand since that doctor testified.

When the other doctors saw how ridiculous and silly it all was, they said they paid no attention to it; and one by one, all, each doctor discarded this silly bosh that the preceding doctor had testified to, as distinguishing matter; and finally the Grand Old Man of the defense, Clarence Darrow, seeing how absolutely absurd it was, discarded all of their testimony and substituted as a defense in this case his peculiar philosophy of life, of which we will talk later on.

Unnatural Lust in Paris

"And he adds (quoting Dr. White) `In all probabilities this present disturbance would all disappear very rapidly if the causes for its existence were removed.'"

In all probability the present mental disease of these two defendants would disappear very rapidly if the causes for its existence were removed. If the glasses had never been found, if the State's Attorney had not fastened the crime upon these two defendants; Nathan Leopold would be over in Paris or some other of the gay capitals of Europe, indulging his unnatural lust with the $5,000 he had wrung from Jacob Franks.

Fainting and Licking Waiters

"Your Honor will recollect that while doctors employed by the defense were sitting in the court room, witnesses were put on to testify to fainting spells. Now, what was the purpose of that? The purpose of that was to lay a foundation, in my judgment, for some doctor to later take the stand and testify that Loeb was suffering from epilepsy; and it would be argued that, having epilepsy, his mind was diseased.

Dr. Hulbert in his report, as I will later show you, says that there were not any evidences of fainting in Loeb, except one fainting spell that he had during initiation; and yet witness after witness was put on, and they testified that he fainted, that his eyes were glassy, and that he frothed at the mouth.

But cross-examination showed that he was merely drunk; he was not rigid, but he was stiff; his frothing at the mouth was a drunken vomit, and after he got through he wanted to lick a couple of waiters."

Easier to Prove One Insane Than Two

It has been argued here that because Richard Loeb told the doctors that he had no ambition in life, that he hadn't selected or thought of any profession, that is an indication he is mentally unbalanced; and because the other defendant had a definite ambition in life, he is also mentally unbalanced.

A happy philosophy of medicine, especially when you are testifying in a guilty case, and trying to cheat the gallows. It is too bad that they have two defendants here. It would be so much easier to prove one insane, because anything you found in him could be a bad sign. But when you have two, and they are not exactly alike, when one has broken arches and the other has a high arch, why then, it has got to be a bad sign in one and a bad sign in the other. And if one has to shave every day, that is a bad sign; and if the other does not have to shave but twice a week that is a bad sign.

It was a bad sign that Richard Loeb did not have any definite aim or purpose in life, and it was also a bad sign because Leopold wanted to study law and ornithology.

Psychiatrists Quoted on Loeb

"He makes friends very easily and feels quite at ease with strangers. He is inclined to be a leader and likes to dominate his environments.

"He has always been fond of athletics and outdoor sports such as tennis, swimming, hockey, skating and so forth, always been fond of bridge. While he plays some other card games he has not been particularly interested in them. He is considered an extremely good bridge player and has spent a great deal of time playing it. He is fond of dancing and mixed society. He has used alcohol considerably since he was 15 and gotten drunk a number of times.

"In 1912 at the age of seven, he and Jack Mandel built a five-foot square room with a pointed roof. This was used as a play house. A year or so later the boys formed a guinea pig company and used the playhouse for the office of the company. In 1916, Richard Loeb, with five or six other boys published two issues of a small three by five inch 24 page journal, called Richard's Magazine. His contribution was that of being editor, manager, and author. His writings showed quite advanced thinking for a boy of his age, and reflected well the humanitarian environment of his home."

The Lord at Dr. White's Age

Dr. White said Loeb couldn't lie to him. "Nobody can lie to me. I can read their minds just the same as or look into it just the same as a doctor can look into the human body with an X-ray." Well, I don't suppose he thinks he knows more than the Lord does, but I don't believe that he would concede that the Lord knew any more than he did when the Lord was his age.

Leopold Blackmailed Loeb for Sex

And the case closes, and we are just as much in the dark as ever as to what these four crimes (of Loeb) were, because the doctors concluded that legally and forensically it was inadvisable to question him about it. And then, I ask you, when Darrow talks about tricks, who are the tricksters in this case.

What strange hold did this man Leopold have upon Loeb? Why did he submit himself to the unnatural practices of Leopold? I will tell you, Your Honor, and I think I will demonstrate it beyond a peradventure of a doubt that these four episodes, that these four crimes were known to Leopold, and he blackmailed Loeb, he threatened Loeb with exposure if he did not submit to him, and Loeb had to go along with Leopold. And Leopold was willing to go along with Loeb because he could use his body for vile and unnatural practices. And I will prove that, and I will prove that by the testimony of the defense beyond a reasonable doubt.

Money Is The Motive

Money is the motive in this case, and I will prove it repeatedly by their own evidence. He could not figure any safe way of getting the money. "The patient and his companion [Leopold and Loeb] discussed this idea [of murder] quite frequently. Neither of them, however, could think of any simple and certain way of securing the money." All through this case is money, money, money--blood.

"Neither of them, however, could think of any simple, certain way of securing the money."  They continued to discuss the matter, weighing pros and cons, suggesting methods only to pick flaws in them. "In March, 1924, the patient conceived the idea of securing"-- What? Thrill? The excitement? No. "Conceived the idea of securing the money by having it thrown off of a moving train...."

I used to think that the most impelling motive in life was passion, but in this case passion and a desire for revenge is swept aside for money. Money is the controlling motive in this case.

Why They Killed Bobby Franks?

Was this killing done, as we have been led to believe, by the defense, merely for the thrill, Your Honor, or the excitement? What does the doctor further say on that? "The patient" (Loeb) "did not anticipate the actual killing with any pleasure." It was not for the thrill or the excitement. The original crime was the kidnapping for money. The killing was an afterthought, to prevent their identification and their subsequent apprehension and punishment. He said he did not anticipate the killing with any pleasure. It was merely necessary in order to get the money.

Motive? "The killing apparently had no other significance than being an inevitable part of a perfect crime in covering one possible trace of identification." That is the motive for the murder: self-preservation; the same as a thief at night in your house, when suddenly surprised, shoots to kill.

Leopold and Loeb Are Emotionally Responsible

[Loeb's] emotions overcame him. "He choked up, and he wiped his nose with his fingers. He wiped away the tears." The other fellow hasn't any emotions either, Your Honor, none at all. He drove them all out when he was seven or eight or nine or ten years of age, at the same time he passed God out of his heart.

Well, let's see what Dickie says about it: "I had quite a time quieting down my associate (after the murder). I cooled him down in five minutes, after we got him (Bobby Franks) into the back seat thinking he was alive. I got calmer while quieting my associate. Franks was hit on the head several times. My associate said, ‘This is terrible, this is terrible."

And if it is the fate of these two perverts that they must pay the penalty of this crime upon the gallows, when they realize it, you will find that they have emotions, and you will find they have fear, and you will find these cowardly perverts will have to be carried to the gallows.

The Hand of God at Work in this Case

And nothing, in my judgment, but an act of God, an act of Providence, is responsible for the unraveling of this terrible crime. I think that when the glasses that Leopold had not worn for three months, glasses that he no longer needed, dropped from his pocket at night, the hand of God was at work in this case. He may not have believed in a God.

But, if he has listened and paid attention and thought as the evidence was unfolded, he must begin to believe there is a God now.

A Little Bit of Remorse

"The patent's attention was called to a newspaper account of an interview with Mrs. Franks, the mother of the victim, in which she stated she had no desire to see the boys hanged, but would like to talk to them to know whether the boy suffered in his last moments. The patient was asked whether it would upset him at all to talk with Mrs. Franks. He replied he thought it would upset him a little, and make him feel sad. He said when he read this interview in the paper, ‘My first feeling was joy.'"

Joy, at what? "‘That it might help us, her not feeling vindictive. Then a little remorse, not much, perhaps a little bit.'"

Loeb Considered Killing Leopold

I told you at that time that I would prove by this report that Loeb had committed major crimes, four of them, that he would not even tell his lawyers about, that he would not tell the doctors about, and they concluded that it was a bad thing to make inquiry about; that Leopold knew about these; and that Loeb was afraid of Leopold; that he contemplated killing him so that he would not be in his power. I told Your Honor, and I have no desire to repeat it, the use that Leopold made of that information, and the method in which he blackmailed Loeb.

Now, let us see what the evidence is on that. "‘[Loeb] and his associate were on very intimate terms, but [Loeb] stated that his associate often stated that he would never entirely trust [him], since the time the associate had found the patient was taking unfair financial advantage of him." Or, in other words, that he did not have the honor that is supposed to exist among thieves. "In a way, I have always been sort of afraid of him. He intimidated me by threatening to expose me"--A, B, C and D. "He intimidated me by threatening to expose me, and I could not stand it."

"I could not stand it. I had often thought of the possibility of shooting him." And again, on page 123, Your Honor:

"He often contemplated shooting his associate when they were out together and they had the associate's revolvers along. He thought of pointing the revolver at his associate and shooting him. ‘The idea of murdering a fellow, especially alone, I don't think I could have done it. If I could have snapped my fingers and made him pass away in a heart attack, I would have done it.'"

Loeb May Attempt Escape

I direct Your Honor's attention to page 126:

"But he thinks an escape could be managed by spending a few thousand dollars by bribing the guards of the jail and by someone giving him a gun. He says that without any swagger, as though it were only a matter of careful detailed planning which his mind can do. He has not made plans as to where he should go should he escape."

What a feeling of comfort and security mothers and fathers of this town would have, with their children going back and forth upon the streets of Chicago to school and these two mad dogs at large. My God, every mother and every father would shudder and they would want to lock their children in the house until they knew that the mad dogs had been captured or killed.

One Hurdle at a Time is Darrow's Theory

One hurdle at a time is [Loeb's] theory and Darrow's theory, to beat the rope. Talk about life imprisonment in the penitentiary. Escape if you can and if you cannot the same arguments that we made to save your necks we will make to the Board of Pardons or the Governor and get you out.

Heredity is Not Responsible for Loeb's Crime

Heredity, finally Mr. Darrow says; the family, or some ancestor away back, planted the seed here. Hereditary influence. Well, let's see what their doctor's say, on page 139: "There is nothing about the patient's condition to show any evidence of a hereditary nature, and there is not the slightest reason to suppose that a condition of this kind will be transmitted to future generations by any of his siblings or relatives. This condition is acquired within the life history of the individual, and dies out when he dies." It is something of his own construction, and his ancestors are in no degree responsible for it. It will die out when he dies out.

Leopold Killed Emotion on Advice of Counsel

No emotion in the superman Leopold? No, he killed all his emotions before he came into Court, on the advice of counsel and the advice of doctors. But on page 102, when he is talking, he says:

"It was necessary to hit the victim several times over the head and he bled some. This upset the [Leopold] a great deal. He said to [Loeb], ‘My God, this is awful.' He experienced a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. His hands trembled, he lost some of his self-control. [Loeb], however, laughed and joked and helped [Leopold] to get back his self-control."

The newspaper report that he is a cold-blooded scientist, with no emotions and entirely unconcerned, the argument of his counsel, that he is a cold-blooded scientist, with no emotions, and entirely unconcerned, as Drs. Hulbert and Bowman say on page 109, "is completely wrong."

Darrow Wrong to Blame Nietzsche, Leopold's Family

The same argument was made by Mr. Darrow with reference to Leopold as was made about Loeb. First he began to blame the old German philosopher Nietzsche, although every student in every university for the last 25 years has read his philosophy. And then I guess he thought that would not do because if reading this philosophy would be an excuse for this crime, how about the countless thousands who have gone before and who are still reading this philosophy who lead decent, honorable lives?

He did not have a poor old nurse in this case to blame, and he was quite satisfied in blaming some remote ancestor, so he blames their parents, respectable, decent law-abiding citizens.

The only unfortunate thing that ever came into their lives was to have a snake like Leopold in that decent family. Casting blame where blame was not due, but where sympathy should go out as it does go out from the heart of every person in this community, to the respected families of these men.

But Darrow says, "No. Save your sympathy for the boys. Do not place the blame on the boys. Place it on their families. This is the result of heredity."

The Weird and Uncanny Philosophy of the Advocate Whose Business it is to Make Murder Safe in Cook County

This is a community of law, and this community will survive or fail as we enforce our laws and respect them. I continue the reading:

"The more we do what in us lies to secure a certain and swift justice in dealing with these cases, the more effectively do we work against the growth of that lynching spirit which is so full of evil omen for these people, because it seeks to avenge one infamous crime by the commission of another of equal infamy."

I submit, if Your Honor please, that it is safer to follow the reasoning of this state document than it is to follow the sophistries of Clarence Darrow.

I submit that it is safer to follow the philosophy of Theodore Roosevelt as he laid it down in this great state paper when he was President of the United States and was only concerned with the enforcement of the law, than it is to follow the weird and uncanny philosophy of the paid advocate of the defense, whose business it is to make murder safe in Cook County.

Consider the Evidence, Not Oratory

The trouble with Mr. Darrow is that he does not know all the facts in this case; he does not know all the evidence.

I thank God that I am not a great pleader; because I think sometimes when men are obsessed with the idea that when they open their mouths words of wisdom rush out, that all that is necessary in the trial of a case is to make a wonderful argument, a great many of them fail, in my judgment, for those reasons; because they rely too much upon their oratory, they pay no attention whatever to the facts in the case; and, after all, I believe that courts and juries are influenced, not by oratory, but by hard facts sworn to by witnesses. That is why I have paid more attention to the preparation of the evidence in this case than I have to writing a closing speech.

Beneath the Poppies in Flanders Fields

I submit, Your Honor, please, if we can take the power of American manhood, take the boys at 18 years of age and send them to their death in the front line trenches of France in defense of our laws, we have an equal right to take men 19 years of age and take their lives for violating those laws that these boys gave up their lives to defend.

Ah, many a boy 18 years of age lies beneath the poppies in Flanders fields who died to defend the laws of this country. We had no compunction when we did that; why should we have any compunction when we take the lives of men 19 yeas of age who want to tear down and destroy the laws that these brave boys died to preserve?

Darrow Appeals To Your Heart, Not Your Mind

I think, if Your Honor please, I have now covered the three defenses set forth by Mr. Darrow, their age, lack of motive and physical and mental condition.

When we get all through, Mr. Darrow says that Your Honor ought to be merciful and finally, and that is his concluding defense, he appeals to your heart and your sympathy and not to your mind or your conscience.

When I was listening to Mr. Darrow plead for sympathy for these two men who showed no sympathy, it reminded me of the story of Abraham Lincoln, about a young boy about their age whose parents were wealthy and he murdered both of them. He was an only child and he did it so that he might inherit their money.

His crime was discovered the same as this crime has been discovered, and the court asked him for any reason he might have why sentence of death should not be passed upon him and he promptly replied, he hoped the court would be lenient to a poor orphan. Robert Franks had a right to live. He had a right to the society of the family and his friends and they had a right to his society.

These two young law students of superior intelligence, with more intelligence than they have heart, decided that he must die.

He was only 14.

The Doctrines of Anarchy Preached by Darrow

I want to tell Your Honor that it would be much better if God had not caused this crime to be disclosed; it would be much better if it had gone unsolved, and these men went unwhipped of justice; it would not have done near the harm to this community that will be done if Your Honor, as Chief Justice of this great Court, puts your official seal of approval upon the doctrines of anarchy preached by Clarence Darrow as a defense in this case.

Society can endure, the law can endure, if criminals escape; but if a court such as this court should say that he believes in the doctrines of Darrow, that you ought not to hang when the law says you should, a greater blow has been struck to our institutions than by a hundred, aye, a thousand murders.

Execute Justice and Righteousness in the Land

You have listened with a great deal of patience and kindness and consideration to the State and the defense. I am not going to trespass unduly upon Your Honor's time, and I am going to close for the State.

I believe that the facts and circumstances proved in this case demonstrate that a crime has been committed by these two defendants, and that no other punishment except the extreme penalty of the law will fit it; and I leave the case with you on behalf of the State of Illinois, and I ask Your Honor in the language of Holy Writ to "Execute justice and righteousness in the land."