I've been doing some research in the Lindbergh kidnapping case, a case which has generated a large and vocal group of advocates for the innocence of the man who was executed for the crime, Richard Hauptmann.
One point which the skeptics frequently bring up is the ladder Hauptmann used to climb into the child's second story bedroom window. Why were there no fingerprints on the ladder? Doesn't that prove Hauptmann was innocent? No, it doesn't, and we can demonstrate why it doesn't by an interesting parallel to Ted Bundy's kidnapping of Kimberly Diane Leach.
(1) Hauptmann used the ladder as an instrumentality in the kidnapping of the Lindbergh child. Ted Bundy used a stolen white van as an instrumentality in the kidnapping of Kimberly Diane Leach. As a matter of fact, Bundy spent several days driving the van around North Florida.
(2) Despite the use of the latest technology, they failed to identify Hauptmann's prints on the ladder. Despite the use of the latest technology they failed to identify Bundy's prints in the van.
(3) The ladder was tied to Hauptmann by other means (chiefly wood analysis). The van was tied to Bundy by other means (chiefly shoe tracks and microanalysis).
(4) Failure of fingerprints to prove the proposition that someone touched an object does not equate to proof that the person never touched the object.
(5) Conclusion: The absence of identifiable Hauptmann prints from the ladder is not evidence of Hauptmann's innocence.
There are two interesting sidelights on the issue of fingerprints in the Bundy case.
Bundy lived for several weeks in a room at the Oak Apartments in Tallahassee. After his arrest, fingerprint technicians were dispatched to the room and went over it from ceiling to floor looking for Bundy's fingerprints. No identifiable prints from Bundy were found.
All Judgments in Florida have the defendant's fingerprints rolled onto them in open court before the sentencing judge. This makes it easier to prove prior convictions when the defendant comes back to court. We used a copy of the Judgment and Sentence from the Chi Omega trial during the Kim Leach penalty phase to prove up Bundy's prior convictions for crimes of violence. His fingerprints on the Judgment and Sentence were so faint and indistinct that you could hardly see them.
There are other parallels between the two cases which I will share in later posts.