Crime of the Century
John Logan’s first play, Never the Sinner, was based on the real-life trial of Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb, whose murder of 14-year-old Bobby Franks in 1924 was one of the most notorious crimes of the 20th century (see the ransom note sent to Bobby Franks' father, Jacob Franks). Leopold and Loeb were well-educated young men from wealthy Chicago families, with seemingly every advantage. Smugly self-satisfied about their above-average intelligence, they said they killed Franks simply to prove they could do it and expressed no remorse. The well-known attorney Clarence Darrow was hired to defend them, and although the public pressure for a death sentence was intense, a judge sentenced both to life imprisonment, basing his decision on the fact that they were minors at the time of the murder.
Loeb died in prison in 1936; Leopold was released in 1958. Elmer Gertz, Leopold’s parole officer, later donated all his documents related to the case to Northwestern, where they are now stored as part of the Charles Deering McCormick Library of Special Collections. University Archives also houses the papers of Harold S. Hulbert, a Chicago psychiatrist who examined both Leopold and Loeb and collected documents about the case (including the original ransom note the killers sent to the victim’s father). You can read Hulbert’s in-depth psychological profiles of Leopold and Loeb, along with other information related to the case, at bit.ly/LeopoldLoeb. — E.C.B.