Leopold and Loeb the Murder Term Paper

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The groundskeeper explained to the golfers, you are lucky to be alive, "You were sitting on a box of dynamite." The headline of small yet front page article LEOPOLD and LOEB OUGHT to READ THIS. A completely unrelated story of luck, becoms a very sobering reminder to the Sheboygan readers of the nationally infamous Chicago trial, still taking place and likely nearing the sentencing stage. On the same front page of the paper the details of the trail are played out in a larger article where the Sheboygan paper describes details of the trial findings, including the usage of phrases such as "death blow" submitting for public perusal the findings, as to who was the actual killer, (Loeb) and using descriptive testimony of witnesses with regard to Leopold and Loeb's varying psychosis. One passage describes a moment when Leopold began to show sympathy and then promptly apologized for doing so. (1) the clear sense that this particular paper wished to demonstrate the deviance of the defendants, rather than the "expert" medical findings of the defense claiming that each boy had a particular set of medical problems that would have caused their behavior to be erratic and potentially psychotic.

The physical examination of Leopold revealed that there had been a premature involution of the thymus gland and a premature calcification of the pineal gland in the skull; that the pituitary gland was smaller than normal; that the thyroid gland was overactive; and that the adrenal glands did not function normally. One of the doctors gave it as his opinion that these abnormalities produced an early sex development and had a direct relationship to Leopold's extraordinary precocity and his mental condition. The physical examination of Loeb disclosed conditions which the doctors said were equally serious. His blood pressure was subnormal, the blood carbon-dioxide content was markedly low, his basal metabolism was minus seventeen. These combined conditions definitely indicated a disorder of the endocrine glands; he was subject to fainting spells and suffered a nervous disorder which manifested itself in a periodic tremor and twitching of the facial tissues. Such abnormalities, said the physician, were definitely related to Loeb's mental condition.

Busch 165)

In comparison to the article detailing the gruesome acts of murder, in the Sheboygan newspaper the Chicago Daily News on June 2, 1924 details the amazing act of Nathan Leopold finding and filming a previously thought extinct bird, the Pine Warbler. The end of the article demonstrates the desire of the paper to get inside the head of the murderers, and in so doing share this holistic view with its readers.

The ornithologists with the party stood amazed at the performance despite the old and tired theory that instinct protects the wild creatures and that a sense sharper than that of humans apprises birds of a kind and sympathetic nature. So much for the picture. The student who won the confidence of the pine warblers, who stood the test of their uncanny penetration, was Nathan Leopold, facing the hangman's noose for the murder of a little boy. (3)

The paper attempted to show the boys, and their family in the light of their whole lives, including but not limited to the good deeds they had done as well as the criminal acts they had perpetrated. Irony is the clear creation of such drama, but it is also a testament to the idea that these boys where whole people before and after the gruesome crime they had committed.

Even after the case was over, Darrow noted as elated by the decision of the judge not to impose the death penalty the boy's new lives in prison are detailed for the reader in the Chicago Daily News:

Slayers Write Kin of Hope of Future: Loeb Tells Mother He Seeks Salvation; Leopold Sees Enormity of His Crime. Joliet, Ill., Sept. 15 -- Sobered by prison life, "Dickie" Loeb and "Babe" Leopold wrote their first letters to an outside world to-day and agreed that Joliet was doing them a world of good. "Dickie's" letter was to his mother, Mrs. Albert Loeb at Charlevoix, Mich. "Confinement is doing me a world of good," he wrote. "I got down on my knees last night and prayed to God to give me strength and goodness. I am trying to find God, at last. Prison life, I think, will help me to become a good man." [Leopold] "I have come to realize for the first time the real enormity of my crime," his note said. "Last night another prisoner lent me a book, and I hope to read many volumes here. I think that prison will make a new man of me. Anyway, I am entering this new life hoping to get all the best out of it." (Mulroy 3)

The article then goes on to describe the boys as model prisoners, whose only enemies are group of older hardened criminals who see their defense as weak and do not buy the ideals of psychoanalysis. (Mulroy 3) to the writers and readers of the Chicago Daily News the boys were young men, young men who had made an enormous and cruel mistake in their well thought out and deviant and senseless random murder of Bobby Franks. The Chicago Daily News detailed the first days of the boys' lives in jail, awaiting trial as well, commenting on the events and dispositions of the boys as they dealt with jail life. Loeb was detailed as:

polite, soft-spoken white boy, in the brown dungarees of a prisoner, leaned over a table in the county jail schoolroom to-day guiding the hand of an untutored young Negro through a writing lesson. (Chicago Daily News June 3, 1924 1)

The paper played on the heart strings of the public, even after the gruesome details of the crimes were made public. The boy's were seen as victims of their privileged lives. The Chicago Daily Tribune, took another approach, polling random strangers at the Chicago Criminal Court Building about the case, one question asked, was: "Would you like to be the judge in the Leopold-Loeb trial?" One answer was:

Henry Weil, 4520 Drexel boulevard, real estate. -- I wouldn't want to be the judge in this case. No matter what verdict is rendered the judge will be criticized. Seems to me the judge who has to decide the fate of these two boys holds the most difficult position in the world. (Chicago Daily Tribune, August 5, 1924 17)

The personification of all the individuals involved was so evident in the Chicago Press that it is a wonder that the crime which was of such a senseless nature and so brutal, had actually taken place there. The same roving reporter went about the next day asking several people at a street corner: "Do you think the Franks case should be given as much publicity as it is getting?" And one answer he got was.

O.C. Tennant, 1519 East 54th street, correspondent -- We have trouble enough in this old world without continually reading about these boys' troubles. The fine points brought out by the alienist-doctors are interesting. I'd much prefer to have the same space devoted to sports, politics, or general news. (Chicago Daily Tribune August 6, 1924 19)

The Chicago Daily News even did an expose describing the very human characteristics and actions of the father of Leopold, while he was present in the court room. The very human rendition of the man was clearly melodramatic, but that was the intention to make people aware that there was not just one victimized family in this situation but three. (Chicago Daily News June 7, 1924 3) in fact it would be interesting to know how the Franks family felt about the emotional nature of the press coverage, with regard to the feelings and actions of the defendants. While other national papers describe the defendants in terms of being criminal as well as deviant, "Leopold turned a half-sickley grin on Patrolman George Homer, who testified to securing the "Ballard" letter. Loeb also was much amused." (Sheboygan Press-Telegram July, 24 1924 1) Chicago and the Franks themselves must have been wondering where their voice was, as so much attention was played to the millionaire murders. The belated voice of Jacob Franks, the father of the slain boy, was heard by New York Times readers on October 20, 1924, when he pledged to create a trust fund to fight any attempts to free Leopold or Loeb. (New York Times October 20, 1924 6)

The press was clearly a crucial part of why this case, unlike many others was demonstratively sensational. Public opinion ebbed and flowed with anger and sorrow as the young men in this case were personified and vilified, depending upon what paper you were reading on any given day.…[continue]


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