There are several theories of crime causation. However, this paper only focuses on two theories, the biological and sociological theories, to explain probable reasons why Leopold and Loeb committed the heinous kidnapping and murder of an acquaintance to which they both confessed.
A brief summary of the facts of the case Illinois V Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb is that Leopold and Loeb, aged 19 and 18 years respectively, planned and executed the murder of Frank, a fourteen year old, by first kidnapping him. The two were from wealthy families and were not in need of the ransom money which they demanded after committing the murder and lying to the parents that they needed the money in exchange of the victim. It was established through their confession that they committed the crime in order to satisfy their fantasy of being able to engage in perfect crimes.
One component of sociological theory that could explain the actions of Leopold and Loeb is that there was peer pressure involved in the crimes. It was believed that each convict would not have committed the crime unaccompanied. Since both the offenders were known to be uniquely intelligent and were university students at the time, Leopold’s agreement to act as an accomplice to Loeb suggests that there was peer influence that led to the two engaging in the act in total disregard of possible dire consequences of their actions.
In addition to peer pressure, upbringing could also have contributed to the defendants’ propensity to commit the crime. For instance, Leopold was brought up in a strict family set up in which crime was seen as a form of rebellion from the strict set up just to achieve the feel-good factor.
Thirdly, based on the sociological theory, education of the two played a major role in their involvement in the crime. For instance, being a university student at the time, Loeb is documented to have been reading crime and detective stories from which he came up with the idea of being able to commit the perfect crime. Furthermore, Darren, counsel for both offenders relied on the fact that the two had been influenced by Nietzsche philosophy that did not inculcate proper moral values. Due to poor emotional development, the two teenagers had subscribed to the theory and agreed to participate in the crime without regard to the fact that murder and kidnapping were both highly immoral and carried heavy penalties. Their desire to commit the perfect crime and belief that they were not subject to the law of the ordinary men encouraged them to commit the crime.
The second theory, the biological theory, is believed to have largely influenced Leopold in particular. The defence attorney in his submissions for substitution of the death penalty with life imprisonment argued that Leopold was not responsible for his action but was influenced by the ancestral genetic make-up he inherited. Scientists however, have not been able to come up with credible conclusions that crime could be sufficiently attributed to genes. Scientists argue that crime depends on several factors such as psychological, economic and social conditions of the offender and are also influenced by the environment (Marsh, Ian, and Gaynor, 10). These agents are said to work together to make a criminal hence it is not certain that genetic make-up can act as a stand- alone reason for crime. This was affirmed in an experiment where identical twins were found not to have the same propensity to commit crime. However, there are families that have had a long history of crime hence the possibility of a link to genetic inheritance (Finley, 111).
- Linder Douglas. Jurist-The Trial of Leopold & Loeb. The legal education Network. Web 23 October 2013.
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Marsh, Ian, and Gaynor Melville. Theories of Crime. London: Routledge, 2006. Print.
Akers, Ronald L, and Christine S. Sellers. Criminological Theories: Introduction, Evaluation, and Application. , 2013. Print.
Finley, Laura L. Encyclopedia of Juvenile Violence. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 2007. Internet resource.