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Thursday, February 25, 2016

Clarence Darrow and Leopold and Loeb on PBS

Clarence Darrow at right, with defendants Leopold and Loeb
center (Courtesy of the Chicago Historical Society)
The Riesenfeld Center holds the preeminent national collection of personal letters written by and to Clarence Darrow (1857-1938), as well as numerous books, pamphlets, and other writings by and about the great American trial attorney. The manuscript letters have been transcribed and digitized as part of the Law Library's award-winning Clarence Darrow Digital Collection. The Darrow Digital Collection is a full research portal that also includes a biography and timeline of Darrow's career, over two hundred images, a collection of important Darrow case materials and summaries, and a searchable Westlaw database of all Darrow cases and cases that refer to Darrow.

Last year, an associate producer at PBS contacted us to use one of our Darrow photographs in a documentary on the Leopold and Loeb "trial of the century." At the 1924 trial, one of the most controversial of Darrow's storied career, Darrow successfully mounted an insanity defense to save the lives of two wealthy young Chicagoans who murdered a boy simply, as they admitted, "for the thrill of it."

The PBS documentary on Leopold and Loeb, titled "The Perfect Crime," has now been broadcast as part of the PBS American Experience documentary series, and can be viewed online.  The film expertly captures the courtroom drama and describes Darrow's strategy on behalf of his doomed clients. The website for the documentary also features the Darrow Digital Collection as a source for further reading.

   - Ryan Greenwood, Curator of Rare Books and Special Collections, and Michael Hannon, Associate Director for Access Services & Digital Initiatives

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