Testimony of John M. Trendley

JOHN M. TRENDLEY, sworn as a witness in behalf of the defendant

Direct Examination by Mr. Reilly:

 Q. Mr. Trendley, where do you live?
 A. East St. Louis, Illinois.
 Q. And what is your profession?
 A. Examining disputed documents for the last forty – since 1895, forty years this May.
 Q. And have you testified in court many times?
 A. Somewhere around 387 or 388 times.
Mr. Reilly allows the state to interrogate now.

By Mr. Lanigan:

 Q. Mr. Trendley, you are an imitator of handwriting, are you not?
 A. Yes, sir.
 Q. And you claim that you can speedily imitate a signature, do you not?
 A. Not speedily, sometimes it takes time.
 Q. Well, you claim to be able to produce spurious writings, that will deceive a witness?
 A. I have done so. In the Patrick Rice case, that is thirty years ago, I think I wrote nine signatures of old man Rice.
 Q. Designed to do what?
 A. To test the ability of the experts.
 Q. To prove that the will was genuine?
 A. Yes.
 Q. [Quoting from a trial transcript in which Mr. Trendley had testified in 1932, the U.W. Thomason case in St. Louis] "Well, as a matter of fact, you never anywhere in the whole 38 years of your experience have met a forger who can do as neat a job as you do, have you?" To which you answered – "I don't know." Then the question came: "You can do it better than anyone you ever met, can't you?" To which you answered: "That would be a kind of egotism on my part."
 "Q. Do you know a better one?
 A. Yes, old man Becker. Becker the forger. He was the man that forged and raised a draft of $22,000 on a bank and the banking association wanted to pay him $5,000 a month to be good.
 Q. How long ago was that?
 A. I guess eighteen years ago. He died like all of them, in the Penitentiary." [End of quoting from the Thomason transcript.]
 Q. Now, you have been frequently mistaken, haven’t you, in the cases you have testified in?
 A. Oh, I have, yes, I don't claim to being an authority over everybody.
 Q. In the case of Edward Olmer, plaintiff, versus the Southern Manganese Steel Company, 1927, you gave two different opinions about the same handwriting in the same case, is that right?
 A. Yes.
[Excerpts from the Olmer case continue, portraying the witness' mistake in differentiating between Ed Olmer's signature and that of his wife, allegedly signing time cards.]
[Excerpts from the Thomasson case present the witness as having changed his testimony during that trial as well:]
 Q. In other words, with respect to the four of them which you had identified and testified to, with respect to each and every one you changed your testimony?
 A. He passed them before I give them a curbstone opinion and he said he – there were 1500 exhibits in that case.
 Q. [Quoting from the Olmer case, referring to the Thomasson case:]
"Q. Have you testified as an expert and given one side the opinion that a certain document was a forgery and gave the other side an opinion it was a genuine writing?
A. Yes, sir. And I withdrew out of the case when I found the mistake. I went down on a dark cloudy day in the probate courtroom to look at a will. It was a day something like this, and I looked at it and made an examination and told the attorney what I thought of it. Later on, I examined it again and I told him I would have to withdraw from the case, and I didn’t appear for either side."
 Q. Correct?
 A. Yes. The Probate Court in St. Louis is a very dark and gloomy place, and it was pouring rain and I didn’t have much opportunity to look at it.
 Q. So your explanation for that is it was a dark and gloomy day?
 A. Yes, sir.
 Q. All right. Now let's get a case that wasn't on a dark and gloomy day.
[Quoting from the Olmer case again:] "Did you not render to Mr. Young a written opinion in that case in which you told him for eight different reasons, set out in including pictorial effect, and all the other concomitants you have mentioned here, the signature on the release was not the signature of the man it purported to be?
 A. Yes, sir.
 Q. Did you not testify for Mr. Snyder that the signature which you had the day before announced as a forgery in the examination of Mr. Young was a true and correct genuine signature? Did not Mr. Young thereupon file a motion for a new trial, in which he declared your testimony false and unworthy of belief?"
     In explanation, you made this answer:
 "I was testifying for you in four courts, I got permission to leave the railroad for two hours to come over to your trial. I had what we call a hot train to New Orleans, for the Pacific Coast, was to come into East St. Louis at 3:30 with 28 cars of bananas to be re-iced. The Missouri-Pacific were holding a train to make an hourly run to ice the cars and get out of Illinois. While testifying for you, the telephone rang, … four o'clock had passed and my friend was on the train. I didn't have my mind on the case."
      Is that correct?
 A. Yes, sir.
 Q. Have you ever prepared any spurious writings whereby you have successfully misled Mr. John F. Tyrrell?
 A. I don't know whether he was on the Patrick Rice case. I may have.
 Q. What did you do on the Patrick Rice case?
 A. I wrote nine signatures of W.R. Rice.
 Q. For the purpose of deceiving the people who would testify on the other side?
 A. Testing their ability.
 Q. The Court set the will aside, so you efforts came to naught?
 A. Not there.
 Q. You have testified here, being offered by the defense as an expert, that you make only cursory examinations and you give curbstone opinions?
 A. I did in one case.
 Q. And you change opinions in the middle of a case, correct?
 A. One case out of 385.

 Mr. Lanigan: I object to the qualifications of the witness.

Mr. Reilly: I submit his experience of 387 cases covering a period of 49 years – and the Court will recall we didn't have the opportunity to send all over the world and examine into the records of the $150,000 case prepared by the State of New Jersey and the experts brought in here. They brought men in here that we did not know five minutes before they took the stand they were going to be called.
 When we did get by wire instances of where Mr. Osborn corrected himself or was mistaken, and we asked him, he admitted it…. I say that a man who has testified in 387 cases, as Mr. Trendley has, and admits that in three or four cases he may have been mistaken, is honest in his opinion, but it doesn't destroy his value as an expert.
 This is not a science, this is the opinion of those who have devoted their lives to examining disputed writings and, while it is true he may have offered papers for the purpose of confusing the experts on the other side, that is no disrespect to him, nor does it lessen his ability as an expert. I ask the Court to pass on his qualifications.

Mr. Lanigan: I ask that the Court strike from the record the remarks of counsel, I think they are highly prejudicial about the State's $150,000 case and its experts.

Mr. Reilly: I will strike out the $150,000 case.

The Court: The jury will, of course, disregard that.

Mr. Reilly: I will say a large amount and a large number of experts. We come before the Court penniless.

Mr. Lanigan: I will ask counsel to withdraw that, please.

Mr. Reilly: I can't withdraw that which is a fact.

Mr. Lanigan: I move to strike it.

The Court: Well, I will strike that out because there is no evidence that it is penniless. I now have this to say: It seems to me that the mere fact that this man admits having made a mistake and the mere fact that he gave curbstone opinions which he afterward corrected and testimony along that line, does not justify me in disqualifying him as an expert. As to the value and weight that will be given to his testimony, that is a thing with which I am not presently concerned.
 You may proceed Mr. Reilly.

Direct Continued by Mr. Reilly:

 Q. Now we have it, Mr. Trendley, that in one instance you corrected your testimony yourself, and brought it to the attention of counsel and the Court yourself?
 A. Yes, sir.
 Q. Did you, at the request of the counsel for the defense of this case some time in November, 1934, obtain photographic copies of different writings discussed in this case?
 A. Yes, sir.
 Q. Did you attend the trial here and listen to the testimony of Mr. Osborn, and see the charts offered in evidence?
 A. I did.
 Q. Have you obtained and studied photographic copies of those charts and evidence?
 A. I have.
 Q. And you now have certain memoranda from which you desire to testify?
 A. I have.

Mr. Reilly requests a recess until the following day in order to set up the exhibits and to rest his throat.

February 1, 1935
Direct examination continued by Mr. Reilly:

 Q. Mr. Trendley, did you see the ransom notes?
 A. I did.
 Q. Have you been examining the photographic copies offered in evidence by the State?
 A. I have.
 Q. And Mr. Osborn's charts? And all of the evidence introduced from the handwriting experts the Hauptmann writing and the notes?
 A. I have.
 Q. As a result of your study, are you in a position to render an opinion as to whether or not Hauptmann wrote the ransom notes?
 A. In my opinion he did not.
 Q. Now, I am going to take the charts of the first witness, Osborn. Each [of the State's experts] does not use the same letter or words upon which he bases his opinion, is that correct?
 A. Yes.
 Q. By that I mean did each and every expert called by the State use the same identical chart for his testimony as was used by Mr. Osborn?
 A. No, sir.
[Mr. Reilly compares the nursery note, exhibit 18, with Osborn's charts, pointing out with the assistance of the witness, the words not on the State's charts, beginning with the salutation: "Dear Sir!" Mr. Reilly proceeds letter-by-letter, character-by-character, finally coming to a "y"; Osborn's charts had "y"s in a few places, one of which is the Hauptmann request writing.]
 Q. Looking at the "y" of the ransom note, do you find any "y" that corresponds with any "y" Mr. Osborn had in his column ransom notes?
 A. I do not.
 Q. With any of the "y"s in the Hauptmann request writing?'
 A. Let me see. I do not.
 Q. Now, in your examination, did you examine the handwriting of any other people?
 A. I did.
 Q. Did you examine the handwriting of Isidor Fisch?
 A. I did.
 Q. Am I correct in asking you this question: That the first line, "Dear Sir!" and the second line "Have 50,000$ ready, 25,000$ in" – the first two lines of the nursery note – there is no word, letter or symbol indicated upon the Osborn chart?
 A. There is not.

[Letters in additional lines of the nursery note are taken, sequentially, with the witness looking for samples in Osborn's charts, but not finding any present.]

 Q. Is it possible, Mr. Trendley, to change the pattern of any handwriting by the use of a retouching pencil or the etching knife on the negative?
 A. No, it isn't.
 Q. Is it possible to distort the handwriting by photography?
 A. Oh, yes; you can do a lot of that stuff with photography…
 Q. We find here, on S-112, a ransom note, a "y" that ends with a straight downward stroke, and then another one along side of it with a downward stroke and a hook on the right?
 A. Yes.
 Q. And then we find in the Hauptmann request writings a "y" on the same chart, downward stroke, hooked to the left, correct?
 A. We do.

 [A protracted comparison of "y"s follows: initial strokes, up slopes, the belly, …]

 Q. So then is it not a fact that beginning with line 1 of the ransom note, through line 2, line 3 line 4 to the end of line 5, you cannot find on Mr. Osborn's chart any symbol, letter or word taken from those five lines?
 A. I cannot.
 Q. It is a fact, is it not, that these are photographic reproductions according to Mr. Osborn's testimony?
 A. Yes, I heard him.
 Q. And did you hear him testify that one of the notes he examined was the nursery note which I hold in my hand?
 A. Yes, sir.
 [More discussion about slants, shading, pressure on the various up or down swings.]

 Q. Does that bear out your opinion that this entire note was written by a left handed man who was trying to disguise his handwriting?
 A. Yes, sir.

 [More discourse about unique formation of letters, German handwriting…]

 Q. Is it significant?
 A. It is.
 Q. Is it unusual?
 A. It is.
 Q. Is it such a distinctive character that a man of twenty year's experience or any expert of five or ten or fifteen years should have devoted attention to those characters?
 A. Certainly would.
 Q. Do you find it in the Osborn chart?
 A. I do not.
 Q. Then am I correct in saying that in the first ten lines of the nursery note the only symbol or word out of the ten lines photographed by Mr. Osborn from which he makes his comparison and his opinion is the word i-s.
 A. I-s is the only word.
 Q. Is it not a fact in this ransom note left in the crib that one part is straight up and down and the rest, another part, rather, is to the left, another part to the right, there is a continual variance in the writing and printing?
 A. All throughout.
 Q. So taking the whole ransom note from top to bottom, we find that Mr. Osborn, testifying for over forty years all over the country, with samples of the defendant's handwriting before him, and with this note, the first found in the nursery, as a comparative test upon which he makes his observations and opinion to this jury, picks out the word i-s "is," and compares it with i-s's of Hauptmann's is that correct?
 A. It is.
 Q. Picks out the word "singnature" and compares it with nothing on the chart from Hauptmann's writing?
 A. That is correct.
 Q. In your opinion would that be sufficient to send a man to the electric chair?

 Mr. Lanigan: That is objected to.
 The Court: The objection is sustained.
 Mr. Lanigan: I ask the Court to instruct the jury to disregard counsel's remark.
 The Court: I didn't hear the remark.
 Q. Now, Mr. Trendley, you have given a great deal of thought to this case, haven't you?
 A. I should say I have.
 Q. In fact you volunteered your services in this case, didn't you?
 A. I did.
 Q. From St. Louis, is that right?
 A. Yes, sir.
 Q. I want to call your attention to some other letters and then I am through with you. You have indicated to me that you would like to speak about some comparisons? In the "a"s?
 A. Yes. In examining the ransom notes, I think there were something like over three hundred a's and I find al through the a's it is a round form or what you call a square form "a", entirely. In all of the request writings I find, and the other writings, I find the a's of the oval form, in which the height exceeded the width. Now my contention would be that no man – it would be humanly impossible, no matter how skillful a writer you were, to write fourteen letters at fourteen different intervals without injecting some of your characteristics. It's an unconscious movement, a nervous reflex, and is independent of the writer's own will, and I would expect to find over half of his characteristics in those ransom notes if Hauptmann ever penned a line in it.

[A similar analysis was addressed to "k's", 39 present, none of which leaned as did Hauptmann's, to the right.]
 A. … I never found a "K" of Hauptmann's style of writing, he never deviated from his own handwriting [in the request writings]. I think that is the most outstanding characteristic in this whole case of the ransom letters, that a man two years after – if Hauptmann wrote those letters, he would have to disguise all his letters and he couldn't carry 26 letters [the "K's"] in his mind while he was writing.

 [Next letter is "X", especially as written by Germanic peoples prior to the War.]

 Q. You have seen many specimens of x's have you not?
 A. Well, I first heard of this case on September the 24th and I was in Springfield, Illinois. I was examining the Communistic ticket for the State Election  and they were –
 Mr. Lanigan: That is objected to. [Sustained.]
 Q. Now you also heard Mr. Osborn say that in all his experiences it struck him as unusual and a personal characteristic unto the defendant alone that there was a hyphen between New and York.
 A. I was surprised.
 Q. You heard him say it?
 A. Yes, all eight of them.
 Q. And how many envelopes and letters have you examined since Mr. Osborn made that startling declaration, from all parts of the world and every one had a hyphen between New and York?
 A. I guess a hundred and something.
 Q. And is it not a characteristic of the foreigner to always put in his hyphen?
 A. Certainly.
 Q. Even in the word "Pittsburgh," do they not put in a hyphen?
 A. Yes, sir.

 Mr. Reilly: You may take the witness.

Cross Examination by Mr. Lanigan:

 Q. Mr. Trendley, you offered your services in this case prior to the time you had examined the documents, didn't you?
 A. Yes, sir. I had seen some copies of the signatures and writing in the Springfield Record. I saw some things that were very indicative to me that Hauptmann did not write these letters.
 Q. Now, Mr. Trendley, when you testify for a witness, you frequently prepare charts and photographs do you not?
 A. Sometimes, if it is a big case.
 Q. Yet in a case like this you prepared no charts, did you?
 A. How could we when you wouldn't surrender nothing.
 Q. Who?
 A. You. You didn't even want to let me look at the original.
 Q. When was that?
 A. When I was down at Trenton for two days and got two hours on them.
 Q. So your opinion is based on your two and a half hour examination of the original documents?
 A. That, coupled with day and night with these books [of photographs of the documents].
 Q. [What] about misspellings? The "h-t-e". The fact that it appears three times in the Hauptmann writings and the same misspelling, h-t-e, appears in the ransom notes, has no significance to you?
 A. Not when I understood how this Hauptmann writing was made.
 Q. How do you understand it was made?
 A. It was made under the police. All the dictated letters were taken in a police station. I wouldn't take anything written in a police station.
 Q. Why not?
 A. That is in regard to misspelled words. You would spell what they tell you to spell…
 Q.  [Concerning the "x"s again] Well, here it is again in the word "expenses", isn't it?
 A. Yes. That is different than the others. The pen pressure there; there is an impulse made – that has been written over; that's one of the patched lines, this is. We examined that under the microscope, and that's patched. That was made this way and corrected. That has been worked over.
 Q. Now, have you examined any other charts presented in this case except the Osborn charts?
 A. Yes. I think all the others, Tyrrell, Clark Sellers. The result was that I found a great many of them had pretty nearly all the same words, and I just used Osborn's from then on.
 Q. Now, I understood you to testify that the first note, the crib note, had been written with the left hand?
 A. Yes.
 Q. How did you determine that?
 A. Well, I practiced myself.
 Q. Show me how you practiced.
 A. I found in writing that I had great trouble, I couldn't use my wrist, because my whole weight was laying on my wrist.
 [Mr. Trendley demonstrates on a pad, writing "have" with each hand.]
 Q. Now if a person wrote the crib note with his left hand and wrote the subsequent notes with his right hand, they naturally would be different, wouldn't they?
 A. He wrote the first four lines of the second note with his left hand. Then he turned to his right hand.
 Q. So that the difference in the use of the hands would account for the dissimilarity?
 A. Oh, it is very striking.

 Mr. Lanigan: That is all.

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