Segments in this Video

May 22nd, 1904 (03:33)


Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb bludgeoned Robert Franks and poured acid over his face to disguise it. Robert Crowe and Charles Darrow argued about the death penalty at their trial.

Affluent Families (03:58)

Crowe interrogated Leopold after his eyeglasses were found beside the corpse. The teenager explained that he was an avid birdwatcher and provided an alibi for the night Franks was murdered.

Crime Planned for Months (04:43)

Police found a letter which inferred that Leopold and Loeb were lovers. Crowe kept the teenagers in custody as circumstantial evidence mounted against them. Loeb confessed and provided details only the killers could know.

A Guided Tour (03:21)

Leopold and Loeb retraced their steps on the day of the murder in front of police and journalists and showed no remorse. Crowe promised the death penalty for the teenagers.

Leopold and Loeb: Relationship (05:19)

Both teenagers came from affluent families and Leopold fell in love with Loeb. Loeb researched crimes, read pulp fiction, and promised sex to Leopold if he accompanied him while performing criminal activity. The teenagers begin to believe they are the embodiment of Friedrich Nietzsche's concept of superman.

Enter Darrow (04:29)

The Loeb family retains the "Attorney for the Damned" to secure life imprisonment for the boys. Leading Alienists interview Loeb and Leopold to combat an insanity plea.

Not Guilty Plea (02:38)

Darrow hires and physician, adolescent criminologist, and a psychiatrist. 60% of those surveyed believed Leopold and Loeb should be given the death penalty. Darrow worries he cannot save the teenagers.

Motions (02:16)

Darrow announces that Leopold and Loeb will change their plea to guilty so that Judge John R. Caverly would determine if his clients would receive the death penalty. Crowe did not think the defense attorney should be allowed to introduce evidence about mental states and background.

Sentencing Hearing (07:21)

Crowe presented the states witnesses, who provided evidence that Leopold and Loeb committed the murder. Darrow questioned experts about his clients' mental states and abnormalities. One witness asserted that the teenagers entered into a master-slave relationship.

Darrow's Closing Arguments (05:03)

Darrow teased that he was going to retire after the trial. In his closing argument the lawyer spoke for over three days in an impassioned plea for life imprisonment. Listen to excerpts of his speech.

Crowe's Rebuttal (04:52)

Crowe insinuated that there was a sexual motive to the murder. Caverly insisted that female reporters leave the courtroom. The Judge decides not to impose the death penalty because of the age of the defendants.

Leopold Released from Prison (03:50)

A fellow inmate murdered Loeb; Leopold was granted parole and begged for privacy. Darrow advocated against the death penalty. Experts discuss the impact of the murder and subsequent trial.

Credits: American Experience: The Perfect Crime (00:59)

Credits: American Experience: The Perfect Crime

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American Experience: The Perfect Crime

3-Year Streaming Price: $169.95



The murder of a fourteen-year-old boy by two wealthy college students was shocking enough, their motive more so. Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb had planned to abduct and kill a child at random to prove they were smart enough to get away with it. Their lawyer Clarence Darrow summoned experts to show that the murderers had been shaped by childhood trauma and physical defects, and that it was society and its barbaric death penalty that deserved to be put on trial. Set in 1920s Chicago—a city of gin joints, gangsters, and political corruption—The Perfect Crime tells a story that set off a national debate about morality, individual responsibility, and capital punishment.

Length: 53 minutes

Item#: BVL151352

Copyright date: ©2016

Closed Captioned

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