The Lindbergh Kidnapping Hoax
The American Bar Association's
unpublished HALLAM REPORT APRIL 9, 1936
RICHARD HAUPTMANN WAS ELECTROCUTED ON APRIL 3, 1936
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Oscar Hallam's essay about this unpublished report.
See Photos of New Evidence at the Trenton Police Museum
TO THE SECTION OF CRIMINAL LAW OF THE AMERICAN BAR ASSOCIATION:
Your committee, appointed to consider various activities in connection with the trial of Bruno Richard Hauptmann, beg leave to report as follows:
On March 1st, 1932, Charles A. Lindbergh Jr., a child of 18 months, was kidnapped from the home of his parents in Hunterdon County, New Jersey. Some days later he was found dead and apparently murdered, not far from his home. After the kidnapping and after the murder, but before the murder was discovered, a man, supposedly the kidnapper, extorted a large ransom from the parents on a promise to restore their child. When the full extent of the crime was discovered there was nation-wide fury. The atrocity of the crime, combining as it did kidnapping, murder and heartless extortion based on false pretense, made the crime in the public estimation one of the foulest of the century, and these things combined with the prominence of the parents all served to arouse the nation as few other crimes have ever done.
For more than two years, in the press, over the radio, on the screen and in private conversation everywhere, the Lindbergh kidnapping held the center of attention, and when, after two years, Bruno Richard Hauptmann was arrested, charged with this succession of crimes, and was conclusively shown to have a large amount of the ransom money in his possession, the attention of the whole country, and in fact the whole civilized world, was drawn to the scene where his trial was to be held. Officials with business there, criminologists with scientific interest, and curiosity-seekers who thought they had a right as citizens to know and to see what was going on, turned toward this scene of action. To satisfy the public'’ desire for news and thrills, all media of communication and news distribution were called into requisition and focused at this same scene of action. Newspaper reporters, columnists, magazine writers, telegraphers, broadcasters, screen producers flocked there, as did also the general public. People sped there, rail, by air to a specially improvised airport, by motor speeding over paved highways, in fact by every known mode of travel.
The place was Flemington, New Jersey, a peaceful little city of 2500, which required and possessed a one-man police force, situated in a rural country, with its sheriff and deputies not accustomed to dealing with crime but capable of taking care of the usual court routine of that sort of a community. The place was, of course, part of the area covered by the New Jersey State Police. The county court house was built in about 1700, reconditioned after a fire in 1828, and not much changed since that time. Its stone walls are two feet thick. Its interior is adapted to the ordinary routine legal affairs of a quiet rural county. The courtroom is said to have a maximum seating capacity of 260, but as you look it over you wonder where 260 people could be seated there. A panel of 150 jurors had been summoned, attorneys, attendants and witnesses to the number of perhaps fifty had a right to be there, each of one hundred thirty-five newspaper reporters wanted a place to sit and to write, screen and radio producers wanted facilities, provision for telegraph service was demanded, and the general public, in numbers, it is said, as high as 20,000 in one day, wanted entrance to see and to hear. Here was clearly a problem to tax the court, and also to tax the court officers and peace officers unaccustomed to such crowds. As the jurors were selected, all but twelve of the panel faded out of the picture, but the number of witnesses and of others whose direct interest entitled them to admission increased as the trial went on. The sheriff resourcefully provided for the representatives of the press by means of an extension of planks along the court railing and down the side of the room, one plank serving for a seat, another for a desk, with spaces on each carefully marked and numbered. A small balcony in the rear of the courtroom furnished a place where could be installed equipment for reproducing pictures and registering sound, while a small adjacent room, ordinarily unused, had possibilities for installation of telegraphic service. And here, and in this environment, and under these circumstances, the Hauptmann Case was tried.
The trial opened January 2, 1935. The verdict of the jury was returned February 14, 1935.
TRIAL JUDGE AND JURY FAIR
The trial was presided over by Judge Thomas W. Trenchard of the Supreme Court of New Jersey, who was assigned to this duty by the court. It is not our purpose to review or analyze the rulings of the court or the conduct of the trial as they affect questions of law or of fact involved therein. Judicial review has taken care of that. Our criticism will be directed to other matters. We deem it proper to say, however, that in all of the mass of literature on the Hauptmann trial, we have found only words of praise for the able and discriminating judgment with which Judge Trenchard conducted the trial. In his judicial conduct, he was undisturbed by the whirl of excitement roundabout. Every precaution was taken by the court to guard the jury from outside contacts. They were segregated, conducted through the crowds and constantly guarded when off duty. Newspapers and other publications containing comments on the trial were kept from them. There has been no suggestion of any impropriety in connection with the conduct of the jury during the trial. Like the court, they were apparently undisturbed by the excitement about them.
DETECTION AND APPREHENSION COMMENDABLE
We have, of course, an intense interest in the trial itself, in its general conduct and its proper result, but we are also interested in it because of the light that it throws on the administration of criminal justice, and on tendencies and practices which were accentuated in this trial through its importance and the popular interest in its every detail.
PUBLIC TRIAL – CROWDED COURT ROOM
It will doubtless be conceded that a state criminal trial should be a public trial. English law and American law have always recognized public trial as a right and have assured to a person accused the right to publicity of proceedings. Publicity is a safeguard against oppression and Star Chamber practices. This does not mean that all of the people who wish to attend have a right to be auditors or spectators at every murder trial. This is essentially impossible. The purposes of publicity do not demand it and the space allotted to the court room does not permit it. Orderly procedure is indispensable and a calm atmosphere is essential. The presence of a crowd of people impelled by morbid curiosity is not the publicity which the ends of justice require. Officials, parties, witnesses, attorneys must be admitted and a fair representation of publicity agencies should have a place. But justice will be the more safely conserved if the attendance of spectators is definitely limited to the comfortable seating capacity of the court room.
During the trial of this case the court was much troubled with crowds of spectators standing and impinging on the aisles and passageways. He received indifferent co-operation from the court officers, frequently admonished them to keep order instead of "sitting around in the courtroom having no oversight over the audience."
On January 28th the court notified the court officers that "tomorrow morning and from that time forward, until the trial is finished, after the seating capacity of the courtroom is well filled the doors will have to be locked and spectators will have to be denied admission." On January 30th, however the record shows that there were, as the court said, "too many people standing . . . some were standing against the wall, some were standing on furniture, some sitting on tables or radiators, in order to get a better view."
On January 3rd, the New York Times thus described the situation:
"Inside the court room the press was even greater than it was yesterday. After the dismissal of the jury panel and the arrival of Mrs. Lindbergh, the constables on duty at the door admitted 275 spectators without passes to an already over-crowded courtroom. Although Sheriff John H. Curtiss had ruled that there would be no standees in the trial room, before noon the side aisles were filled. Men and women sat on the window sills and jammed the small space between the bench and the walls."
On January 22nd, the Daily Mirror under the title" COURT JAM" SAID;
"The Bronx subway was never like the court house here. So many spectators were crowded into the chamber where Hauptmann is on trial that one woman, caught in the milling during the noon recess today, narrowly escaped falling through a side window which broke, fragments of glass showering a dozen women below in the street."
On January 28th, the Mirror said:
"The fourth broken court room window was registered at 3:01 during a recess, so choked to capacity are the window sills."
After the trial a contributor wrote in Cosmopolitan:
"Two vivid impressions of the terribly overcrowded and badly ventilated courtroom at Flemington remain in my mind above all others. First, my firm conviction of Bruno Hauptmann’s guilt, and, second, my disgust at the curiosity seekers who jammed the benches and stood along the walls."
Newspaper reporters and columnists wrote from day to day of "famous faces seen in court" as they might have listed the box-holders at a grand opera, and gave long lists, including by name, movie actresses, feature writers, dramatic critics, radio broadcasters, actors, expugilists, politicians, bankers, show promoters, a "music chap," wives of prominent men, and society matrons in fine furs who acquired the title of the "Mink Brigade." It was a cosmopolitan congregation.
There was probably no thought on the part of these spectators that they were, by their attendance, performing a public duty in the interest of even-handed justice, little thought even of the fact that this was a most grave and serious proceeding.
SPECTATORS FAVORED WITH SUBPOENAS
On January 26th the New York Times revealed the very extraordinary situation of subpoenas issued to would-be spectators to assure them a place in the court room. The article reads:
Tonight at the close of court Justice Trenchard called lawyers from both sides into his chambers for a conference with Sheriff John H. Curtiss. Among the questions discussed was the practice of attorneys from both sides of issuing subpoenas ostensibly to ‘witnesses’ who will be called upon to testify, but in reality to friends seeking a seat in the courtroom. Sheriff Curtiss said that more than 100 such subpoenas were issued for today’s session."
THE CROWDS OUTSIDE
As early as January 11th the Associated Press reported that 16,000 automobiles and 64,000 visitors had converged into or passed through Flemington. From day to day the newspapers described "half-hysterical crowds that paw and claw and shove and jostle their way" about town and if possible into the court house and court room; one columnist deplored the "circus spirit," the Roman Holiday attitude of the crowd, thronging as they would throng to a bull fight, morbid, curious, in search of sensation and thrills.
In the city outside the court house, every day, thousands jammed the streets, making access to the court house difficult for those entitled to enter.
The New York Times on January 3, 1935, said:
"A crowd of 300 in front of the court house made a concerted rush for the door at the opening of the afternoon session of the Hauptmann trial. Only one trooper was on duty there at the time. He was brushed aside, and one of the glass panels in the front door was shattered. Three other troopers came up on the double quick and drove the crowd back. The guard is now increased," [later] "a special detail of State Police was called to assist the local constabulary and they finally roped off the court house portico and dispersed the crowd from the steps. It had become so dense around the doors that it was almost impossible to enter or leave." It is not the province of the trial judge to police the streets of the city. There were constituted peace authorities with power enough to regulate the crowds outside the court house, difficult though the problem might be. Proper policing would have demanded that a very liberal area about the building, more than an aisle, be kept free of any crowd, however peaceful and well intentioned. A murder trial should not furnish a public spectacle either within or without the courtroom.
THE SOUVENIR MANIA
No one would seriously criticize the popular hobby of souvenir-collecting. But just as the justifiable desire to see and to hear things of public interest may deteriorate into a morbid hunt for the sensational, so the desire for souvenirs may deteriorate into a rush for things morbid and repulsive.
At Flemington the morbid souvenir hunter was offensively present. Souvenir hunters picked up chairs and attempted to walk away with them. One started to break the wood of the chair on which Hauptmann sat in the courtroom. One girl wanted to buy the witness chair as a souvenir. Some even carried away sheaves of copy paper of the Western Union and Postal Telegraph Companies. It was said that he sheriff was kept busy signing his autograph to books and pieces of paper until he could not write any more. But most pathetic of all was the marketing, amongst the crowd, of souvenir ladders, a reminder of the ladder, which was one of the instruments used in the commission of the foul and deadly crime. These were eagerly bought and freely displayed. One magazine contributor, giving her impression of the Hauptmann trial, used the language.
"What hit hardest at Flemington? Those ghastly souvenir ladders. . . . Once America despised ruthless greed, held life and law sacred, now greed is smart – and life and law are cheap . . .. When a people who once bowed before a cross snicker at a kidnap ladder – look out!"
Summarizing the whole situation the Saturday Evening Post had this to say:
Among the lows we have reached in the depression is the new one in good taste, good manners and good policy accomplished at Flemington. Our criminal trials are apt to be public circuses, the more sensational the trial the more outrageous the circus. We go on deploring them as National disgraces, yet we do nothing. ‘Why? Because they sell newspapers."
A Frenchman on Flemington" in "Living Age" of April, 1935, sums up as follows:
"In France the courtroom at once assumes the aspect of a public meeting or of a bad theatre. Everything is calculated to move the emotion. . . . In England emotion is banished from the proceedings. Everything takes place in an intellectual abstraction, in the analysis of facts . . . . Nothing of the sort can be found in America. The atmosphere is entirety that of a circus or even of a rodeo."
Perhaps his picture is over-drawn. We will not admit the universality of his characterization of American criminal trials but there are many who would agree with this writer.
It is said that more newspaper space was devoted to the Hauptmann trial that to any other similar event in the history of journalism. For week after week the court house in Flemington rather than the White House in Washington was the news capital of the Nation.
One magazine said: "Seven hundred correspondents have been quartered in this New Jersey village."
Another said; "More correspondents, sob-sisters, sportswriters, psychiatrists, cameramen, etc. etc., have converged on Flemington than represented American papers in France during the World War," and further, that "all the London papers save one have been devoting their main headlines to the goings on in the little eighteenth century courthouse of Hunterdon County, New Jersey – all but the immortal "Thunderer;"
Much has been said and written about newspaper methods of handling publicity of the proceedings of sensational criminal trials. For the most part, those of us who talk about the subject have no power to regulate. The pedestrian commentator and the mail bag contributor bring us "camels’ loads" of suggestions, most of which are impracticable, and the press goes on according to the judgment and discretion of those who conduct its affairs, sometimes wisely and judiciously, sometimes, in our opinion, not so. Some say the newspapers give the people what they want, but it is doubtful if the people really want exaggerated over-drawn stories. In answer to an editor’s statement that "we must have drama," one writer says, "There are more readers than some publishers suspect who do not require drama at all."
The great majority of newspaper publishers are quite human and decent. Yet, newspaper stories of murder trials often have exceeded the bounds of proper publicity. This has been especially true of the Hauptmann trial. We see no objection to the reproduction of stenographic notes of the testimony, if proper deletions are made and the record is not encumbered with excluded questions and theatrical devices which are all too common in such trials.
As a few examples of the objectionable newspaper publicity in this case, we note the following
BEFORE THE TRIAL
The New York American said on September 21, 1934, the day after Hauptmann's arrest:
"The steel-like vault of mystery that has enclosed the Lindbergh kidnapping case cracked wide open yesterday with the arrest of an alien identified as the man who received the $50,000 ransom money."
The New York Journal on September 27, 1934, contained the following headlines:
"CLUES BUILD IRON CLAD CASE AGAINST BRUNO, POLICE CLAIM."
"SUSPECT CRINGES AT HINT OF MEETING WITH LINDY."
Giving the defendant a "break" the same paper said of his then attorney on September 24, 1934:
Fawcett says he will split case wide open."
As early as September, 1934 the Journal proceeded to call a jury and take its verdict. In the headlines it announced, ‘BRUNO GUILTY BUT HAD AIDS, VERDICT OF MAN IN STREET," and the story proceeded. "Twelve men and women selected at random by an Evening Journal reporter from the rush hour crowds as Journal Square, Jersey City, acted as Hauptmann's jury of peers today and found him, on the basis of the evidence deduced, guilty of both extortion and complicity in the actual kidnapping."
The "evidence deduced" was, of course, the evidence published in the newspapers.
DURING THE TRIAL
Early in the trial, one paper carried a half page of pictures with these headlines:
"THE FLEMINGTON CIRCUS – THIS WAY TO THE BIG TENT."
"IT’S A SIDESHOW, A JAMBOREE, BETWEEN PERIODS OF ALTERNATELY TRYING TO CONVICT AND TRYING TO FREE BRUNO HAUPTMANN."
IT’S HOLIDAY, A FREAK SHOW, FOR THOUSANDS LAUGHINGLY GATHERED TO SEE A MAN FIGHT DESPERATELY FOR HIS LIFE."
On the same day another paper carried a half page picture entitled "THE LAST STRAW," picturing Hauptmann in a slough – ‘THE EVIDENCE," and showing him clutching a board – ‘THE ATTIC BOARD."
One carried headlines:
"BRUNO WITNESS BLASTS LINK TO LADDER WOOD."
"Missing inch proved boomerang to state."
One carried an interview with the wife of a juror in which she was said to have stated that she "thinks Bruno guilty."
One carried headlines:
"HAUPTMANN STORY SHAKEN BY NOTES," AND "WILENTZ TRAPS WITNESS IN HER OWN TESTIMONY."
One carried headline:
"HAUPTMANN SHOWS SIGNS OF CRACKING."
One carried a headline, "BRUNO ALIBI PIERCED."
One carried a headline, "HAUPTMANN’S CASE CRUMBLES."
In the Evening Journal, January 26, 1935, appeared the following:
"‘Attorney General David T. Wilentz’ savage cross-examination of Bruno Richard Hauptmann was the most gripping of American courtroom scenes," Adela Rogers St. John, noted writer, told a nation-wide radio audience. Speaking from the Evening Journal’s City room here over WNEW and the twenty seven associated stations of the American Broadcasting System Miss St. John praised Wilentz for his handling of the case Bill Corum, the Evening Journal’s brilliant sports columnist, was impressed with Hauptmann’s stolidity on the witness stand under the direct examination of Edward J. Reilly, chief defense counsel but he pointed out that under Wilentz’s questioning the prisoner was put on the defensive."
The New York Post of Tuesday, January 29, 1935 published this arraignment of Hauptmann:
" ‘Bruno’s cross-examination clinches case," says Reeve, "Hauptmann seems to me, on the stand, a thing lacking human characteristics, his face blotched, his mouth sagged, his eyes avoided all the other eyes that stared at him. He made senseless denials. He laughed pointlessly. I found myself thinking the creature must be insane, and then I began wondering if this too were not a carefully calculated pose, if, when a moment came when there was no answer, not even a senseless answer, which might stay the remorseless procession of Wilentz logic, Hauptmann would not leap up and scream and rave, posing as an out and out madman." "
On January 26th, a columnist wrote in the Mirror:
"a man who talks without tone, who sees without eyes, who whimpers without tears and who prays without hope, was Bruno Richard Hauptmann on the witness stand here today, as he told a story which he himself scarce seemed to believe will save him from the electric chair."
On January 28th another columnist wrote:
"Mark down this prediction. The name of Isidor Fisch named by Bruno Hauptmann as the owner of the Lindbergh ransom money found in the Hauptmann garage will positively be cleared before the non session ends to day in Justice Trenchard’s court. The Mirror’s reporter was so assured by one of the highest state officials who said: "Fisch will be eliminated as the possible writer of the ransom notes and therefore from having any connection with the crime." To his closest friends, Prosecutor Wilentz has stated: "Fisch will not only be cleared of the accusation but it is likely that Hauptmann will admit it. The facts are impregnable and even the slightest defendant’s stubbornness will melt under the barrage of truth.
The New York Law Journal, which to laymen appears to be an official organ because it is the paper in which, by order of court is published the calendar of the courts of record of the first judicial department together with every notice and advertisement in legal proceedings which may be required by law to be published, on January 7, 1935, undertook to comment on the case as follows:
"Colonel Lindbergh did not testify that it was merely his "opinion" that the "Hey, doctor" voice was the voice of Hauptmann, whom he heard speaking after an interval of more than two years, though such a conclusion could be, at best, only an expression of opinion. Colonel Lindbergh’s testimony as to identity of voice was unqualified and it is believed that in the opinion of some members of some juries, the surrounding circumstances and other facts in evidence would not justify so positive a statement."
One newspaper announced in headline and story that Hauptmann had said that one lady juror had smiled on him, and it carried a picture of the juror, who, it might be inferred, was sympathetic toward the defendant.
DISAPPROVAL OF ARGUMENT OF CASE OUT OF COURT
Your committee disapproves of this sort of newspaper publicity. In the first place, we cannot approve of the public argument of a criminal case by a newspaper either in pictures or words published during the trial. These stories, pictures and headlines are, it is true, sensational presentations used for the purpose of arousing the readers: interest. But in most of them the writer is arguing, from the evidence, from supposed facts, to the public as judge and jury. We must not have two trials, one in court and one outside.
In this case the defendant received a share of favorable head -lines, but that is not the point. The system of the public press arguing the case outside of the court during the trial is fundamentally wrong.
It has been said that the lurid headlines and argumentative comments indulged in this case were no worse than the spectacular publicity incident to other sensational State trials, such, for example, as the Mooney trial, the Thaw trial, the Loeb-Leopold trial and the Remus trial and many others. If so, this is but an added cognizance of the situation that existed in this case.
THE ENGLISH PRACTICE – AMERICAN CASES
Publications of the sort above quoted would not be permitted in the English courts. Although without any statute giving them the power to do so, the English courts have, in the exercise of their inherent power to control judicial proceedings and to assure a fair trial, punished as contempt of court the publication of argumentative comment during the tendency of a criminal prosecution.
In the case of In Re Stead, Reg. V. Balfour, Mr. Justice Wells gave reasons as follows:
"The principle to be applied in a case like the present was clear. It is not because the comments might damage the accused person that the court would interfere, but on a broader and higher ground –namely, that it was the province of the tribunal before whom the case was tried to determine as to his guilt or innocence."
In that case an editor was held for contempt of court for publication of an article characterizing a defendant awaiting trial as "another naïve rogue" who was "a good deal before the courts last month" and predicting that "e will re-appear at Old Bailey, and then we may expect to hear no more of him for some time to come."
The same principle was applied to Reg. V. Tibbits, where the court in pronouncing punishment for contempt said, "It is sufficient to say that the publications were far beyond any fair and bona fide report of the proceedings before the magistrate.
In the well-known Crippen Case the editor of the Daily Chronicle was held for contempt for the publication of an article, while the prisoner was in custody but before the trial. The head-lines were WAS MRS. CRIPPEN POISONED? MYSTERIOUS PURCHASE OF SUBTLE DRUG BEFORE THE TRAGEDY SENSATIONAL DISCOVERY." Then followed in smaller type, "A sensational discovery of the purchase of deadly poison some time before the tragic death of Mrs. Crippen was reported to us late last night. The police are investigating the purchase and the identity of the purchaser. Meanwhile Crippen, acting presumably on the advice of counsel, has become more taciturn," followed by an article no more specific in its language . In re Crippen.
The same power of the courts is recognized in the American cases but it is not much enforced in practice. An illustrative case is In re Independent Pub. Co., where a publisher was held in contempt. The headlines were:
"’SLICK" MR. POE IS NOW ON TRIAL..
"FORMER AUDITOR OF NORTH DAKOTA CITY, EX –CONVICT,
"CHARGED WITH FRAUD."
Then follows an article disclosing unfavorable incidents in the past life of the defendant, which tended to identify him as a habitual criminal.
SHOULD BE NO DRAMATIZATION OF CRIME
In the second place, there is grave danger in the dramatization of crime, and the exploitation of the criminal. One magazine, in writing of the Hauptmann Case, said:
There is widespread feeling that the blame for whipping up public passion lies with the press, that the remedy for such outbursts of mass emotion is to be found in a lessening of the amount of space devoted to reporting such events or in subduing the emotional tone in which such a trial is widely reported."
One of the recommendations of the National Crime Conference was the elimination of the practice of unduly dramatizing crime and glorifying the criminal. The report said, "The social hazard of the practice with its accompanying garish publicity has been a matter of concern for years. . . . It has developed a weak sentimentalism, a distorted and misplaced sense of the heroic, which is extremely difficult for prosecuting authorities to combat.
The publicizing of the crime too often carries with it a glorification of the criminal." Crime, as all criminologists know, is often imitative. A condemned murderer, however atrocious his offense, automatically becomes an object of maudlin sympathy, and the exploitation of Hauptmann, who for months was the most talked of man in the world, may have tragic effects upon the impressionable.
In the distribution of news, the telegraph is always important. It is a medium between the news-gathering reporter and the editor’s room. We do not disparage the demand for rapid dispatch of news. But the process must be carried on in an orderly manner. In the Hauptmann Case, fully equipped telegraph facilities were installed in the court house and in a room adjacent to the small balcony of the court room. One press report said that 180 wires were installed, another report fixed the number at 40.
One account said:
"Western Union formerly handled its business in Flemington through the railroad station agent and one messenger boy. Today it has two offices and perhaps a hundred men in town, besides messenger boys. There are forty-five direct wires, including a direct cable to London. One of the direct wire goes to Halifax to serve the Canadian press. Dispatches were being filed to Australia and Buenos Aires. During the day dispatches are sent mainly from a wire room on the upper floor of the courthouse."
Another stated: "The Western Union has found it necessary, for the first time in history, to install a special teletype printer machine connected directly with London."
One writer, describing the situation in more detail, said:
"The winding stairs carried their share of loiterers unable to get into the court room and as one newspaper stated. "To expedite the movement of news copy under these difficulties, wire chiefs arranged a traffic system and posted a director directly outside of the court room door. As scribbled notes were handed out he looked at the top of the paper, called the destination and gave the papers to messengers. ‘Paris,’ he would cry, and the messenger would go in one direction. ‘London’ and another would dash up the stairs. ‘Berlin’ and a third would go flying to another anteroom. Today’s volume far exceeded the 1,000,000 words sent out yesterday.’’
These are just some of the things that converted the small court house and its environment into a great news-distributing agency. This, we think, is not conducive to the maintenance of the calm and undisturbed atmosphere which is so essential in the trial of a criminal case. We believe that neither the court room nor adjacent space should be loaned as a headquarters for news distribution. The removal of the instruments to private premises would have entailed a difference in speed of distribution measured only by minutes.
CAMERAS – Flashlights
Picture takers of all types invaded Flemington and pressed into the court house and the court room. The presiding judge forbade all picture-taking during sessions of the court. Pictures taken during court sessions, were, however, procured in some manner and published.
One newspaper carried a picture entitled "Peek-a-boo in the jury box." It showed a juror in the jury box with a handkerchief over his face. The legend was, "Here is Hauptmann Juror No.11. Every time he sees a new photographer’s camera lens pointed his way he ducks, averts or covers his face. This picture was made at the trial today."
On January 4, 1935 one New York daily produced photographs of "Mrs. Lindbergh testifying" and of "Colonel Charles A. Lindbergh on the stand," showing them while they were in the witness chair, and it carried also photographs of two other witnesses, of Betty Gow and Mrs. Ollie Wheatley as they sat in the court room.
Another daily on January 5, 1935, showed a picture of the court room, apparently during a recess, with the jurors in their seats, no witness on the stand, and with Mr. Reilly, Mr. Pope and Mr. Wilentz standing, their places indicated by numbers.
The Nation under date of January 23, 1935, said:
"The coverage of the trial in pictures is a story in itself. Judge Trenchard at first refused to have pictures taken in is courtroom. But 700 newspapermen can’t be wrong, and there are now four cameramen stationed in court who are allowed to take pictures when the judge is off the bench. … Each newspaper or press service in the pool gets a full set of all successful pictures. These are put in envelopes and addressed and the race for the home office begins. Record-breaking motor cyclists stand ready, in the one-time bake shop to make a dash for the train, the airport, or the city room. One of them made the trip to New York in fifty-five minutes last week. One of them delivered his set of pictures ahead of an airplane, which had started at the same time."
Our own opinion is that a courtroom is not a proper place for clicking cameras or photography at any time and that such practices should be strictly forbidden.
MOTION PICTURES AND RADIO
The motion picture has become a useful and enjoyable element in community life. But we must criticize the producers’ excesses, of which there were many in connection with the Hauptmann trial. We criticize, for example, the fact that the leading counsel for he defendant was permitted to appear on the sound screen shortly after the verdict and to characterize the result of the trial as "Mob Justice." In our judgment the sentiment should never have been uttered by a defendant’s lawyer, and no screen producer and no theater should have given it distribution.
In the balcony of the courtroom was installed equipment for recording in picture and sound all the scenes and occurrences at the trial. With this was connected wires or cables and instruments on the side wall of the court room. These instruments were plainly visible but not over-conspicuous and probably not offensive in themselves. The producers were under injunction of the court not to operate the contrivance during any session of the court. They violated the court’s injunction and proceeded to record in sound and picture all that occurred during the course of the trial. So noiselessly was this done that the court did not discover that the operation was going on. A showing of the reproduction in a New York theatre first revealed the fact that the motion pictures had been taken, and the court promptly ordered that the mechanism be dismantled. The deception practiced on the court was indefensible, and was, in our opinion, contempt of court.
The question whether reproduction in sound of the events of a murder trial should be permitted is debatable. In fact, we do find, among lawyers, differences of opinion. Your committee addressed the two following questions to a number of officers and committeemen of the American Bar Association:
Forty-five responded; thirty-six regarded such reproduction objectionable and the same thirty-six considered such reproduction more objectionable than the reproduction of the stenographic record of proceedings in newspapers. Nine regarded such reproduction in sound as unobjectionable and no more objectionable than the stenographic record in the press. The negative votes are enough in number to lend some authority to their opinion.
One answer said;
"Ten years ago I would have answered these questions in the affirmative. I realize, however, that conditions change. These changes are bound to come sooner or later and instead of endeavoring to prevent them, the Bar might better do what it can to influence their use in a proper manner."
Curiously enough, those arguing from the same premise did not always arrive at the same conclusion. One said, broadcasting will intensify the mistaken impression the public now has of court proceedings. Another said, it conduces to accuracy, gives the public better understanding of court proceedings and so increases respect for the law. One called attention to the fact that we have recently been shown reproductions in sound of proceedings in traffic courts and that these have been received with interest and approval.
We do not agree with those who discountenance a fair published account of the events of a murder trial. We do not raise objection to the publication in the press of properly edited reports of testimony taken. We do not say that reproduction in sound may not be furnished for use on an appeal. But we do not approve of public broadcasting in sound of proceedings in court in a murder trial, and we believe such reproduction more objectionable than the reproduction of a stenographic record of proceedings in the press, for he following reasons:
4 It brings the revolting details of a murder trial, its crime story and its sensational matter to children of all ages, who would not be admitted as auditors into any court room while such a trial is in progress but who may at any time be "listening in" on the radio. These objections, in our opinion, outweigh any advantage that may be derived from giving information to the public.
The California State Bar Association recently went on record against the broadcasting of court trials. Following this action, the San Francisco Chronicle, with delectable humor, said:
"At present, State Bar is right . . . but only because the radio would transmit what was said in the courts . . . supposing . . . that court proceedings were conducted with dignity and seriousness – no clowning, no bickering, no circusing. If this fine, orderly, solemn procedure were available to any interested citizen who wished to dial in, wouldn’t it tend to increase the knowledge of the working of law and justice and give a greater respect for the courts? . . . Don’t blame the radio, rather bring the courts up to at least the standard of Amos an’ Andy, or Cecil and Sally."
The editorial does not stand analysis. It is no part of the purpose of this report to answer the charges of "clowning," "bickering" and "circusing," but we emphasize that the editorial entirely overlooks the sombre fact already referred to, that a criminal trial is of necessity a story of crime, that a murder trial is of necessity a repulsive story of murder, and that even if the trial is conducted with perfect seemliness the story is not one to be given to the millions of children who may tune in on the radio at will.
The press on February 16th announced that members of the Hauptmann jury received an offer from a New York Agency for a twelve weeks vaudeville engagement, at $500.00 a week for the foreman and $300.00 a week for each other member of the jury. From press reports it seemed that this proposal was seriously considered by some of the jurors. Fortunately, wiser counsel prevailed and we were spared the shame of any such commercialization of the processes of justice.
The jury carried on creditably during the trial. All through the trial, these twelve, artisans, men of modest business and housewives, showed a desire to pass judgment on the basis of the testimony rather than on emotional factors which often enter into the consideration of a sensational case. We cast no doubt upon their verdict.
After the trial was over, however, each one of the jurors was solicited to give and did give an interview with comments on the testimony and the deliberations of the jury. These interviews were syndicated and published in newspapers over the country. For them, the jurors received pay. We quote a letter from one of the jurors answering our inquiry as follows:
"Answering your letter of the 26th inst;
"I presume you refer to an article by me entitled, Colonel Lindbergh; there are twelve of these articles, one by each juror, covering a different subject as it appeared to us during the trial. For our time and thought in preparation of these different articles we will get less than fifty dollars apiece, unless they should be published in book form. Other printed matter bearing my name, or the name of any of the other jurors, were gratis. I do not believe that any juror has received any money beside that paid for the series of articles mentioned, which, of course, took our time and talent and could not be well furnished gratis. Trusting this is the information you are concerned about, I remain,"
We do not wish to be harsh with the jurors. The interviews mentioned were modestly written. But we submit that the practice of jurors "cashing in" on the fame that comes to them by reason of their jury service is clearly objectionable and should not be allowed. If a judge should, for pay, give out an interview commenting on a criminal case tried before him, there would be a storm of denunciation. It is just as bad for a juror to do so. The reasons are obvious. It is commercialization of the administration of justice. If jurors understand that reward is in prospect, that fact may easily influence their verdict toward the side which seems to have the greater promise of reward.
THE DR. CONDON MAGAZINE ARTICLES
Commencing with January 25, 1936, a series of articles appeared in Liberty by Dr. John F. Condon, who was a witness at the trial in Flemington. The articles are partly a narrative of the events which had been detailed by Dr. Condon as a witness at the trial, but they were also in large part comments, deductions and argument.
The first article, of January 24th, starts with the headline: ‘JAFSIE TELLS MORE SECRETS OF THE LINDBERGH CASE." In this article the writer tells of his telephone conversation with "John," the writer of the notes, and says that he heard John announce to some third person "the gist of my reply," and states that he "realized with a sudden shock that the kidnapper was talking to a companion." The article closes with the editor’s comment containing several questions and the statement, "For the answers to these vital questions, read Jafsie in Liberty next week – always bearing in mind that amazing NEW EVIDENCE awaits you in a later installment."
The article of February of February 1st carries as a headline, "A CHAPTER OF NEW REVEALING LIGHT ON THE LINDBERGH CASE," and after again discussing the telephone conversation, concludes, "That is why I am still convinced that more than one person is involved in this crime." This article ends with the editor’s assurance that "most sensational NEW EVIDENCE will be presented in a later installment."
The article of February 8th closes with the editor’s promise that a "heart-gripping moment" will be for the first time pictured truthfully in next week’s installment, that "a mysterious woman will make her entrance into the case," and that all this leads up to the NEW EVIDENCE that will be forthcoming in a later installment.
The article of February 15th carries as a headline, ‘THE MYSTERY OF THE ITALIAN WOMAN - MORE NEW LIGHT ON THE LINDBERGH CASE," introduces the mysterious character who accosted the Doctor in a Bazaar and made an appointment to meet him at the depot at Tuckahoe, Wednesday at 5.P.M., and closes with similar promises of NEW EVIDENCE in a later installment.
The article of February 22nd in headline gives a place to "the mysterious emissary" and presages "more new revealing light on the Lindbergh case." The article tells how the mysterious woman failed to keep her appointment, argues that although she did not employ the word "Lindbergh," "kidnapping," "baby" or John" and used no word referable to the case, "it seems logical to believe that her words to me were in connection with the case," and surmises ‘one possibility – and the most likely one in my opinion – is that she was a direct agent of the kidnaper, sent to reassure me." The article ends with the editor’s assurance that the next installment "will be an eye opener – and new evidence is in store for you in a later one."
The article of February 29th casts doubt on the Doctor’s previously expressed theory as to accomplices, and states, "This man has represented himself to be a go-between for he Lindbergh kidnap gang. I know now that he lied. Perhaps he had accomplices, perhaps there was a gang. But he was no subservient go- between.
He was the leader. For without hesitation he had agreed to accept a reduction of twenty thousand dollars in the amount of ransom demanded." At he conclusion of this article the editor promises more "NEW EVIDENCE."
Dr. Condon no doubt performed a useful service in securing contact with the kidnaper, but in our opinion the publication of these articles at the time they were published by one who was a witness in the case was decidedly out of place. It must be remembered that the Hauptmann case was still pending. The sentence had no been executed. The air was charged with discussion of the subjects of a new trial, pardon, commutations and reprieve. In fact, the Condon articles were much used in this discussion. Publication of any material bearing on the testimony, the issues or the theories of he case, at this time and under these circumstances, by one who had been a witness upon the trial can serve no useful purpose, and no purpose at all except personal publicity or gain.
One of the witnesses who testified as a wood expert manifested a much better sense of propriety when he declined to discuss this phase of the expert testimony in a public meeting until such time as the Hauptmann case should be settled.
THE PUBLICITY CAMPAIGN
Before the trial commenced and during the trial there was organized publicity on behalf of both prosecution and defense and this publicity campaign was carried on by the defense counsel even after the verdict was returned.
On Thursday, January 3, 1935, the Daily Mirror, under the headline "LINDY CASE LAWYERS’ VIEWS," carried parallel statements of what the prosecution and defense proposed to prove. The state was credited as saying, "We have an iron clad case against Hauptmann. We will prove that he murdered the helpless infant." The defense, that "Hauptmann is an innocent victim of circumstances. We are going to start the New Year with justice." It is only fair to state that the attorneys deny issuing these statements.
THE DEFENSE COUNSEL
Mr. Reilly gave out frequent published statements. He offers no apologies for so doing but says: "Publicity in cases of this kind is essential, especially in view of the vast amount of publicity which issued from the prosecutor’s office from the moment this defendant was arrested."
Two days after his appointment, news reels spread before the public pictures of the chief defense attorney in action. He told the American people that a man must be considered innocent until proven guilty, that a mere accusation is not proof of guilt, and that his brief examination of the case had convinced him of the innocence of his client. A new flood of newspaper interviews was shortly thereafter loosed upon the world.
On January 8th the chief defense counsel announced in the press is plan of defense in three parts, namely: Alibi-hand-writing, expert testimony, and evidence implicating witnesses for he State.
On January 6th, 1935, the Daily Mirror gave this interview:
"Edward J. Reilly, chief of Bruno Hauptmann’s defense counsel, asserted yesterday that he knows and will name the actual kidnappers of Charles A. Lindbergh, Jr., this week. ‘On Thursday morning in open court,’ said Mr. Reilly during an interview in his Brooklyn office yesterday, ‘I will name the four people whom we will charge with the kidnapping and murder of the Lindbergh baby. …" Reilly refused to reveal who the four killers are except to state definitely that they were connected with the Lindbergh household in Hopewell. ‘What about the ladder?’ a reporter asked. ‘That ladder is nothing but plant,’ Reilly replied banging a hand on his desk, ‘You know, a part of the scenery.’
On January 7th the New York American said:
"In an exclusive interview here with a New York American reporter, Reilly refused to name the four person’s holding that he must save their identity until Thursday as a trump card in cross-examination. But he revealed that he intends to tie up former servants in the Lindbergh household with Isidor Fisch and hopes to prove that their acquaintance with Dr. J. F. Condon predated the kidnapping of the child."
On January 21st the Daily Mirror carried a headline:
"REILLY HAS THREE SURPRISES," and the article said that, "Defense counsel Reilly in his Brooklyn office yesterday stated that he will spring a few surprises when Hauptmann’s side of the case is being put before the jury. He expects to call about 50 defense witnesses. Mr. Reilly said he will put on the stand three responsible persons, who will testify that Isidor Fisch had asked him before he left on his trip to Germany, where he died, to take care of the shoe box which Hauptmann says Fisch left with him and in which $14,600.00 of the ransom money was found.
On February 2nd Mr. Reilly promised "bomb shells" for the trial the next week
After the verdict and on February 27th the chief defense counsel, in an address before the Lions Club of Brooklyn, charged the verdict to "hero worship," and about that time, in an address to which reference has already been made, characterized the verdict as "mob justice."
On February 28th the New York Times carried a story that Mr.. Reilly, with others, addressed amass meeting at Yorkville Casino in New York City on behalf of the "Hauptmann defense fund." It was stated that "the crowd booed the name of Colonel Lindbergh and Attorney General David T. Wilentz." The Times stated that the booing of Colonel Lindbergh and Attorney General Wilentz came during an address by Mr. Reilly. Mr. Reilly denies this and says it transpired from remarks made by a man representing another of Hauptmann’s attorneys. The crowd was probably made up of persons of ordinary human impulses and sympathies. Their conduct in jeering the name of a father, whose only offense was bereavement, can only be explained on the assumption that they were carried away by the appeal made to them by some one, and, on impulse, manifested a lack of human sympathy of which in more sober moments they would doubtless be ashamed.
On January 11, 1935, International News Service published the following:
"The defense of Bruno Richard Hauptmann, on trial for the murder of Charles Augustus Lindbergh, Jr., is costing ‘more than $50,000,’ Edward J. Reilly, Chief of defense counsel, told International News Service today in an exclusive interview. Hauptmann is paying only a paltry $2,900.00 of this cost, Reilly said, and the rest of the expense is carried by the four attorneys who are trying to save the German from the electric chair. ‘We have received only $2,900.00 from Hauptmann – on a mortgage he held,’ the portly, red-faced Reilly boomed, "And that was paid out in less than three weeks for investigations. He hasn’t any more money that isn’t tied up by the government. The rest of the expenses are coming out of the pockets of his lawyers.’"
If this statement was true, the conduct of the attorneys was censurable. The practice of financing the expenses of the defense by the defendant’s attorneys is reprehensible and contrary to all recognized canons of professional ethics. Canon 42 of the American Bar Association reads: "A lawyer may not properly agree with a client that the lawyer shall pay or bear the expenses of litigation; he may in good faith advance expenses as a mater of convenience, but subject to reimbursement."
It may be noted, however, that the statements made in the above "exclusive interview," do not square with the claims made in the complaint in the action later commenced by Mr. Reilly’s against Mrs. Hauptmann. The action was to recover $22,398.00. The complaint listed Mr. Reilly’s fees at $25,000.00 and added $4,761.00 for disbursements. It alleged that $7,362.00 had been paid leaving a balance of $22,398.00
In the issue of Liberty of October 5, 1935, appeared an article entitled, "WILL LINDBERGH SAVE HAUPTMANN?" by Edward J. Reilly. Stripped of all rhetoric, the article was an argument to the public that the guilt of Hauptmann was not proven. The case was at that time pending on appeal in the New Jersey court of errors and appeals and the question of the proof of Hauptmann’s guilt was in issue on the appeal. Mr. Reilly had retired from the case but that fact does not change the situation much. In our opinion it is grossly improper for an attorney, whether still in the case or not, or whether he had ever been in the case or not, to go before the public before the conclusion of the case with an argument on the merits of the case. It is our opinion also that no magazine should be permitted to publish such an argument at such a time.
BULLETINS ISSUED BY DEFENDANT
During the course of the trial we were presented with the unprecedented spectacle of a defendant on trial for murder, himself, issuing bulletins to the public during the course of the trial.
On January 21, 1935, the Post carried this bulletin.
"The following statement by Bruno Richard Hauptmann was made public today by C. Lloyd Fisher, defendant’s counsel: "I am anxious to take the stand. I have listened to a lot of lies in that court room. Now I would like to do my own talking and tell what is really the truth.
On January 29, 1935, the Evening Journal carried this bulletin;
"Through defense counsel, Hauptmann’s statement was given. Among other things, he said ‘I am not afraid. They have nothing on me. Because the attorney general shouts that does not mean he proves anything.. I am not scared of him. I am telling the truth.’ ‘Are you worried about what Wilentz will spring on Monday?’, Hauptmann was asked. Hauptmann shook his head. ‘No, I am not worried about anything.’ His voice was shrill."
THE STATE’S ATTORNEYS
The state’s attorneys also indulged in newspaper publicity. Their preparation and presentation of the case was exceptionally able. We regret the necessity for criticism. The state’s attorneys refrained at all times from broadcasting, and since the trial have refrained from public discussion of the case. During the trial regular daily conferences with the press were held, as the attorney general said, in the interest of accurate information, and the newspapers published comments and forecast purporting to emanate from the state’s attorneys which were allowed to stand uncontradicted.
The New York Times on January 4, 1935, said:
At a press conference this afternoon at Trenton, Attorney General Wilentz said, ‘Mrs. Lindbergh’s testimony is loaded with importance and contains something very vital to our case.’ He explained that he was referring to the introduction of the Lindbergh baby’s sleeping garments."
The World-Telegram on January 22, 1935, said;
"Attorney General David T. Wilentz left the court room exultantly at noon today to walk through the snow for lunch at the Methodist Episcopal Church. "We are going to wrap the kidnap ladder right around Hauptmann’s neck,’ he said. I mean it; that is exactly what we are going to do, and tomorrow night, we will see our case wound up tightly.’"
AMERICAN BAR ASSOCIATIONS RULES
The American bar Association has characterized publications on the part of lawyers. Arguing a case publicly by lawyers is condemned in it s Canon of Ethics No.20, as follows:
"Newspaper Discussion of Pending litigation. Newspaper publications by a lawyer as to pending or anticipated litigation may interfere with a fair trial in the courts and otherwise prejudice the due administration of justice. Generally they are to be condemned. If the extreme circumstances of a particular case justify a statement to the public, it is unprofessional to make it anonymously. An ex parte reference to facts should not go beyond quotation from the records and papers on file in the court; but even in extreme cases it is better to avoid any ex parte statement."
LUNCH BOX JURIES – GAMBLES ON THE VERDICT
With the persistent efforts of counsel to present and argue the case to the public, it is not strange that the public should have responded. The press, one day during the course of the trial, carried an article headlined "LUNCH BOX OPINION." The article stated that "In several cities in the Midwest, ballots are being taken on the guilt or innocence of Bruno Richard Hauptmann." An accompanying picture showed the ballot box, a placard labeled "Lunch box jury – vote here" and carried a picture of Hauptmann, and a picture showing two young women "as they cast their ballots in Centreville, Iowa."
Nor is it strange that with all the harangue by lawyers to the public and all the publicized arguments from other sources, the sporting fraternity should gamble on the outcome of this murder trial as they would on any publicized sport, and it is not surprising that we should find articles like this as it appeared on January 31st: "ODDS NOW FOUR TO ONE. Bruno’s story narrows bets on his conviction. The betting odds on Hauptmann’s fate are now four to one for conviction. When he took the stand on Friday they stood six to one, but his own testimony reduced them;" or this, as the situation was analyzed on February 10th: BET BRUNO GETS CHAIR – verdict Odds Revealed by Winchell. From Row ‘A’ Seat 5, Flemington Court House; the sidewalk gamblers, as they are amusingly known, who merely talked money, are agreed that the following odds are correct on the outcome of the Hauptmann trial. The betting pools are to be found in the foyer of the leading Trenton and Flemington hostelries. The ‘nothing ventured nothing gained’ brigade will quote you these odds:
GOVERNOR HOFFMAN’S PUBLICITY
On December 5, 1935, and while the case was still pending before the Supreme Court of the United States, a new burst of publicity issued forth. On that day the New York Journal, published the following:
"Governor Hoffman has been conducting a private investigation of the Bruno Richard Hauptmann case, it was learned today, and the facts which have been uncovered may inject new sensations into America’s most famous crime. The Evening Journal has learned from an unimpeachable source close to the Governor that these new facts may save Hauptmann from the electric chair or at lest delay his execution indefinitely. Unconvinced of Hauptmann’s complete guilt of the kidnapping and murder of the Lindbergh baby, the governor, soon after the Bronx carpenter’s conviction, ordered his own private investigation to be made, one of the nation’s most famous detectives, a resident of this state [New Jersey], heads the investigation started last April. "Just what the governor’s private investigation turned up I don’t know,’ the high official told ‘The Evening Journal, ‘But one thing I certain, Hauptmann is a long way from the electric chair; no mater what the United States Supreme Court decides on his petition, Hauptmann may never die in the electric chair. Ever since Hauptmnn’s conviction, the governor was anxious to sift the wheat from the chaff in the trial at Flemington. Many of us, along with the governor, thought the case could stand some private investigation. Governor Hoffman took the initiative and ordered the best detectives in the country to take charge privately." Although the detective’ name was not revealed, the Evening Journal learned that Ellis Parker, ace investigator for Burlington County, has been a regular and frequent visitor to the Governor’s office at the Capital here [Trenton]. On these occasions the two have been closeted alone for several hours."
Referring to "rail 16" of the ladder, traced by the state’s wood expert to Hauptmann's attic, the Journal on December 8, 1935, said;
"Investigators for Governor Hoffman expressed to him their conviction that rail 16 was framed, and told the governor, the board was, in their opinion, removed from Hauptmann’s house by the police so that ‘the wood evidence would tie up Hauptmann tight as hell.’"
Anything emanating from Governor Hoffman was significant because, as governor, he is a member of the New Jersey court of pardons. That court consists of eight members, namely, the governor, the chancellor, and six lay judges of the court of errors and appeals. The press reported that the governor said he had visited Hauptmann one night early in October, and it quoted his "press aide" as saying that "the governor has suggested and urged that all members of the court of pardons visit Hauptmann at he prison and learn his side of the case first-hand."
A court of pardons is a quasi judicial body. In practice, such bodies, whether called courts or boards, may receive the information on which they act more informally than do courts of justice, but their deliberations, involving as they do matters of life, liberty and public safety, should proceed on the same high plane as judicial proceedings. The members, eight in this case, constitute a single body and should act only as a body. The spectacle of a member of a court or board of pardons going about searching for evidence which may impugn the verdict, calling upon prospective applicants in their cells, indulging in public discussion of the merits of the case established in court, voicing doubts as to the prisoner’s guilt, arguing out alleged weaknesses in the state’s case, all in advance of any action by the court of pardons of which he is member, in fact, in advance of any application for pardon, and even in advance of the termination of the criminal proceeding in court, is repugnant to our sense of propriety and is in our opinion unwarranted. The net result seems to have been a large amount of publicity and much added annoyance to the estimable family bereaved.
On December 9, 1935, the United States Supreme Court denied Hauptmann’s petition for a review of the case. Thereupon a plea for clemency was made by Hauptmann to the New Jersey court of pardons, and on January 11, 1936, the court of pardons rejected Hauptmann’s plea. On January 16th Governor Hoffman granted to Hauptmann a thirty-day reprieve. On January 24th Governor Hoffman addressed a public letter to the Editor of the Asbury Park Evening Press, giving reasons for the granting of the reprieve. These reasons were summarized by the Editor of the Press as follows:
The aspersion cast by the governor upon a majority of his associates upon the Court of Pardons was, to say the least, in bad taste, and, so far a appears, was unjustified. The insinuations, that "prejudices and bias" might have been contributing factors in reaching the verdict, that national clamor for the conviction of someone for the murder regardless of guilt might have contributed to Hauptmann’s conviction, that evidence might have been framed by law enforcement agencies in response to a public demand that they make good, and that politics might have played a part in an alleged rushing of the condemned man to New Jersey while a political campaign was being conducted, for the political advantage of persons prominent in political life, were wholly unwarranted by any facts that have yet been disclosed.
On January 30th Governor Hoffman, in an open letter to Col. H. Norman Scwarzkopf, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police, directed the superintendent, with every resource at his command, "To continue a thorough and impartial search for the detection and apprehension of every person connected with this crime," and in this letter stated that "there is evidence, abundant evidence, that other persons participated in the crime, and there is absolutely no reason why our law enforcement agencies should regard this case as closed." This letter was accompanied by a lengthy statement in which, among other things, the governor said:
"It seems impossible to believe the Lindbergh baby’s thumb guard lay in the road of the Lindbergh estate for a month before it was found by Betty Gow, the baby’s nurse, as she was walking with Mrs. Elsie Whateley, widow of the Lindbergh butler."
"If Colonel Lindbergh was convinced that Dr. Condon had actually had contact with the kidnapers, why did he enter into negotiations with Curtis?"
"What did Curtis say, or show, to Colonel Lindbergh that warranted his belief that Curtis actually was in touch with the criminals?"
"After all, the ability of one man to build a ladder, to explore the territory, to ascertain that the Lindbergh family, for the first time, would be at Hopewell on a Tuesday night, to locate the nursery, to discover the one unfastened window, to write the ransom notes, to eradicate all finger prints, to enter the house from a ladder three feet short of the window, to remove and dispose of two-thirds of the money, and to evade all police agencies for nearly two years without the aid or knowledge of any other person, is a matter only of conjecture."
"Why was Samuelson not called upon to testify when he says that Hauptmann ordered the wood cut for the ladder, but that two other men called for the completed work?"
"What changed Colonel Lindbergh’s opinion that the crime was perpetrated by a ‘gang’?"
These statements and the insinuations contained in these questions, particularly those pertaining to the irreproachable Colonel Lindbergh, are unwarranted by any facts yet disclosed, except assertions which the verdict has refuted, and they have served no purpose except to cast unfounded doubts upon the verdict in the case.
We voice no criticism of the action of the Governor in granting a reprieve or in making such investigations as he deemed proper in the exercise of the functions of his office, but we cannot justify aspersions, insinuations or charges made in connection therewith unless based upon fact or demonstrably probable proof.
After the granting of the reprieve the Governor continued his public comment on the case, at first devoting himself to a search for an accomplice, but later to an active campaign against witnesses responsible for Hauptmann’s conviction, arraigning one after another of the witnesses for the State, particularly Dr. Condon, Millard Whited, Joseph Perrone, Amandus Hockmuth and Colonel Lindbergh.
We cannot find any justifiable purpose in this line of attack. The case was closed except perhaps for the possible power of the governor to grant a second reprieve, which he did not grant. Public and official attack on these witnesses at this stage of the case could serve no purpose except to discredit the verdict of the jury and the judgment of the court in finding and adjudging Hauptmann guilty.
In the foregoing we have tried to present salient facts. We have quoted from press reports which stand uncontradicted. We have quoted statements of persons present at the trial which were published with their own signatures in newspapers and magazines. We have verified these statements as to occurrences at the trial, as far as possible, by the record and by contact with; persons who were present at the trial. We have reason to believe that press and magazine statements which we have quoted, as far as they purport to record facts, are reasonably accurate. Comments in the press we have taken the liberty to criticize. We have been moved less by spirit of censure than by hope of remedial action. The excesses we have described differ from practices in many other cases manly in degree.
The trial of a criminal case is a business that has for its sole purpose the administration of justice, and it should be carried on without distracting influences.
Passing from the general to the specific, we recommend:
APPEAL TO NEWS DISTRIBUTORS
Excesses have been indulged in by the press in the publication of colored and sensational stories of criminal trials and in improper comment and argument upon the evidence and the occurrences of the trial. Improprieties have been indulged in by radio and screen producers, in the procurement of records and in giving distribution to improper appeals to the public and improper reflection upon court and jury during the tendency of criminal trials. The men engaged in the operation of the agencies mentioned are men of generally patriotic impulses and of generally high standards of business ethics. We believe that they will be found willing to co-operate in a movement to secure fair and reasonable restriction upon news procurement, distribution and comment, and we recommend that the American Bar Association take active measures through an appropriate committee to secure co-operation looking to that end.
The public looks to the members of the legal profession to set their house in order and they have a right to do so. Lawyers, by reason of their familiarity with legal proceedings and events incident to them and because of the participation in such proceedings, should take the lead in all measures calculated to secure the best administration of justice. The Hauptmann trial might well be the starting point for a proper movement, to chart out a course for the better regulation of criminal trials.
OSCAR HALLAM, Chairman
St. Paul, Minnesota.
ALBERT J. HARNO,
CHARLES P. Taft, 2nd,
Cincinnati, Ohio, JOHN KIRKLAND CLARK,
New York, New York.
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