The “Crime of the Century” occurred in 1924. Two 19 year old law students coming from two wealthy families in Chicago murdered a 14 year old boy – Bobby Franks. The reason? They wanted to have the experience of killing someone. And they intended to commit the “perfect crime.” The two were caught thanks to the unique hinge on a pair of eyeglasses found near the body. And a match between the typewritten ransom notes and some class notes of one of the young men.
Richard Loeb and Nathan Leopold were arrested and grilled by police. After being confronted with the evidence, they confessed. And the public clamored for them to hang. In a dramatic “end run” to avoid a poisoned jury, their lawyer Clarence Darrow pleaded them guilty to murder and kidnapping. And placed the decision of life – or death – in the hands of the court — Judge John L. Caverly. Following a month-long hearing on aggravation and mitigation, States Attorney Robert Crowe argued for five hours demanding that the two be hung by the neck until dead. Clarence Darrow argued for eleven hours. Pleading for mercy. Pleading for life. It is said that when Darrow finished his closing argument, there was not a dry eye in the courtroom — except for the dour States Attorney. Two weeks later, Judge Caverly delivered the verdict. His decision? “Life” in the penitentiary.
For the last twelve years, I have been performing in a one act play – “Pleading for the Future.” Early on, the production ran for four nights in a northside Chicago theater. Today, the play provides continuing legal education for law schools, bar associations and law firms. It is a real life account of the murder and the closing arguments – complete with slides and music. Famed reporter and author Ben Hecht (played by lawyer and former U.S. Army Stars & Stripes reporter Bill Hannay) provides the introduction and prologue. Todd Parkhurst (a veteran actor, lawyer and LifeLine pilot) has the role of Clarence Darrow. And I (former States Attorney) am States Attorney Bob Crowe. We continue to perform gratis for various groups and organizations. The play has taken on a life of its own. Now if only we could get Steven Spielberg, Disney or Warner Bros. to pick it up — keeping the original cast of course . . . .