2 West 45th St
April 1, 1936
Hon. Harold G. Hoffman
Governor of New Jersey
Trenton, New Jersey
My Dear Governor Hoffman:
“Invitations out for Hauptmann Execution”
Newspaper headlines such as this in the last week compel me to write a letter I have long debated.
I believe many people feel reasonable doubt exists on some points in the tragic case referred to. Ceaseless argument rages among those who would have a man die because he has been condemned and others who would preserve behind bars a living mystery for the years to kill.
With proven laboratory methods available for ascertaining the truth of any statement is not the humanitarian course clear and unescapable? Should not Richard Hauptmann be subjected to, or at least be permitted to undergo, the recently developed Scopolamine test?
As regards the individual the results would be two-fold. First, if guilt were registered the doom now decreed would not seem so shocking to the general public. An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth is still more-or-less regarded as justice. Second, if innocence were indicated, or even complicity, then there would exist definite reasons, not groping rationalizations, for seeking reprieve or pardon.
As to the larger effect of such a procedure, I am sure it would hasten by decades the adoption of scientific methods in courts of law. Only yesterday finger-printing stood legally beyond the pale. Today all manner of “lie detection” and now mechanical drugs wait to be similarly accepted.
For the fourth time a jury on the west coast has been dismissed in the trial of a young man accused of wife murder. The burden of expense on taxpayers (and the accused) is crushing. No blame attaches to those connected with the case, rather praise for the men and women who refuse to convict a fellow being when they, themselves, are not convinced of his guilt. Lack of knowledge is the culprit. A century ago we would have thrown up our hands helplessly under similar circumstances; in 1936 we cannot do so. Science has added enough to human knowledge so that often the Gordian Knot of tedious and costly criminal trials could be cut with one swift sure stroke.
I know nothing of Scopolamine or its originator except what I have read in the reputable magazines such as Tile [?] and The Forum. (I append 2 references from these).It may not be in itself infallible but its use probably would produce such clues that a check would verify results.
Please understand that I do not criticize the conduct of the Hauptmann case or the personnel connected with it. I do not plead for, nor condemn, the man himself. I do not here question the society in which kidnapping may be a profitable venture. However, the purpose of this letter is to question the the society which steadfastly turns its face from the light yet demands a life in its ignorance. Were the stakes not so great and the means to be sure not at hand, the situation might not be so serious. A painstaking effort to reach by Scopolamine to the bottom of a hideous internationally known chain of events, would be a contribution to civilization.
Whether or not it affected the sentence of the man in the New jersey State Prison, it would still demonstrate to the world American sincerity and American belief that no stone should be allowed unturned in the search for justice. I hope means can be found to do so.
Very truly yours,
To: Amelia Earhart
APPRECIATE VERY MUCH INTEREST INDICATED BY YOUR LETTER OF APRIL FIRST – STOP – SEVERAL MONTHS AGO HAUPTMANN INDICATED DESIRE TO SUBJECT HIMSELF TO ANY SCIENTIFIC TEST BUT NEW JERSEY LAW PROVIDES THAT ONLY NEXT OF KIN SPIRITUAL ADVISOR AND COUNSEL MAY VISIT PRISONER CONDEMNED TO DEATH ONLY EXCEPTION MAY BE MADE UPON COURT ORDER WHICH HAS NOT BEEN PROCURED UP TO THIS TIME – STOP – I AM IN THOROUGH AGREEMENT WITH YOUR VIEWS AND WOULD LIKE TO HAVE THIS TEST MADE.
HAROLD G HOFFMAN
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