The Execution of Bruno Richard Hauptmann

Opening Statements of the Prosecution 

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   New! The State of NJ v. Bruno Richard  Hauptmann: FAIRNESS ON TRIAL (PDF)

by  Judge W Dennis Duggan, JFC 

  reprinted from The Albany County Bar Association Newsletter  01/04 

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Wilentz and the Prosecution Team demanded the Death penalty for  Hauptmann. Supposedly, this was what the public wanted, although it is unclear whether the media, with their penchant for Yellow Journalism,  made it seem that way.  But, to get such a verdict Wilentz could not simply charge Hauptmann with kidnapping since it was not a crime punishable by death. 

Wilentz charged him with felony murder to get him punished for first degree murder. The Prosecution pointed out that he burglarized the Lindbergh home, stole the baby and it's clothing. That was a felony. He then killed  baby in the process. It was now, in legal terms,  a crime committed with the "intent to steal and commit a battery."

 The State would prove that Bruno Richard Hauptmann, alone and unaided, planned the crime, prepared for it and executed it.

David Wilentz:

"He broke into and entered at night the Lindbergh home with the intent to commit a battery upon that child, and with the intent to steal the child and its clothing. And he did. Then as he went out that window and down that ladder of his, the ladder broke. He had more weight going down that he had when he was coming up. And down he went with this child. In the commission of that burglary that child was instantaneously killed when it received that first blow."

Hauptmann, attempting to flee, finding the double burden of ladder and child too difficult to carry and casting aside the ladder; and then, still on the grounds of the estate, ripping the sleeping suit from the small body - because he didn't need the child, as we will show you; he needed the sleeping garment!"

"And on he went-to complete the rest of his plans in this horrible criminal endeavor."

The prosecutor, Attorney General Wilentz, then spoke of "the hysterical moment" when the parents discovered their child was missing and began searching frantically. He then spoke of the meetings  Dr. Condon had in the Bronx cemeteries and the ransom money.

"And Lindy, Lindy, who could find a speck at the end of the earth - Lindy couldn't find his child, because Hauptmann had murdered it."

"The moisture in the ground had still preserved the face a little bit, so that it was white when it was turned up, and twenty minutes after the air struck it , it had turned black. The body was horribly decomposed ..."

Wilentz then spoke of the flannel shirt the child was wearing and continued describing the body of the child: "There was a prominent forehead under the blond hair; there was that typical nose, and the overlapping toes of the Lindbergh child."

The young Attorney General then spoke of Hauptmann's arrest and the discovery money the police found in his garage. He then asked Hauptmann where the money came from and answered for him: "Why, a partner of mine, an associate of mine, a friend of mine- now dead - gave it to me."

He finalized his opening argument in such a convincing manner that silence befell the entire courtroom. He said, "The State of New Jersey will not compromise with murder or murderers. We demand the penalty for murder in the first degree."

Most probably agreed with Wilentz and wished for Hauptmann to die. However, some, including Clarence Darrow, the attorney made famous with the Scopes "Monkey Trial" in the 1920's and the Leopold and Loeb case,  declared the charges unfit for Hauptmann. 

Darrow said that maybe the prosecution could prove Hauptmann guilty of extortion, if anything, but not for murder.

click for info  Entire Trial Transcript  Available on CD ROM 


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