Clarence Darrow Enters a Plea of Guilty in the Leopold and Loeb Case
Clarence Darrow: Your honor, in the case of general number 33623 and 33624, where the defendants, Nathan F. Leopold, Jr., and Richard Loeb, are indicted for murder and kidnapping, these cases are set for this morning for any motions we might wish to make.
Of course it is unnecessary to say that this case has given us many perplexities and sleepless nights. Nobody is more aware than we are of what this means and the responsibility that is upon us. . . . No one. . . will doubt for a moment that we have deepest sympathy for everyone of the three families involved.
Of course, this case has attracted very unusual attention on account of the weird, uncanny and terrible nature of the homicide. We have meant to consider it from the standpoint of the defendants, but we must also consider it first of all from the standpoint of their families – and by the families I include all three-and from the standpoint of the public, who are rightfully interested in this proceeding. . . .
We want to state frankly here that no one in this case believes that these defendants should be released. We believe they should be permanently isolated from society and, if we as lawyers thought differently, their families would not permit us to do otherwise.
We know, your honor, the facts in this case are substantially as have been published in the newspapers and what purports to be their confession, and we can see we have no duty to the defendants, or their families, or society, except to see that they are safely and permanently excluded from the public. . . .
After long reflection and thorough discussion. . . we have determined to make a motion in this court for each of the defendants in each of the cases to withdraw our plea of not guilty and enter a plea of guilty. . . .
The statute provides that evidence may be offered in mitigation of the punishment and we shall ask at such time as the court may direct that we may be permitted to offer evidence as to the mental condition of these young men, to show the degree of responsibility they had and also to offer evidence as to the youth of these defendants and the fact of a plea of guilty as further mitigation of the penalties in this case.
With that we throw ourselves upon the mercy of this court and this court alone.
Judge Caverly Warns Leopold and Loeb That They Could Face Death
Judge Caverly: Nathan Leopold Jr., if your plea is guilty, and the plea of guilty is entered in this case, 33623, the court may sentence you to death; the court may sentence you to the penitentiary for the term of your natural life; the court may sentence you to the penitentiary for a term of years not less than fourteen. Now, realizing the consequence of your plea, do you still desire to plead guilty?
Nathan Leopold: I do.
Judge Caverly: Let the plea of guilty be entered, Mr. Clerk, in indictment number 33623, charging Nathan Leopold Jr. with murder. . . .
Now, Nathan Leopold, in indictment number 33624, in which you are charged with kidnapping for ransom, the court desires to inform you that if you plead guilty, the court may sentence you to death, to the penitentiary for the term of your natural life or for a term of years. . .What is the minimum in kidnapping? [asking his clerk, Ferdinand Scherer].
Robert Crowe: There is, no minimum, your honor.
Judge Caverly: . . . any term up to life. Now, realizing the consequences of that plea do you now wish to withdraw your plea of not guilty in that case and plead guilty?
Nathan Leopold: I do.
Judge Caverly: Mr. Clerk, let the record show that Mr. Nathan Leopold, Jr., in indictment number 33624 charging kidnapping for ransom, desires to withdraw his plea of not guilty and have a plea of guilty entered, after being warned by the court of its consequences.
[Caverly asked the same questions and gave the same warnings to Loeb, who also plead guilty.]
Attorneys Debate Whether Psychiatric Evidence Can Be Introduced at a Hearing to Consider Evidence in Mitigation of Sentence
Benjamin Bachrach (defense attorney): ....The ordinary hearing of insanity in criminal trials, is much in the nature of a vaudeville show. It looks like high-class arguments, bickerings, denials, one set of alienists say one thing, another set of alienists say another thing," It brought disrepute on everyone involved. Each set of psychiatrists impugned the honesty of the other; psychiatry was regarded by the public as a laughingstock, less a serious science than an exercise in charlatanism and buffoonery, and the attorneys-never reluctant to purchase testimony from expert witnesses to say whatever served their purpose-were damned in the public eye as corrupt and venal. ...[We suggest before the hearing begins] a joint conference of the alienists of the defendants and the state. .
Robert Crowe: Now, just a minute....
Benjamin Bachrach: Well, before. . ,
Robert Crowe: Just a moment. Is there a plea of guilty entered here by two sane men or is the defense entering a plea of guilty by two insane men? ..."
Benjamin Bachrach: Now, I ask counsel not to interrupt until I finish. . .
Robert Crowe: I know, but what I want to know is whether the contention is here the boys are sane or insane?
Benjamin Bachrach: I am not to be sidetracked. We ask counsel for the other side to assume that we are in good faith. . . . What we desire to do is to determine the degree of mental responsibility of the defendants. When the court hears all of the evidence it is his duty to fix the penalty. I think it comes with bad grace for the state's attorney to try to shut me off at this time. . . . What these alienists that we have talked to want to do is to meet with the alienists of the state and talk it over with them and see if they can iron out whatever differences there may be among them. Maybe our alienists will be won over to their side; maybe it will be the other way, but at any rate they want to present a joint matter.
Judge Caverly: Well, the court, of course. . . has no power to require the state's attorney to do that.
Robert Crowe: The state's attorney is in a position to prove by evidence beyond all reasonable doubt that these boys are not only guilty, but that they are absolutely sane under the law and should be hanged, and the state will introduce evidence beginning Wednesday morning to that effect.
Judge Caverly: All right. We will suspend, gentlemen, then, until Wednesday morning at 10 o'clock. All be here promptly at ten.