The Old Lion: Defending Leopold and Loeb
Although Darrow had an active career as a defense attorney after his bribery trials in 1911 and 1912, no trial seized the public's attention during that period of time as much as the Leopold-Loeb murder case in Chicago in 1924. The sensational nature of that trial captured national headlines, and the drama of the trial did much to build the Darrow myth: "Darrow received more national attention for his defense of Leopold and Loeb than for any of his previous cases." The combination of the Leopold-Loeb case and the Scopes trial the following year "assured his reputation as America's most famous attorney." 1
Although much of Darrow's law practice was spent defending the poor and the downtrodden, he chose to defend Richard Loeb and Nathan Leopold, the sons of two prominent and wealthy families, for the murder of a fourteen-year-old neighbor, Bobby Franks. Although many questioned his acceptance of the case, the sensational nature of the trial gave Darrow a national platform from which to argue against the death penalty.
On the afternoon of May 21, 1924, Loeb (age eighteen) and Leopold (age nineteen) drove around their neighborhood looking for a young