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Bruno Richard Hauptmann Trial: 1935

Discovered Through Ransom Money, The Circus Comes To Town, Everything Matches, The Shoebox On The Shelf

Defendant: Bruno Richard Hauptmann
Crime Charged: Murder
Chief Defense Lawyer: Edward J. Reilly
Chief Prosecutor David T. Wilentz
Judge: Thomas W. Trenchard
Place: Flemington, New Jersey
Dates of Trial: January 2-February 13, 1935
Verdict: Guilty
Sentence: Death by electrocution

SIGNIFICANCE: The use of scientific crime detection, a conviction entirely on circumstantial evidence, and the circus-like atmosphere created by spectators and the press made the Lindbergh baby kidnapping trial a landmark in American history. Because of the prominence of the father of the murder victim, probably no case has ever attracted greater worldwide attention.

Influential editor and critic H.L. Mencken called Bruno Richard Hauptmann's trial "the biggest story since the Resurrection." The defendant was charged with murdering the 20-month-old son of Charles A. Lindbergh, the man who, in May 1927, had become the greatest hero of modern times by making the first solo trans-Atlantic flight, from New York to Paris. "Wild enthusiasm" understates the acclaim that had greeted Lindbergh wherever he went for five years. He belonged to America.

In 1929, Lindbergh had married Anne Morrow, daughter of the U.S. ambassador to Mexico. Charles Jr. was born June 22, 1930. Hoping to escape from the crowds they drew everywhere they went, the young family moved into a new home in remote Hopewell, New Jersey. There, on the evening of March 1, 1932, the toddler was kidnapped from his nursery. His body was found May 12 in the woods, two miles from the Lindbergh home.

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1918 to 1940