Trial of Lindbergh Baby kidnapper Hauptmann (1930s)

Bruno Hauptmann mugshots

Hauptmann, guilty, sentenced to die in New Jersey electric chair (1935)

Attorneys plan to carry appeal to highest court

Five ballots understood to have been needed to get jurors together

Woman opposed to death

German carpenter outwardly calm in court, sobs later in his cell

Hutchinson News (February 14, 1935)

The sheriff at Flemington, NJ, said today Hauptmann would be removed to the death house in the state prison at Trenton Saturday.

Edward J Reilly of defense counsel said he would start a “Hauptmann appeal fund” with a bank as trustee. He described the verdict as “one of the greatest miscarriages of justice.”

Senator Barbour of New Jersey commented that murderers and kidnappers had best stay away from New Jersey.

Mrs Hauptmann was denied permission to visit her husband until his removal from Flemington to Trenton. She washed a white sleeping suit of her baby.

Perjury prosecution

The county prosecutor at Flemington said efforts would be made to indict four defense witnesses for perjury.

Hauptmann’s mother wrote President Roosevelt seeking a pardon for her son. The president has no power to grant it.

The jurors who convicted Hauptmann left Flemington for their home refusing to discuss what happened in the jury room. One source said there were five ballots, five of the jurors, two women and three men, voting for life imprisonment on the first ballot, the others for death. The two women switched first in the subsequent balloting and the men followed. Robert Cravatt was the lone voter for life imprisonment on the fourth ballot.

Flemington, NJ — Death has been decreed for Bruno Richard Hauptmann, convicted of killing the Lindbergh baby, but his counsel drafted today a fight through high courts which may last months.

Precedent combined with judge and jury to fix the night of March 22 as the tentative date for Hauptmann’s electrocution.

He was sentenced to “suffer death” the week of March 18, and Friday is doomsday in the death house at Trenton.

While Hauptmann wept in his cell, Edward J Reilly, chief of defense staff, said an appeal would be carried to the United States supreme court.

First hearing in May

The first tribunal expected to hear the plea, the state court of errors and appeals, meets for its next term late in May. The court of pardons will not hear it before October.

The jurors who sentenced him showed more emotion than did Hauptmann as he stood before them at 10:45 last night.

With a look of affection, the 36-year-old prisoner turned to his faithful wife and said:

“Its all right, Annie.”

Back in his cell, out of the gaze of the curious, Hauptmann burst into tears.

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No bail (1934)

The News, New York newspaper (September 22, 1934)

A scene from Richard Hauptmann’s arraignment, where his bail was denied. 

Bruno Hauptmann-no-bail


Hauptmann dies silently: Bruno electrocuted without confessing Lindbergh crime (1936)

by Harry Ferguson – Nevada State Journal (April 4, 1936)

Trenton, NJ — The state of New Jersey, which spent $1,200,000 to capture and convict Bruno Richard Hauptmann, executed him tonight with a penny’s worth of electricity.

Before his body even hung loose and heavy against the straps of the electric chair, officials collected from a witness a dozen affidavits, swearing that Hauptmann had died in the place, time and manner prescribed by law. Then they closed their four year file on the murder of Charles A Lindbergh Jr.

Hauptmann died without confessing. Not a word passed his lips as he entered the electrocution chamber and he needed no assistance when he sat down in the chair.

Hauptmann died at 8:47 1/2 pm.

Nothing that a man covets — money, security for his family, not even the prospect of escaping the thunderbolt that hit him tonight — could persuade Hauptmann to tell why and how and when he killed the Lindbergh baby.

His failure to confess left a trail of doubt around the world. Millions, including the governor of New Jersey, believe no one man could have committed the crime, and that the law did only part of its work in this spring evening four years and a month from the night when the Lindbergh baby was kidnapped.

Millions still believe that some day accomplices in case will be found

For these millions, a murdered child still cries out for vengeance and they will believe through all their years that sometime and somewhere a frightened man is going to whisper from his death bed that he, too, had a part in the bloody business on Sourland Mountain.

But when Hauptmann walked to his death he did so in the knowledge that his lawyers and his wife, Anna, had tried and tested every safeguard of the law, and that he still stood convicted and guilty.

For one breathless fragment of a minute tonight every heart stood still in the little white-walled room where death and Hauptmann met. It was when the door swung.

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There stood Hauptmann!

For five beats of your heart he did not move, but waited for the door to come wide enough for him and his guards to get through.

It was his eyes you noticed first. They were strange, unblinking eyes — cold eyes of washed-out blue.

Only Bruno’s eyes identify him as the Bruno Hauptmann of last year

They had dressed him for death in a gray shirt open at the throat, in shapeless brown trousers and bedroom slippers. At first glance, only his eyes identified him as being the man who sat directly in front of the United Press correspondent at Flemington during the six weeks of his trial. They had clipped the hair off his skull, and it gleamed, white and hard in the light.

Robert Elliott, the executioner, stood beside a bucket of brine in which he was soaking the sponges to be used on Hauptmann — a wrinkled old mechanic of death, puttering around with his tools. There were more than 50 persons crowded into one corner of the room, but if Hauptmann saw them they must have been nothing but a blur of faces to him.

Only one thing stands out dark and stark in that white room — the oak chair with its heavy leather straps.

Hauptmann confronts chair — but no sign of break before lightning hits

And that chair was the first thing Hauptmann saw as he came through the door with a guard grasping each arm. It was not the first time he had looked death in the eye. He saw it down the stubby barrel of a machine gun during the World war; saw it coming at him across the fields in the shape of men dressed in French horizon blue and British brown. But he could fight back at death then, give it blow for blow and come through, as he did, unscathed. There was no fighting back now, and he knew it.

His face was pasty, maybe with fright and maybe only with the pallor that prison puts on men who never see the sun. He seemed to have courage, if courage means that the brain tells the legs to walk on toward death and the legs obey. The guards grasped him, but did not drag him across the six paces from the door to the chair. One trouser leg slipped, because they had to slit it so they could clamp the electrode to his leg.

During that brief march from the door to the chair it must have occurred to everybody there that now, if ever, fear would surely jolt Hauptmann’s tongue loose and set him to babbling the details of his crime.

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Executioner moves on soundless feet to spin wheel and release current

But he was silent and continued so as they placed him in the chair and lashed a strap across his chest.

Still no word came from him when they reached through the slit in his trouser leg and clamped him closer to death.

But there was yet time to talk — time to postpone, or perhaps avoid what was about to happen to him if only he would speak the few words that would break the riddle to which he alone knew the answer.

No time left now, though, because they poised a leather helmet above his shaven head. A strap dropped over his eyes, blotting out the brilliance of an electric bulb over his head and warning him of greater darkness to come.

Elliott moved on soundless feet back toward a wheel in the wall that sends the current through the chair.

He reached up and spun it.

Physicians conduct examination, in low voice: ‘This man is dead’

There came a growling sound like that made by a truck going up a steep hill under a heavy load.

Out of a dynamo raced the lightning.

It hit Hauptmann’s brain first, knocking him senseless and throwing him, tense and shuddering, against the straps.

Yellow crept into the row of bulbs above Elliott’s wheel as the old mechanic of death, without even turning to look at his handiwork, poured more current through Hauptmann.

Now the lightning had stilled the heart and ravaged the reflexes.

Elliott’s arms moved once more. A plume of smoke was rising from the floor — signal that the ankle sponge was dry and hot.

The current went off.

Death is quick and cheap in the little white room. Elliott had used only about four minutes of time and 1.01 cents worth of electricity.

There was a file of physicians waiting on the right hand side of the chair. Dr Howard Wiesler, prison physician, stepped forward, a stethoscope dangling from his neck. Elliott parted the heavy gray shirt of Hauptmann’s body, and ripped loose the white cotton undershirt.

Wiesler laid his stethoscope on Hauptmann’s chest, then stepped back while the other doctors came forward. One of them was the Mercer county coroner’s physician, Dr Charles Mitchell, who performed the autopsy on the Lindbergh baby. Not until every doctor had examined Hauptmann and Wiesler had gone back for another search for a vagrant heart beat was New Jersey satisfied that it had avenged the murder of the Lindbergh baby.

The Wiesler, without turning to the witnesses, said in a low voice:

“This man is dead.”

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