Saturday, February 28, 2015


I have previously written about the similarities between our case against Ted Bundy for kidnapping and killing Kim Leach and the case against Bruno Richard Hauptmann for the kidnapping and killing the Lindbergh baby. One striking similarity that I did not discuss was the nature of the proof in each case. In each case the prosecution had three things which must be tied together to make the case. In the Bundy case we had a white van which was used in the kidnapping, and we had to tie both Bundy and Kim to the van. We also had to put Bundy and Kim together. As I analyzed the case, if we could (1) put Bundy in the van and (2) put Kim in the van and (3) put Bundy and Kim together, we could prove he murdered her. This analysis could be diagrammed onto the corners of a triangle. Bundy, Kim, and the van were the points of the triangle, and the evidence tying each of these three together were the legs of the triangle. Eventually, with the help of a graphic artist, we turned this triangle diagram into a visual aid for final argument.


This visual aid was a key factor in persuading the jury that we had proven our case. When I argued the Bundy case I gave the longest final argument I ever gave in any case before or since. Toward the end of the argument I felt I had started losing the jury. They were becoming restless and inattentive, and I was becoming disheartened. It was about this time, though, that I came to the finale where I would unveil the triangle chart and explain how all the evidence tied together. The jury was mesmerized, not by my oratorical skill, but by the diagram and how it placed everything into perspective.


Although the prosecution team did not seem to notice, the Lindbergh case was amenable to the same sort of triangular analysis. In the Lindbergh case the baby had been stolen from its nursery on the second floor of the Lindbergh home and later a mysterious figure identified as Cemetery John had extorted $50,000 out of Lindbergh on the promise to return the baby. Two years later Hauptmann was arrested in possession of almost $15,000 in Lindbergh ransom money. The prosecution had to tie three figures together to get a conviction. They had to put Hauptmann in the nursery with the baby; they had to put Cemetery John in the nursery with the baby; and they had to prove that Hauptmann was Cemetery John.

In the Bundy case we had a myriad of small circumstances which, taken together, established the three legs of our triangle. In the Lindbergh case they had many small circumstances, but they also had three large circumstances: the homemade ladder which the kidnapper left at the scene; the ransom money; and the ransom notes. In other words they had a LADDER, some LETTERS, and the LOOT to form the three legs of their triangle. The LADDER tied Hauptmann to the scene with proof that he was the one who built it. The LETTERS tied Cemetery John to the scene because they were all written in the same hand and one of them was left in the nursery. The LOOT showed that Hauptmann was Cemetery John because it was given to Cemetery John and later found in Hauptmann’s possession. The LETTERS also tied Hauptmann to Cemetery John because eight handwriting examiners testified that Hauptmann wrote all the ransom letters.

If we take all this and put it on a triangle diagram, we get something that looks like this:
If we were going to use this as an actual visual aid in a final argument, we would make it more elaborate and would add in all the circumstantial evidence on each leg of the triangle, not just the three most salient circumstances. As it turned out the prosecution didn’t need such a visual aid to prove their case, but it certainly could not have hurt them had they used something like this.