9pm, Friday 6 May on Freesat 160, Virgin 276 and Sky 534
This captivating documentary tells the story of a brutal murder and the subsequent trial that set off a national debate about morality, individual responsibility and capital punishment.
On May 21, 1924, Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb, two college students from a wealthy suburb of Chicago, abducted and murdered 14-year-old Bobby Franks. The crime was shocking enough, but their motive was even more so. The two had planned to abduct and kill a child at random simply to prove that they were smart enough to get away with it. Not surprisingly, their trial attracted media attention across the country. The boys’ families hired the renowned defence lawyer Clarence Darrow , a trenchant opponent of the death penalty, who saw the high-profile case as an opportunity to take a stand against what he saw as an inhumane punishment. As the trial proceeded, Darrow introduced expert medical and psychological reports on the defendants that he had gathered as mitigating circumstances. The eloquence of his closing argument, in which he implored the judge to spare the boys’ lives, reportedly reduced many in the court to tears. After deliberating for over a week, the judge sentenced Leopold and Loeb to life, plus 99 years. Darrow had achieved his aim, but the case would continue to fascinate the public.