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Alger Hiss Trials: 1949-50

Second Jury Reaches Guilty Verdict

The second trial began on November 17, 1949, with Judge Henry W. Goddard presiding. Most of the earlier witnesses repeated their testimony. Defense attorney Claude B. Cross, who had replaced Stryker, called Dr. Binger. Judge Goddard permitted him to testify that "Mr. Chambers is suffering from a condition known as a psychopathic personality, a disorder of character the distinguishing features of which are amoral and antisocial behavior." One important symptom was "chronic, persistent, and repetitive lying and a tendency to make false accusations."

On January 20, 1950, the jury found Hiss guilty on both counts. His sentence was five years on each, to be served concurrently. Before sentencing, Hiss again denied any guilt, promising that "in the future the full facts of how Whittaker Chambers was able to carry out forgery by typewriter will be disclosed."

Hiss was free on bail for more than a year. The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed his conviction. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to review the case. On March 22, 1951, Hiss entered the federal penitentiary at Danbury, Connecticut.

While Hiss was in prison, his attorney of record in the appeals, Chester T. Lane, consulted experts who made exhaustive tests in document analysis, in the chemistry of paper, in metallurgy, and in the construction of typewriters. A noted typewriter engineer, working entirely from samples of typing from the machine exhibited at the trial and without seeing the trial typewriter, built another machine. It produced examples so similar that New England's leading document expert swore in an affidavit that no expert could distinguish documents typed on the two machines.

Through serial numbers and records of manufacturing, Lane also found evidence that Priscilla Hiss' typewriter had been in use in her father's real estate office in 1929—before the Woodstock in evidence in the courtroom had been built. The evidence led Lane to the conclusion that the FBI had known at the time of the trial that the typewriter put in evidence was manufactured two years after Priscilla's machine was bought by her father.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1941 to 1953Alger Hiss Trials: 1949-50 - Hiss Denies Communist Link, A "bombshell," A Seaplane, A Pumpkin, A Typewriter Proves Elusive