OPENING STATEMENT FOR THE DEFENSE: NEW JERSEY vs. BRUNO RICHARD HAUPTMANN



[NUMBERS IN BRACKETS ARE THE PAGE NUMBERS FROM THE ORIGINAL TRANSCRIPT]



[2376] Mr. Fisher: If it please your Honor and ladies and gentlemen of the jury: I am fully cognizant of the grave importance of the trial of this indictment. I appreciate truly how keen a responsibility is mine. I shall humbly and in language as simple as I can command give you briefly the facts and the circumstances upon which we rely to gain for the defendant, Bruno Richard Hauptmann, an acquittal at your hands. That is now our responsibility: The fair presentation of all the facts and circumstances attendant to the trial of this indictment which we shall contend will preserve the life and the liberty of this defendant.

[2377] Until these facts and circumstances are fully proven, that responsibility continues to be his and ours. When we have fully and completely presented all those facts and circumstances which we feel are material to the proper presentation of this defense, then that responsibility shifts, it is no longer mine, or that of my associates.

The responsibility for the life and liberty of Hauptmann then becomes yours.

Now, let’s see what we are here to defend. May I at this time read to you the indictment that we are called upon to defend: “The grand inquest for the State of New Jersey in and for the body of the County of Hunterdon upon their respective oaths present that Bruno Richard Hauptmann on the first day of March in the year of Our Lord One Thousand Nine Hundred and Thirty Two, with force and arms, at the Township of East Amwell, in the County of Hunterdon aforesaid, and within the jurisdiction of this court did willfully, feloniously and of his malice aforethought, kill and murder Charles A. Lindbergh, Junior, contrary to the form of the statute in such case made and provided and against the peace of the State, the Government and the dignity of the same.”

Now, still having some doubt in our minds as to what we were called upon to defend, under the phraseology of that indictment, which, as a matter of fact follows the old common law form of murder indictment, we caused to be served upon the State of New Jersey, through their proper representative, the Attorney General, or [2378] the Prosecutor of Hunterdon County, a demand that we be furnished with some particulars specifying with more particularity just what the defendant Hauptmann was accused of, and in response to that a motion was argued before his Honor in this court room, answered on behalf of the State of New Jersey by Mr. Lanigan, who sits at the State’s table, and I want to read for you now out of the official record the questions and answers as submitted by Mr. Lanigan:

Question Number 1: Is it the intent of the indictment to allege that murder was committed with premeditation and with malice aforethought Answer: The indictment is complete and sufficient answer in that it states that Bruno Richard Hauptmann did willfully, feloniously and of his malice aforethought kill and murder Charles A. Lindbergh, Junior. Question Number 2: Is it the intent of the indictment to allege that murder was committed while the indicted subject was engaged in the commission of a felony? Question Number 3:—

Mr. Wilentz: Pardon me. If your Honor please, I didn’t want to interrupt counsel, but the bill of particulars, if your Honor please, I take it, is not a proper part of the opening.

The Court: Well, I believe—Mr. Wilentz: It is evidence.

[2379] The Court: The answer to the bill of particulars—

Mr. Fisher: Yes.

The Court: —would be proper for consideration, but such bill, such demands as are not answered and not required by the Court to be answered, I cannot see that they have any relevancy at all.

Mr. Fisher: I am attempting to read, sir, the answers made by the Attorney General in his argument to the Court in response, which became part of the official record, and I now have it in my hand, sir.

The Court: Now, if that is objected to, that will have to be excluded. My recollection is that it required the State to make an answer, and I assume that the State made an answer. I have never seen it, but I assume that I did. Now, if you want to read that, Mr. Fisher, you may do so. If you want to read that into the record, you may do so.

Mr. Wilentz: The Prosecutor of the Pleas, not Mr. Lanigan.

Mr. Fisher: I submit ladies and gentlemen, that as the result of certain information we received in the argument of the Assistant Attorney General in response to our demand for particulars, we were apprised of certain salient facts in reference to the indictment against our client Mr. Hauptmann. Among other things, it came [2380] to our knowledge that the State relied and we are here now to answer the indictment and the things they rely on in connection thereto, they relied upon the fact that this defendant committed the crime of murder while engaged in the commission of a felony in the County of Hunterdon and the State of New Jersey. Now upon that state of facts we are here to answer. We submit that in our defense we will attempt and we believe successfully to prove to you a complete alibi for the defendant Hauptmann on each and every occasion that he has been named as being present at a given point in the evidence thus far produced, and I refer now particularly to March 1st, 1932, to April 2nd, 1932, and to November 26th, 1932.

We believe that we will be able to prove to you, to your satisfaction, that on the day, March the 1st, 1932, the defendant Hauptmann, who stands accused of going into the silent home of Colonel Lindbergh, and stealing and murdering the child of Lindbergh, in the early morning of that day, took his kit of tools, as was his morning custom, and went down into the City of New York for the purpose of procuring employment.

And we shall ask you ladies and gentlemen whether or not that is the action of a man who is to engage that very night in such a nefarious crime as was committed.

We will follow him downtown for you, to the agency; and from there to the job to which he was assigned. We will account, by competent testimony, we will account by the testimony of the defendant [2381] himself for his entire day and we will show that at the close of the day he returned to his Bronx home—up, I believe, on 222nd   or 223rd Street.

His wife, a frugal, hardworking housewife, was employed in a baker shop or delicatessen store, lunchroom, or whatever you desire to term it, of people named Frederickson; that the defendant Hauptmann was obliged to call for her at least two nights a week every week, for the reason that Mrs. Hauptmann didn’t keep her regular and usual hours on those days. She was obliged to work late because of certain facts which the evidence will disclose. And we will show that the defendant Hauptmann did go to the baker shop of Frederickson, and at the very hour the State charges he was climbing the ladder, which has been before you, he was in the baker shop of Frederickson, sipping coffee, chatting with his wife; and we will show that not only by Hauptmann and his wife, but by entirely disinterested people who happened to drop in the shop.

Now, that is as to the night of March 1st.

On the night of April 2nd, a very easy night for Mr. Hauptmann to recall, because he is a German, from a part of Germany where they are much given to parties and to music and to jollification among themselves; they carry their foreign customs into this country with them. It is true, you jurors know it is true if you have in your community people of foreign extraction, you know that they cling tenaciously to their old world customs; and so do the [2382] Germans in The Bronx, New York. And it has been their custom since they have been in there, the Hauptmanns, and a few of their German neighbors, to gather in a home of one or the other on the first Saturday of each and every month, and to have a little party, a little music, a little singing, a little chat or talk of the Homeland, talk of the Fatherland. And they were, and we will show you by evidence other than the evidence of Hauptmann, they were on the night of April 2nd in the home of Hauptmann in the Bronx—

The Court: April 2nd?

Mr. Fisher: April 2nd, 1932, sir.

—in the home of Hauptmann in The Bronx, together with a friend or perhaps more than one friend—I don’t recall at the moment—as you or I might be with our friends on any given night; and that the entire evening was spent there in that house, never once leaving the house.

Now, as to November 26th, 1934, it is a significant thing that the witness Barr picked on one night about which there can’t be a scintilla of doubt as to the whereabouts of the defendant Hauptmann. It was an event in his life, that day; it was his birthday; it was Hauptmann’s birthday,— November 26th was his birthday; and he gathered into his home in The Bronx friends. Why, it is the custom—I don’t know how many of you know Germany; if I may, for a moment, put in a personal word, I have traveled through the country, [2383] I have walked through it, I have lived with the peasants and people there. They are the greatest people in the world to observe birthdays and national holidays. There is no nation like them for that sort of thing. And in Hauptmann’s house in The Bronx on the 26th of November, at the very hour Cecile Barr said from this witness stand he bought a ticket in a theater down in Greenwich Village, some 15 or 20 miles from his home—he was at home, the host of some friends present there, at his invitation, to honor his birthday.

That is as to our alibi.

They are the three days, I believe, on which the State has charged certain things occurred in the life of Hauptmann which hook him up to this crime.

That is as to our alibi.

Now, as to handwriting: We shall attempt to prove to you—not by sheer force of numbers as the State did, for a very, very good reason; we are totally unable to procure, through financial reasons, any such array of testimony as the State could produce here.

We will show you and show you clearly that the funds of this man Hauptmann are completely and totally exhausted. He is before you here in the court without one dollar that he can call his own, without a penny in the world. And his defense has been almost entirely financed through the members of his counsel.

And I say to you that we cannot bring you here eight or nine or ten or twelve outstanding experts from the far parts of the world. That cannot be done. We have [2384] no money to go down in Los Angeles and bring Clark Sellers here.

Mr. Wilentz: Just a minute—

The Court: The defense is going a good way. There is no doubt about that, Mr. Attorney General.

Mr. Fisher: I have California on my mind, your Honor. I want to go down there.

The Court: I suppose it is competent for him to state that he is without funds, that is, to have his man say on the witness stand that he is without funds, if he can say so truthfully and subject to cross examination, but I think you are going too far.

Mr. Fisher: Very good.

Mr. Wilentz: We except to this, of course. We expect counsel to prove what he says in this regard.

The Court: Of course. The very purpose of an opening is to state the facts which counsel expects to prove.

Mr. Wilentz: That is the reason they haven’t got more handwriting experts, as I understand, is because of a lack of funds—we expect them to prove that.

Mr. Fisher: We will go a step further than that, ladies and gentlemen, we will [2385] prove that with what little money we did have in the banks of New York City out of the funds of Mrs. Anna Hauptmann put in there from 1924 to 1932, has been tied up by the State of New Jersey, funds that couldn’t possibly have to do with this kidnapping and that is another very cogent reason why we are here without funds, now that we are here on the question of funds. I will say to you that we will prove that we are without funds and for that reason necessarily limited and very severely limited in the extent of testimony that we can produce before you, ladies and gentlemen, but we will produce competent handwriting experts, who will take the very exhibits put in evidence by the experts of the State of New Jersey and show you clearly, and I am convinced, to a point where there can’t be a doubt in any of your minds that that is not the handwriting of Bruno Richard Hauptmann. It is not our business to prove whose it is; it is our business and we will prove to you that it is not the writing of Bruno Richard Hauptmann.

We will prove it by witnesses competent, I am sure you will agree with me when you have heard them testify. I will say as to them that they will not be in such numbers as were presented by the State, but competent witnesses whose testimony you can’t refuse to believe.

Now as to finances, as to finances of the defendant Hauptmann, we will show you and we believe show you clearly that the State of New Jersey has far overestimated the amount of money they claim to have [2386] traced through the accounts of Bruno Richard Hauptmann, in his name or in the names of some persons holding for him. It is our contention and we believe it is borne out by the testimony thus far adduced, and we will further it by testimony of our own, that as a matter of fact they have traced something like ten to twelve thousand dollars from 1932 through to the fall of 1934. What they attempted to do ladies and gentlemen, and the records which you will take to the jury room will show you, is that they have attempted to add repeat money. To make that perfectly clear, I want to say this, we will show you and show you clearly that the defendant Hauptmann would go into the bank and he would draw from the bank a hundred dollars or five hundred dollars for a purpose which he might then have in mind, just as any one of us if we were fortunate enough in these hard times to have that much money, we might go to the bank and draw it out. It is human and a human frailty to change your mind. He might change his mind the next day on the thing he intended to use his money for, and we will prove this to be true, and he would go back to the bank and put that same five hundred dollars in the bank, and perhaps he would do that several times.

The great State of New Jersey has attempted to prove to you by evidence that that is all fresh money coming out of his pocket. We will prove to you, ladies and gentlemen, that such is not the case. We will prove to you and we believe we have already proven it by the State’s witnesses, [2387] that if you add the losses in his accounts and the remainder of his accounts and add to that the mortgage that he took after 1932, you have got all the money that Bruno Richard Hauptmann had except his bare living expenses from the time April 1st, 1932, down to the present minute. Certainly you will have to be convinced, if we prove to you what his total loss was, what his total remainder was, what his outstanding investments now are, that you must concede that to be the amount of money he has had. We will show you further than that as to Hauptmann’s account, we will show you that he did deal and we will conclusively prove this to you, that he did deal as partners with a man named Isidor Fisch.

They were partners in two different ways, two different lines of business, which is not unusual. They engaged in two different enterprises. One was a business of buying and selling and trading in the market, a very common practice, I assure you, as you probably will know. The other was the buying and selling and trading in furs and pelts. One business was handled by Hauptmann, the other business was handled by Fisch. The fur end of the business we will prove to you was handled by Fisch and he went out into this very country and we will show you into this very country, and bought up furs of all sorts of fur bearing animals that are used in the fur market. Hauptmann operated and maintained the brokerage business, the brokerage account. He attended down at Steiner Rouse and the customers’ rooms.

[2388] From time to time they put in money or they took out money from their account, if the fur business showed a profit, and it did show a very fine profit, and we will prove it to you—from time to time they would draw out dividends from the fur business in cash, for instance, if there would be a balance at the end of a month of perhaps $3,000, they would divide two thousand of that and hold a thousand dollars for surplus and capital.

This is all subject to proof, and we will prove it to you. They would each of them take a thousand dollars’ dividend.

Now, in the market, if they reached a point where Fisch’s account was overdrawn in the market, Fisch would hand the help, on presentation of records, such money as was needed to balance the account of Fisch with Hauptmann in the brokerage.

We will prove to you beyond a shadow of a doubt that on numerous occasions Fisch would go into his clothes and hand Hauptmann sufficient money to balance his, Fisch’s holding in the market. Now, there is nothing unusual about that. We will prove to you beyond a doubt that it is very common practice for one man to deal for another.

I do it every day. A number of you people unquestionably have done it. It is not an unusual situation when you have men who rely on each other and who trust each other and who believe in each other.

Now, we will show you another very significant thing. We will trace the family fortunes of the Hauptmanns from the time they arrived in America. They are Ger- [2389] man people. They are a very frugal people. Nationally the Germans are a very frugal people and the Hauptmanns were especially saving and especially frugal, and that proof rests in the bank book of the woman, Anna Hauptmann, showing deposits running from $20 up to $80 out of her earnings during her early days in America.

Now, were they poverty stricken people? Were they to be a charge on the town? We will prove to you that that is not true. We will show you that as far back as 1927 these people had amassed sufficient money to take a $3750 mortgage—and they had it. They had it in 1927. We will show you that all through that period of time they had substantial bank accounts.

We will show you that they saved money that didn’t find its way to the banks, as so many foreign people do.

We will show you that they take currency as currency and tuck it away in the house, saving against the day when they wouldn’t be able to work and earn any further.

Now, we will prove to you, ladies and gentlemen, that these people were not poverty stricken people, without a dollar in the world. They were substantial citizens. They were working people, who had the ability and the desire to accumulate their means against the day when they could accumulate no more.

If we show you these facts, if we prove to you that they were people of means prior to April 1932, if we prove to you that they were saving, frugal people and show you their accounts, then we will say to you, [2390] “We can see nothing unusual in the situation of the accounts.”

Why, the proof is, and we will further it, that this man dealt in margin.

Now, margin means you put up ten per cent, perhaps, or 15 per cent of the amount you want to buy, and Hauptmann could buy $1,000 worth of stock with $150 deposit.

And he could sell the same stock the next day and buy it again. So that $150 deposit with a broker might show bookkeeping moneys to the tune of, oh, any number of thousands of dollars, that one little item.

And we think that has been pretty clearly demonstrated to you, and we will further it with our own proof.

Now, we go down a way from the money angle of the things, to come to the facts of the case in relation to the placing of the defendant Hauptmann anywhere near the scene of the crime.

We will show you, and show you clearly, that the witness Hochmuth is unreliable.

We believe, we will demonstrate to you, that several years ago, when he was younger than he is now, he was discharged from a position in New York because he suffered from hallucinations, said hallucinations taking the form of people being after him, of seeing people when there was nobody to see. We intend to make every effort to bring the man here who; will testify to that. He is in New York, not subject to our subpoena, but we will do our utmost, and we anticipate we will have him here. That we apprehend will dispose conclusively and decisively of the witness Hochmuth; if we show you that [2391] that witness was discharged from a position because he was crazy on the subject of seeing people chasing him, then we won’t expect that you will put much reliance on his identification of Hauptmann when he says he saw him at the time he said he saw him there.

Now, to Whited: We will bring you, ladies and gentlemen, witnesses who will testify that this man’s reputation for veracity and truth never has been good. We believe we have shown you a motive for his identification. We believe we showed it in his own examination, why he put a man on the highway up there.

We intend further to show you, and we believe we will be able to, that Whited never saw a single living soul, such as he described, in the mountains in that February; and we will show it to you by a man who worked side by side with him, every hour of every day, except Sundays, in the month of February.

Now if we show you that, we shall expect you to disregard Whited and disregard him completely.

As to the witness Rossiter, we may show several interesting things about Rossiter, but we shall rely principally on the fact that the physical evidence itself will disprove the statements Rossiter made, and we will produce that evidence here. He described a certain place that he saw the car, and the surrounding country; and we say to you, ladies and gentlemen, and we will prove to you, that there is no such physical surroundings as he has described.

Now there are the three witnesses who [2392] have placed Hauptmann in New Jersey at any time in the world, and we say to you if we do submit to you the facts as we relate them, proving them to you, as I am now telling you we will, we shall expect you to disregard entirely the testimony of these three witnesses.

As to the Alexander girl, we will show you in regard to her that she testified from this stand that it was in the middle of March she saw Dr. Condon in the station and saw Hauptmann looking at him and she was interested because she knew Condon was the contact man in the Lindbergh case.

We will prove to you beyond a shadow of doubt that except for this particular matter, the fact that Jafsie, who was Dr. Condon, was not known until the night of April, 1934, days and days and days after she says she was watching these men, because she knew Condon was the contact man in this case. We will prove to you that Hauptmann never was in that station.

We think we may be able to prove to you that Condon was never there.

Now if we do that, we certainly shan’t expect you to place any credence in the testimony of that girl.

Now I want to come down for a minute, if I may, to the manner of the conduct of the police in this case. I want to show you what we will prove about it. We believe we will be able to show you that no case in all history was as badly handled or as badly mangled as this case, and we refer specifically to the witness Kelly and his testimony about the ladder.

[2393] Now, after Kelly had played around with that ladder—and we will prove this—for days and days and days and couldn’t find a print of any kind or description, after he had gone over the entire inside of the house and couldn’t find a print, even of the people who put the baby to bed, they called in an expert, Dr. Hudson of New York City and in the sight of Kelly, we will prove to you Hudson took off some 800 fingerprints. Now, we will say to you and prove to you that the whole investigation was conducted just about as thoroughly as that.

The ladder, we will prove to you has been torn apart, put together and replaced and torn down again. The nails have been drawn and were drawn and put back again. That ladder, we believe we will show clearly, is in no more the condition than it was the day it was found on the Lindbergh estate than that chair is in the condition the ladder is now.

Now, if we prove those facts, ladies and gentlemen, they are essential facts in this case. If we show you that that ladder has been so handled that it would be impossible now to identify it accurately as the one which was found in the hills, then we shall expect you to disregard all this testimony about the ladder.

We will also prove to you this thing, that I consider vitally essential and vitally important in this case. We will produce before you, we believe, the man who has always been considered by the State Police of New Jersey to have been the last man and the only man to actually see the man who did the kidnapping.

[2394] Now, that is a broad statement, but we intend to prove it. We will produce before you a man who has been used by the State continuously as a witness in this case to show the man who was about a mile from the Lindbergh house at six o’clock at night on March 1st with a ladder on his way to the Lindbergh house.

We will show you further that man has been in this very courtroom all through the State’s case and he hasn’t been called. Now, if we produce a witness here, if we produce a witness here who will swear under oath on that stand that he was along Lindbergh’s road on the night of March 1st at six o’clock and he saw a man driving down in an automobile with a ladder which he identifies as this ladder, and that man wasn’t Bruno Richard Hauptmann, we expect you to consider that and consider it well in arriving at your verdict.

Now, ladies and gentlemen, we will submit this case to you as honestly and fairly as we know how.

Again may I say we will be terribly handicapped by a total lack of funds. We are in no such position as is the State in this case with the combined resources of the United States, the State of New Jersey and the State of New York at their fingers’ tips.

We are here battling along with our back to the wall, so far as financing goes, and we will prove that on this witness stand, and we will do the very best we can. We will give you everything we have got, everything we can get in this courtroom, by way of testimony. We will hide nothing and [2395] produce everything and, when you have heard all the testimony, we trust that if you are not already satisfied that the State of New Jersey has utterly failed to make out a case against Bruno Richard Hauptmann, we are quite sure you will be convinced, after you have heard such testimony related as we will present.

Now, we will rely on you fully to consider all the facts and circumstances and, having considered all the facts and circumstances well, in conformity with your oath, we shall expect you to retire to the jury room and to return and return promptly with a verdict acquitting this man of the crime with which he is charged.

Thank you.