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Wed Apr 3, 2019, 05:32 AM

83 Years Ago Today; Bruno Richard Hauptmann executed for kidnapping/murder of Charles Lindbergh Jr

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lindbergh_kidnapping



On March 1, 1932, Charles Augustus Lindbergh Jr., 20-month-old son of aviator Charles Lindbergh and Anne Morrow Lindbergh, was abducted from the crib in the upper floor of his home in Highfields in East Amwell, New Jersey, United States. On May 12, the child's corpse was discovered by a truck driver off the side of a nearby road.

In September 1934, a German immigrant carpenter named Richard Hauptmann was arrested for the crime. After a trial that lasted from January 2 to February 13, 1935, he was found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to death. Despite his conviction, he continued to profess his innocence, but all appeals failed and he was executed in the electric chair at the New Jersey State Prison on April 3, 1936. Newspaper writer H. L. Mencken called the kidnapping and trial "the biggest story since the Resurrection." Legal scholars have referred to the trial as one of the "trials of the century". The crime spurred Congress to pass the Federal Kidnapping Act, commonly called the "Lindbergh Law", which made transporting a kidnapping victim across state lines a federal crime.

Kidnapping
At 7:30 p.m. on March 1, 1932, Lindbergh family nurse Betty Gow put 20 month-old Charles, Jr. into his crib. Around 9:30 p.m. the baby's father Charles was in the library just below the baby's room when he heard a noise that he imagined to be slats breaking off a full crate in the kitchen. At 10:00 p.m., Gow discovered that the child was missing from the crib. The nurse also found that the baby was not with his mother, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, who had just come out of the bathtub. Gow then alerted Charles Lindbergh, who immediately went to the child's room, where he found the kidnapper's ransom note in an envelope on the windowsill; the note contained bad grammar and handwriting. He then took a gun and went around the house and grounds with butler Olly Whateley. They found impressions in the ground under the window of the child's room and pieces of a cleverly designed wooden ladder. They also found a baby's blanket. Whateley telephoned the Hopewell police department to inform them of the missing child. Charles Lindbergh then contacted his attorney and friend, Henry Breckinridge, and the New Jersey state police.

Within 20 minutes, police were en route to the home.

<snip>

Arrest of Hauptmann
During a thirty-month period, a number of the ransom bills were spent throughout New York City. Detectives realized that many of the bills were being spent along the route of the Lexington Avenue subway, which connected the Bronx with the east side of Manhattan, including the German-Austrian neighborhood of Yorkville.

On September 18, 1934 a Manhattan bank teller noticed a gold certificate from the ransom; a New York license plate number (4U-13-41-N.Y) penciled in the bill's margin allowed it to be traced to a nearby gas station. The station manager had written down the license number because his customer was acting "suspicious" and was "possibly a counterfeiter." The license plate belonged to a sedan owned by Richard Hauptmann of 1279 East 222nd Street in the Bronx, an immigrant with a criminal record in Germany. When Hauptmann was arrested, he was carrying a single 20-dollar gold certificate and over $14,000 of the ransom money was found in his garage.

Hauptmann was arrested, interrogated, and beaten at least once throughout the following day and night. Hauptmann stated that the money and other items had been left with him by his friend and former business partner Isidor Fisch. Fisch had died on March 29, 1934, shortly after returning to Germany. Hauptmann stated he learned only after Fisch's death that the shoebox that was left with him contained a considerable sum of money. He kept the money because he claimed that it was owed to him from a business deal that he and Fisch had made. Hauptmann consistently denied any connection to the crime or knowledge that the money in his house was from the ransom.

When the police searched Hauptmann's home, they found a considerable amount of additional evidence that linked him to the crime. One item was a notebook that contained a sketch of the construction of a ladder similar to that which was found at the Lindbergh home in March 1932. John Condon's telephone number, along with his address, were discovered written on a closet wall in the house. A key piece of evidence, a section of wood, was discovered in the attic of the home. After being examined by an expert, it was determined to be an exact match to the wood used in the construction of the ladder found at the scene of the crime.

Hauptmann was indicted in the Bronx on September 24, 1934, for extorting the $50,000 ransom from Charles Lindbergh. Two weeks later, on October 8, 1934, Hauptmann was indicted in New Jersey for the murder of Charles Augustus Lindbergh Jr. Two days later, he was surrendered to New Jersey authorities by New York Governor Herbert H. Lehman to face charges directly related to the kidnapping and murder of the child. Hauptmann was moved to the Hunterdon County Jail in Flemington, New Jersey, on October 19, 1934.

Trial

The trial was held at the old Hunterdon County Courthouse

Hauptmann was charged with capital murder, which meant that a conviction would result in the death penalty. The trial was held at the Hunterdon County Courthouse in Flemington, New Jersey, and was soon dubbed the "Trial of the Century".Reporters swarmed the town, and every hotel room was booked. Judge Thomas Whitaker Trenchard presided over the trial.

In exchange for rights to publish Hauptmann's story in their newspaper, Edward J. Reilly was hired by the New York Daily Mirror to serve as Hauptmann's attorney. David T. Wilentz, Attorney General of New Jersey, led the prosecution.

Evidence against Hauptmann included $20,000 of the ransom money found in his garage and testimony alleging handwriting and spelling similarities to that found on the ransom notes. Eight handwriting experts (including Albert S. Osborn) pointed out similarities between the ransom notes and Hauptmann's writing specimens. The defense called an expert to rebut this evidence, while two others declined to testify; the latter two demanded $500 before looking at the notes and were dismissed when Lloyd Fisher, a member of Hauptmann's legal team, declined. Other experts retained by the defense were never called to testify.

Based on the work of Arthur Koehler at the Forest Products Laboratory, the State introduced photographs demonstrating that part of the wood from the ladder matched a plank from the floor of Hauptmann's attic: the type of wood, the direction of tree growth, the milling pattern, the inside and outside surface of the wood, and the grain on both sides were identical, and four oddly placed nail holes lined up with nail holes in joists in Hauptmann's attic. Additionally, Condon's address and telephone number were written in pencil on a closet door in Hauptmann's home. Hauptmann admitted to police that he had written Condon's address:

I must have read it in the paper about the story. I was a little bit interested and keep a little bit record of it, and maybe I was just on the closet, and was reading the paper and put it down the address ... I can't give you any explanation about the telephone number.

Additionally, a hand-drawn sketch which Wilentz suggested was that of a ladder was found in one of Hauptmann's notebooks. Hauptmann said this picture, along with various other sketches contained therein, had been the work of a child who had drawn in it.

Despite not having an obvious source of earned income, he had enough money to purchase a large $400 radio (nearly $7,000 today) and to send his wife on a trip to Germany.

Hauptmann was positively identified as the man to whom the ransom money was delivered. Other witnesses testified that it was Hauptmann who had spent some of the Lindbergh gold certificates, that he had been seen in the area of the estate in East Amwell, New Jersey near Hopewell on the day of the kidnapping, and that he had been absent from work on the day of the ransom payment and quit his job two days later. Hauptmann never attempted to find another job afterward, yet continued to live comfortably.

When the prosecution rested, the defense opened up their case with a lengthy examination by Hauptmann himself. In his testimony, Hauptmann denied being guilty, insisting that the box found to contain the gold certificates had been left in his garage by a friend named Isidor Fisch, who had returned to Germany in December 1933 and died there in March 1934. Hauptmann claimed that he had one day found a shoe box left behind by Fisch, which Hauptmann had stored on the top shelf of a kitchen broom closet, later discovering the money which, upon counting, added up to nearly $40,000. He further claimed that since Fisch owed him around $7,500 in business funds, Hauptmann kept the money for himself and had lived off of it since January 1934.

The defense called Hauptmann's wife Anna to corroborate the Fisch story. However, upon cross-examination she was forced to admit that while she hung her apron every day on a hook higher than the top shelf, she could not remember seeing any shoe box there. Later, rebuttal witnesses testified that Fisch could not have been at the scene of the crime, and that he had no money for medical treatments when he died of tuberculosis. Fisch's landlady testified that he could barely afford his $3.50 per-week room.

In his closing summation, Reilly argued that the evidence against Hauptmann was entirely circumstantial, as no reliable witness had placed Hauptmann at the scene of the crime, nor were his fingerprints found on the ladder, the ransom notes, or anywhere in the nursery.

Appeals
Hauptmann was convicted and immediately sentenced to death. Hauptmann's attorneys appealed to the New Jersey Court of Errors and Appeals, then the state's highest court; the appeal was argued on June 29, 1935.

New Jersey Governor Harold G. Hoffman secretly visited Hauptmann in his cell on the evening of October 16, accompanied by a stenographer who spoke German fluently. Hoffman urged members of the Court of Errors and Appeals to visit Hauptmann.

In late January 1936, while declaring he held no position on the guilt or innocence of Hauptmann, Hoffman cited evidence that the crime was not a "one person" job and directed Schwarzkopf to continue a thorough and impartial investigation in an effort to bring all parties involved to justice.

It became known among the press that on March 27, Hoffman was considering a second reprieve of Hauptmann's death sentence, but was actively seeking advice concerning the legality of his right as governor to do so.

On March 30, 1936, Hauptmann's second and final appeal asking for clemency from the New Jersey Board of Pardons was denied. Hoffman later announced that this decision would be the final legal action in the case, and that he would not grant another reprieve. Nonetheless, there was a postponement when the Mercer County grand jury, investigating the confession and arrest of Trenton attorney, Paul Wendel, requested a delay from Warden Mark Kimberling. This final stay ended when the Mercer County Prosecutor informed Kimberling that the Grand Jury had adjourned after voting to discontinue its investigation without charging Wendel.

Execution
Hauptmann turned down a large offer from a Hearst newspaper for a confession and refused a last-minute offer to commute his sentence from the death penalty to life-without-parole in exchange for a confession. He was electrocuted on April 3, 1936, just over four years after the kidnapping.

Following Hauptmann's death, some reporters and independent investigators came up with numerous questions regarding the way the investigation was run and the fairness of the trial. Questions were raised concerning issues ranging from witness tampering to the planting of evidence. Twice during the 1980s, Anna Hauptmann sued the state of New Jersey for the unjust execution of her husband. Both times the suits were dismissed on unknown grounds. She continued fighting to clear his name until her death at age 95 in 1994.

</snip>


An intriguing case. I've always thought he was guilty - Occam's razor...

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Reply 83 Years Ago Today; Bruno Richard Hauptmann executed for kidnapping/murder of Charles Lindbergh Jr (Original post)
Dennis Donovan Apr 3 OP
hlthe2b Apr 3 #1

Response to Dennis Donovan (Original post)

Wed Apr 3, 2019, 06:20 AM

1. I've always found it curious (bad word, but only one I can come up with) that he refused "prison"

(for life sans parole) in exchange for a guilty admission to save himself from execution. It is impossible to know, but I always had trouble with wondering a motivation for that if he was guilty. On the other hand, perhaps it was his sense of "guilt" that caused him to no longer wish to live.

The Lindberghs lived amazing, complicated lives with both massive fame and unimaginable tragedy. Charles' pro-Hitler stances and anti-semitism have always marred his reputation with me and always will, however. And, yes, I know his anti-interventionism re Hitler was a position that Joseph Kennedy likewise espoused. I'm not so sure the latter was so overtly antisemitic, however.

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