Introduction to the Criminal Justice System
The Lindbergh baby kidnapping trial was considered the crime of the century in the United States and the rest of the world. This was because it involved the kidnapping of the son of Charles Lindbergh, the first aviator to have crossed the Atlantic and idolized by the Americans as its national hero. The kidnapping of Charles Augustus Lindbergh, Jr. who was 20 months old at that time, occurred late at night on March 1, 1932 in the Lindbergh home somewhere in New Jersey. The boy was taken from the nursery, while his parents were in an adjoining room. A note demanding the amount of $50,000 was found in a nursery window. Seven more ransom notes were received by the family most of them through the intermediary John F. Condon who volunteered to be one by placing an ad in a Bronx newspaper. The kidnapper left an instruction for the family to retrieve the baby from a boat named Nellie near Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts after he was paid the ransom amount, but the Charles, Jr. was never recovered alive. Instead, on May 12, 1932, the decomposing body of Charles, Jr. was recovered near the his home his head crushed. It was estimated that he died two months earlier, or about the same time he was kidnapped. Almost two years later, Bruno Richard Hauptmann was convicted of extortion and murder and was ordered to the electric chair (FBI 2015). In all stages of the case, the three components of the criminal justice system played a significant role in the investigation, apprehension, adjudication, sentencing and execution of Hauptmann.
In any crime, the police, as part of the criminal justice system, are the first component of the system that is charge with the initiation of criminal investigation. This is true with the Lindbergh case. The police immediately came into the picture the very moment the Lindbergh family reported the taking of the child from their home to the State Police as there was and still no local police in the township of East Amwell where the Lindbergh house was located. The police investigated the crime scene finding traces of mud on the nursery’s floor, footprints under the nursery window and a broken ladder outside the nursery window. The police conducted interviews on all persons who may have witnessed the kidnapping or had something to do with or may know some information that could provide clues to the kidnapping. The FBI also joined the investigation to assist the state police in solving the case. Soon thereafter, the FBI was made responsible for taking the role of a clearinghouse for all investigations conducted by federal agencies, while the NJ police continued to pursue their investigation. In the end, the investigation was conducted with the joint efforts of the NJ police, the New York police and the FBI with the help of other federal agencies. In 1934, a breakthrough to the case happened when the FBI discovered 16 gold certificates turning up in the vicinity of Yorkville and Harlem. Further investigation showed that the bills usually turned up in produce stores. Sometime in September, one $10-gold certificate that was part of the money given to the kidnapper turned up in a bank with a license number written on it. The police investigated and found that it came from a customer in a gasoline station. The attendant wrote the vehicle’s license number on the bill because he felt suspicious of the man. The police conducted a surveillance of the man’s house and subsequently arrested Bruno Richard Hauptmann (NJ 2015).
A case officially enters the criminal justice system once it reaches the courts – the next component of the system. It is at this stage that the adjudication process takes place. The goal of the adjudication process is to settle the conflicts and issues of a case in a fair and impartial manner taking into consideration and balancing the interests of all parties, including the conduct of the law enforcement in the investigation process (Siegel 2011, p. 595). In the Lindbergh case the issue to be settled was whether Hauptmann was guilty of the charge of kidnapping and murder of Charles, Jr. The adjudicatory process must ensure that all the rights of accused are respected and he will be treated fairly. For this reason, a trial must be held. In the Lindbergh kidnapping case, the court officially took hold of the case on September 26, 1934 when Hauptmann was indicted in the New York Supreme Court for extortion and on October 8, 1934 when he was indicted in the New Jersey for murder (FBI 2015). An indictment is the formal accusation of a person for the commission of an act that is defined as a felony. The process initiates the prosecution of a felony and it is conducted with a grand jury determining and finding a sufficient basis for charging a suspect with the crime.
Prior to an indictment, there are also several pretrial proceedings conducted for a felony case. A pretrial hearing, for example, determines whether there is a probable cause for the arrest. After the indictment, an arraignment is conducted where the representative counsels make enter their appearances and the defendant is given a copy of the charging document and asked how he pleads (Finkelman 2013, p. 80). Thereafter, the trial commences. In the Lindbergh case, the trial for murder began in January 1934 and lasted for 5 weeks (FBI 2015). During the trial, the prosecution presented their witnesses, which in this case included Anne and Charles Lindbergh, Charles, Condon, a wood expert, and the chief investigator, among others. The defense also presented their witnesses. At the end of the presentation of evidence, counsels of both parties gave their summation, after which the jury deliberated and returned with a guilty verdict (NJ 2015). The final act of sentencing ends the adjudicatory process after which the defendant is transferred to the custody of corrections. In the Lindbergh case, the convicted felon Hauptmann was sentenced to death, but the execution was not immediate. Thus, although the sentence was given in February 1935, Hauptmann was executed in April of that year. It was the corrections that held Hauptmann in the death row after he was sentenced and enforced the death sentence of the court by electrocuting him in the electric chair.
FBI (2015). Famous Cases and Criminals: The Lindbergh Kidnapping. Federal Bureau of Investigation. Retrieved from https://www.fbi.gov/about-us/history/famous-cases/the- lindbergh-kidnapping.
Finkelman, P. (2013). Encyclopedia of American Civil Liberties. Routledge.
LLI (2015). Indictment. Legal Information Institute, Cornell University Law School. Retrieved from https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/indictment.
NJ (2015). Lindbergh Trial. Retrieved from http://www.nj.com/lindbergh/.
Siegel, L. (2011). Criminology. Cengage Learning.