Thursday, March 13, 2014

SIMILARITIES BETWEEN NEW JERSEY versus BRUNO RICHARD HAUPTMANN AND FLORIDA versus THEODORE ROBERT BUNDY


In an earlier post I mentioned that I saw some striking similarities between the Lindbergh Kidnapping Case and our case against Ted Bundy for the kidnapping and murder of Kim Leach. Of course the motives for the two crimes were very different, and the two defendants came from very different backgrounds, but still some aspects were similar. Anyhow, in no particular order, here are some of the similarities that I saw in the two cases.

1)      The lead prosecutor in both cases had never before tried a murder case as a prosecutor. David Wilentz told the jury that he had never prosecuted any case before. It appears from his final argument, however, that he was an experienced civil trial attorney. I had much more experience in the trial of criminal cases than Wilentz. I had tried several murder cases as a defense attorney, and I had tried many cases as a prosecutor, but the case against Bundy was the first murder case which I tried as a prosecutor.

2)      Both prosecutions seem to have been organized in similar fashion. We decided on a modular presentation for the Bundy case, and I believe that I can detect a modular format for the Lindbergh case. At first our modules were well defined, but their orderliness broke down over time. I believe I can see such a pattern in the Lindbergh case. We ended our case with a witness who was an expert in a relatively exotic field of forensic science. The Lindbergh case ended with an  expert in a relatively exotic field of forensic science.

3)      In both cases the bodies of the victim were found away from a highway and partially covered. The condition of the two bodies was very similar.

4)      In both cases clothing found at the scene was helpful in identifying the bodies.

5)      Cause of death was an issue in both cases. Unlike the Lindbergh case, however, we sought out and used the most qualified forensic pathologist we could find to perform the autopsy. The doctor who performed the autopsy in the Lindbergh case was a local doctor who had little experience with such cases, and his examination left quite a bit to be desired.

6)      Both cases involved extensive investigations in two different jurisdictions—one a large city and one a small town. The Lindbergh case involved an extortion in New York City and a murder in Hopewell New Jersey. Our case involved Lake City Florida and Tallahassee. Both jurisdictions had parallel investigations going on which complemented each other.

7)      We could not have made our case in Lake City without the investigative work done by the Tallahassee Police Department, the Leon County Sheriff’s Office, and the FSU Police Department. The case in New Jersey could not have been made without the investigative work done in New York City by the NYPD and the FBI.

8)      Hopewell’s local law enforcement agencies were not equal to the task of investigating the Lindbergh kidnapping. Lake City’s local law enforcement agencies were not equal to the task of investigating the Bundy case.

9)      Both cases were made with the intervention of statewide law enforcement agencies. They had the New Jersey State Police, and we had the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Florida Highway Patrol. We had the better statewide agency. At the time of the Lindbergh kidnapping, the NJSP was little more than a sort of glorified highway patrol. In our case the FDLE was not only staffed with investigators experienced in complex investigations, it had an excellent crime lab.

10)   Both cases were plagued by interdepartmental rivalry. In the Lindbergh case there was a three‑way tug‑of‑war between the NJSP, NYPD, and FBI. In our case we have even more vying agencies. They never seem to have achieved a modus vivendi in the Lindbergh case; we partially solved our problem by forming a task force comprised of investigators from all involved agencies.

11)   The Lindbergh case was plagued with eyewitnesses who had serious credibility problems. All of our eyewitnesses had credibility problems. In our case, however, there was never any question about the honesty of our witnesses, just their ability to observe and remember.

12)   One of the eyewitnesses in the Lindbergh case was Amandus Hochmuth, an octogenarian with poor eyesight. Hochmuth placed Hauptmann at the entrance to the Lindbergh residence on the day of the crime. One of our eyewitnesses was Clinch Edenfield, a septuagenarian with poor eyesight who put Bundy at the Lake City Junior High on the morning Kim went missing from the junior high.

13)   The prosecution’s star eyewitness in the Lindbergh case was John Condon, a man whose eccentricities called his veracity into doubt. We managed to destroy the credibility of our star eyewitness by hypnotizing him and thereby giving the defense an opportunity to call mental health experts who convincingly testified that the hypnosis could have planted false memories.

14)   A significant portion of the evidence against Hauptmann was the testimony of examiners of questioned documents who identified Hauptmann’s handwriting on the ransom notes. A significant portion of our evidence was the testimony of an examiner of questioned documents who identified Bundy’s handwriting on various forged credit card receipts placing Bundy in Lake City on the day of the crime.

15)   The final witness in the Lindbergh case, Arthur Koehler, put Hauptmann at the scene of the crime by matching a part of the kidnapper’s homemade ladder to a board taken from Hauptmann’s attic. The final witness in our case, Lynn Henson, put Bundy at the scene of the crime by matching fibers found at the scene to fibers from Bundy’s clothing. Koehler also tied Hauptmann to the ladder with a tool mark examination showing, among other things, that Hauptmann’s wood plane was used to plane the boards of the ladder. Henson also tied Bundy to our crime scene by doing a shoe track comparison which connected two pairs of Bundy’s shoes to the scene.

16)   Both the investigation and the prosecution of the Lindbergh case were severely hampered by overwhelming news coverage. Both the investigation and the prosecution of our case were severely hampered by the intense news coverage.

17)   A license tag number figured prominently in both cases. In our case Bundy was found in possession of a stolen license tag, 13d‑11300, which helped to identify him as the kidnapper. Bundy had the stolen tag on the murder vehicle when he purchased gasoline in Lake City, and the attendant wrote the tag number down on the credit card receipt. In the Lindbergh case, a gas station attendant was suspicious of the gold certificate Hauptmann used to pay for some gasoline. The attendant wrote Hauptmann’s tag number on the gold certificate. When the certificate was identified as a ransom bill, they traced it to Hauptmann by the tag number.

18)   In both cases significant incriminating evidence was overlooked by the prosecution and did not surface until years later. In his new book, Hauptmann’s Ladder, Richard T. Cahill outlines some significant evidence that Hauptmann tried to buy a sheet of plywood at a Bronx lumberyard using a $10.00 gold certificate, probably one of the ransom bills. When the clerk objected, he took the bill back and his companion gave her the 40 cent price of the plywood sheet. The clerk was suspicious enough to write down the tag number of the purchaser—Bruno Hauptmann’s tag. Cahill found documents suggesting that this evidence was given to the New York grand jury which indicted Hauptmann for extortion, but it was never mentioned in the New Jersey murder case. The only reasonable explanation I can think of for their not using this evidence at the trial is that the New Jersey prosecution team was unaware of it. In our case a soil expert pinpointed the location of the body by examining soil found in the murder vehicle. This evidence was ignored and played no part in the discovery of the body. It was never communicated to the prosecution team, and I found out about it decades later. If I had known about it at the time of the trial, the jury would certainly have heard about it.

19)   Both cases were circumstantial evidence cases which required fitting together a mass of circumstances to obtain a picture of what happened. No single circumstance was enough in either case. It took all the circumstances together to get a conviction.

20)   In both cases the defense team put on a pathetic showing with the evidence they offered in defense of the charge. They did so poorly in the Lindbergh case that Wilentz decided to shorten his rebuttal. They did so poorly in our case that we put on a very brief rebuttal.

In some areas, we had the advantage over the Lindbergh case prosecution team, in other areas they had the advantage over us. The area where they had by far the greater advantage was in the area of case quality. We analyzed our case as being iffy enough that there was a real question whether we were going to be able to get a conviction. The foreman of the jury, who later wrote a newspaper article about his experiences, agreed with us. He said he was initially surprised at the low quality of our evidence, but we eventually pulled everything together with the accumulation of circumstances. He also said if the defense had offered a scintilla of evidence supporting the theory they argued, they would have gotten an acquittal. The defense, of course was severely hampered by the fact that their client was guilty. I’ve read the Lindbergh trial transcript several times now, and I don’t see how the trial jury could have come to any verdict other than guilty based on the evidence presented at trial.

One of the biggest differences between the two cases was the behavior of the defendant at trial and post‑trial. Hauptmann testified at trial, a huge mistake; Bundy didn’t, an excellent decision. Hauptmann was thoroughly discredited on cross-examination; Bundy would have been thoroughly discredited on cross if he had taken the stand. Hauptmann maintained his innocence to the bitter end; Bundy confessed to thirty murders (including ours) in an effort to delay his execution. I’m glad he finally confessed. If he hadn’t, our case would be plagued with myriads of innocence theories just as the Lindbergh case is.