"The Real Crime of the Century" Known as the "Crime of the Century", the Lindbergh baby kidnapping case was watched by the whole world in the early 1930's. Charles Lindbergh Sr. was America's greatest hero. Bruno Richard Hauptmann was an illegal immigrant with a criminal record. Despite Hauptmann's continous proclamations of innocence, somebody would have to pay for the kidnapping and murder of Baby Lindbergh! Unfortunatly for Bruno, he was forced to pay the ultimate price-his life. Over sixty years later, doubts still surface regarding the justice (or injustice) of Hauptmann's execution, who was convicted primarily by circumstantial evidence and the influence of the media.
Reviewing the case leads many to ask whether "The Crime of the Century" was the kidnapping and murder of the Lindbergh baby or if in fact the real crime was the conviction and execution of an innocent Bruno Hauptmann. This question has no definitive or simple answer. It all depends on how you interpret the evidence or lack there of. The evidence at first seems to point a very sure finger towards poor Bruno but after careful examination of all of the evidence, there is definite cause for speculation. Because the majority of the evidence is based on people's beliefs that Bruno was the man near the scene of the crime and the man responsible for the ransom notes, the verdict was based on testimonials. One of the biggest anti-advocates of testimonials is Jasper Becker.
Throughout his Hungry Ghosts essay, he repeatedly quotes people who denied that the great famine ever occurred in China. The truth is that there really was a famine and that it can be proven as a fact. Yet despite all the physical and historical data that proves this event, people still choose to believe the false reports over the truth because it is easier to accept this by the general public. The same holds true for the unfortunate Mr Hauptmann. The media, as well as the jurors refused to take a closer look at tangible evidence that would cause doubts as to whether or not Bruno really was the guilty party.
They did not want to deal with skepticism anymore-they wanted blood for the death of Baby Lindbergh. So instead of keeping an open mind, they chose to let their minds be almost hypnotized into believing that Bruno was truly the murderer. They listened to each testimony that placed the blame on Bruno and let the condemning words of the witnesses be instilled into all of their minds as the cold, hard truth. There were never any doubts as to whether or not Bruno was really the killer.
It was much easier to pretend that all the witnesses' identifications of Bruno were more than just speculative, than to admit that no witnesses could actually positively identify Hauptmann as the guilty party everyone had deemed him to be. Had they allowed for speculation then there would be a chance that Bruno would have lived to see his own one year old son grow up. The main reason why they didn't was because there was no other scapegoat to take the punishment for Baby Lindbergh's death if Bruno was not convicted. This was a possibility that the public and the court did not wish to ever have to deal with. They wanted retribution and they wanted it it immediately, so the guillotine was swiftly dropped and supposed justice was served. Hauptmann was doomed man from the start.
This poor German immigrant was stripped of the American right to be considered "innocent until proven guilty" from the moment the police found the ransom money on him. The law was so swift to find an end to this case and Hauptmann was their redeeming in a thus far futile two and a half-year investigation. To prove "how" he was the murderer and not "if" he was the murderer was their biggest error. In this case, people assumed Hauptmann to be guilty from the start and they all adapted the common goal of determining exactly how they could link him to the crime.
They used any small lead and followed every whim that they could to obtain with the little evidence that they had. Even the evidence they used was badly mishandled and tainted but it did not matter to anyone except Bruno. Yet it is seemingly human to do this according to Marcia Angell: Assuming there is a connection, some people have sought to explain how it works. This backwards a approach does not entirely invalidate the observa- tions, of course. But it is an inefficient way to address a problem, and it raises the question of bias. (Angell 70) Although Angell is referring to the implementation of the scientific method to prove a hypothesis, this statement can be applied to the attempt to use the evidence at hand in the Lindbergh baby kidnapping trial to prove the guilt of Bruno Hauptmann.
Like Angell would support, almost all of America was biased from the start concerning the outcome of this case. They were not seeking to prove WHETHER or NOT Hauptmann was th guilty party, but they were out to CONFIRM THAT HE WAS indeed the killer. It was a backward approach and as a result, the case was not properly examined. No room was left to speculate the situation, nor any room for evidence that would contradict the fact that Hauptmann was the monster responsible for the baby's death.
Bruno would eventually be pinned for the murder by whatever evidence they should manipulate or whatever hints to his involvement they could use. If Becker, Angell, and I were to do a forensic analysis of the evidence that linked Bruno Richard Hauptmann to the crime, this man would have been spared. To begin with, it states in this nation's code of law that if there is even reasonable doubt that one is guilty of murder, then it is grounds for exoneration. Clearly Bruno at least had that much going for him.
In over one hundred forty hours of police hounding Bruno for a confession, he never once admitted to the crimes. He pleaded over and over that he was an innocent man and that he had obtained the ransom money from a friend that owed him some cash before returning to Germany. The friend was later found dead, and as a result, Bruno's alibi could never be proven. Yet His story could not be disprove n either.
Also the police found a three-quarter inch chisel on the Lindbergh premises which they believed to be the kidnapper's. When they searched Bruno's apartment they noticed that he did not have that size chisel in his toolbox. Now just because there was no chisel of that size in his drawer, it is purely circumstantial evidence. After all, none of Bruno's fingerprints were found at the scene of the crime, yet there were four sets of fingerprints that the police never identified but they admitted that the prints did not match Bruno's prints. Something as concrete as a fingerprint cannot be ignored as solid evidence-yet there is absolutely no concrete evidence in this case. The only other evidence we have to examine is the biased accounts of sightings of the kidnapper.
In each case, a witness tells of seeing the defendant from either a great distance, at night, or in heavy disguise, yet the witness always continues by saying that Bruno and the kidnapper were one in the same. That is like the British Royal who Becker spoke of in his essay. The Royal claimed that all of China was dramatically more abounding.