The Hauptmann Trial: Questions for Discussion

1.  What comparisons might you draw between the Hauptmann trial and the O. J. Simpson trial?

2.  Was Hauptmann guilty?  What prosecution evidence do you find to be the most compelling?

3.   Why do so many people continue to believe that Hauptmann was innocent?

4.  Was Wilentz an effective prosecutor and, if so, what makes him so?

5.  What prosecution witnesses were most vulnerable to an effective cross-examination?  What should Riley have done differently with respect to his handling of prosecution witnesses?

6.  What sort of overall grade would you give the Riley-Fischer defense team?  Why?

7.  Could you suggest a single, plausible story of the crime that might have worked for the defense?  Was this a winnable case for the defense?  (Note that the jury, as it was, took 11 hours to reach its verdict and New Jersey's governor publicly expressed doubts about Hauptmann's guilt.)

8.  Was Hauptmann an effective witness?  Why or why not?

9.  What is the value in studying this trial today?

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