Testimony of Peter Sommer

PETER SOMMER, sworn as a witness in behalf of the defendant:

Direct Examination by Mr. Reilly:

 Q. Mr. Sommer, what is your business?
 A. Why, my profession is a fingerprint expert.
 Q. Connected with whom?
 A. I was with the City in that capacity, but not now.
 Q. What do you do now for a living?
 A. I am with the Building & Supply Division of the Department of Public Welfare, City of New York.
 Q. On the evening of March 1st, 1932, where were you, in the early evening?
 A. In the early evening I was in Fairview, New Jersey.
 Q. Were you visiting there?
 A. Why, no, I was over there giving a fingerprinting instruction to William Ackerman, a policeman.
 Q. How did you travel, by car?
 A. No, by trolley car. I came down to the 42nd street ferry, Weehawken.
 Q. And what time did you arrive at the ferry?
 A. It was between 12 and 12:20.
 Q. Did you notice any people from the trolley that were afterwards on the ferry boat with you?
 A. There was two men.
 Q. Did you get a food look at them?
 A. A fairly good look at them, yes sir.
 Q. I show you a picture and ask you is that the man you saw on the trolley car?
 A. No, but I saw this man on the ferryboat.
 Q. And how near were you to him on the ferry?
 A. Why, I sat across the way from him.
 Q. How long were you riding on the ferryboat with this man under observation?
 A. Why, from the Jersey side to the New York side, about eight or ten minutes.
 Q. When the ferryboat landed, what did you see the man whose picture you identified here do?
 A. Why, him and another man assisted a lady on the trolley, with a baby; the woman had a baby.
 Q. And did you get on that trolley car?
 A. I did.
 Q. Did you get a good look at the woman holding the baby?
 A. What drew my attention to the woman, she was very nervous.
 Q. Did you get a good look at her?
 A. I did.
 Q. I show you Defendantís Exhibit 7 and ask if you recognize the woman in the trolley car with the baby?
 A. I would say that resembles the woman very strongly.
 Q. How was she dressed?
 A. She had a brown coat on with brown fur cuffs, and a brown collar. The coat was open. She had sort of a low cut waist and she had a sort of pearl necklace around her.
 Q. Now describe her actions in the trolley car with the baby.
 A. From the time she got on she appeared nervous, she always had one foot Ė (witness indicates by holding his arms out) and as the car slowed up or stopped, she just appeared as though she was ready to jump out.
 Q. How was she holding the baby, what was the baby wrapped in?
 A. The baby was wrapped in a blanket. She would lift the baby up and the blanket slipped and I noticed the baby was dressed in a one-piece nighty.
 Q. And was the baby a brunette or a blond?
 A. The baby was a blond.
 Q. And how old?
 A. I would say about two years old.
 Q. When did you first learn of the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby?
 A. Ten forty-five the next morning, I heard it over the radio.
 Q. Did you report the incident that you had seen the night before to the police?
 A. I did. On March 2nd, to Detective Mulaney of the 81st Precinct.
 Q. Did you report it to anyone else?
 A. I wrote a letter to the State Police, Trenton, New Jersey stating my experience on the ferry.
 Q. Did you ever get an answer?
 A. I did not. Nobody ever came to investigate.
 Q. How did you come to be a witness in this case?
 A. I wrote you a letter, about two weeks ago.
 Q. Before that you didnít even know me?
 A. I am not interested in you.
 Q. You are here in the interests of justice?
 A. I am.

 Mr. Reilly: You may inquire.

Cross-Examination by Mr. Wilentz:

 Q. Did you communicate with the police after you spoke to this detective in New York on March 2nd, or was that the only incident?
 A. When I reported there they told me they had hundreds of clues.
 Q. That is right. Didnít they tell you that they had hundreds of people that came in and said they saw men with babies all over the country that night?
 A. Yes.
 Q. So they didnít put much stock in the story?
 A. Why, I donít know.
 Q. Well, they never came back, did they?
 A. That I canít say, because I moved after that.
 Q. Now, the short man you saw on the ferry, you didnít see on the trolley car, correct?
 A. Positive, that is correct.
 Q. Now the tall man that you say helped the woman on the trolley car, did you see him on the trolley car?
 A. He was on the trolley car.

 [Mr. Wilentz pursues the witnessí identification and travels, trying better to define where the tall and short men were at various times, going unsatisfactorily in circles.]

Mr. Reilly: I object to that. There is no contradiction. The witness has testified he came down on the Jersey side on a trolley car. He crossed over on a ferryboat and got on another trolley car in New York.
The Court: I will allow the question.

[More confusing dialogue between Mr. Wilentz and the witness concerning where and when Mr. Sommer encountered the two men.]
 Q. Now, am I mixing you up again?
 A. Why, positively, I want it explained and you told me to answer the question. I am trying to tell you when we got on the ferry the tall man got on the boat and I didnít see, I couldnít swear that the other short man got on the boat, but when the tall man got on the boat he connected with the second short man whose picture I identified.
 Q. Now of this woman you saw, where did you first see her?
 A. In the trolley car.
 Q. Just the woman alone?
 A. That is all.
 Q. And the men went on their way. Did they go in an automobile?
 A. [A]fter they left the woman and put the woman on the car, they walked over to an automobile.
 Q. Now, have you ever seen this womanís picture [in a newspaper] before except here?
 A. Yes.
 Q. When is the first time you saw the picture of this lady in a newspaper?
 A. Oh, quite some time ago, I thinkÖ
 Q. By what department were you employed in New York as a fingerprint expert?
 A. I was with the Magistrateís Court.
 [Court recesses for the weekend]

February 4th, 1935
TWENTY-FOURTH DAY
The Court: I very much regret to be informed that there have been taken in this courtroom some movie and talking pictures of the trial that was done in defiance of the orders of the Court, and I thin it is equally well understood that it must have been done secretly and by methods that are not commonly understoodÖ. The officers will have to be vigilant in seeing to it that these contrivances be excluded from the courtroomÖ

Cross Examination (continued) by Mr. Wilentz:

 Q. You are a professional witness, arenít you, Mr. Sommer?
 A. Well, I donít qualify as a professional witness.
 Q. Do you not testify in court for a price?
 A. Why, I havenít spoken about any price.
 Q. Havenít you on occasions testified for money and then later when the money wasnít paid stated and admitted that you testified improperly?
 A. No, sir.
 Q. How many cases have you testified in?
 A. About two, I believe.
 Q. Tell us the cases that you testified in.
 A. One for the Brooklyn Railroad Company.
 Q. Who else did you testify for?
 A. I testified for the State of New Jersey in the Hall-Mills case.
 Q. You werenít a fingerprint expert in that case, were you?
 A. No, sir.
 Q. As a matter of fact, you never passed a civil service examination for a fingerprint expert did you?
 A. Yes, I did. I have the paper right hereÖ

[Mr. Wilentz shows the witness an affidavit, verifying that the signature was that of the witness.]

 Q. In what capacity did you testify for the State in the Hall-Mills case?
 A. As a witness for the State.
 Q. You were an operator for a detective agency, werenít you?
 A. Yes.
 Q. And by whom was the detective agency employed?
 A. They were representing the defense at the time.
 Q. So you worked for a detective agency representing the defense and then you testified for the State, isnít that right?
 A. Yes, sir.
 Q. Now letís see, what other cases did you testify in?
 A. I donít remember any otherÖ
 Q. Do you remember the case of Adeline Smith versus the Peerless Glass Company and Mink Brothers?
 A. And Mink Brothers, why, yes.
 Q. Did you testify in that case?
 A. Yes, I did.
 Q. You testified falsely in that case, didnít you?
 A. No, sir, I did not.
 Q. Now, that case involved an accident which happened in 1928, isnít that so?
 A. Yes, sir.
 Q. And you testified in that case that you had been at the stand, the scene of the accident on various occasions before 1928, did you not?
 A. If they put that down, I did not testify to it. If I remember rightly.
 Q. That was a case which involved a lawsuit in which a young lady was injured, lost an eye, I think; do you remember that?
 A. Yes, she lost an eye.
 Q. As a result of an accident at her fatherís stand: isnít that right?
 A. Yes, sir.
 Q. And you were called as a witness?
 A. Yes, with reference to what happened at the stand on various occasions prior to the accident.

 Mr. Pope: I object to the question as improper cross examination.
 The Court: I donít see just how it is relevant or material.

Mr. Wilentz: Well, if your Honor please, we propose to prove that this man testified falsely, knowingly, and the inquiry is for a purpose; and he testified for a price or for a promise of a price, and when it wasnít forthcoming he retracted his testimony.

The Court: I donít perceive how it is proper cross examination.

Mr. Wilentz: Well, the witness testified he does not testify for a price.

The Court: You may ask him whether or not he testified for a price in that particular case.

 Q. Did you not testify in the case of Adeline Smith versus The Peerless Glass Company and Mink Brothers in 1930, because you were promised money?
 A. They told me they would pay my expenses.
 Q. You did not know anything about the accident?
 A. Not the accident, no, sir.
 Q. And you knew nothing about that place prior to the accident, did you?
 A. No, sir.
 Q. But you did testify in court to the contrary, didnít you, that you did know?
 A. Of the conditions that went on there.
 Q. You testified to conditions that went on there prior to the accident?
 A. I didnít state that. In fact, I had a row with the lawyers when I went into court.
 Q. All right, do you remember in this affidavit you said, referring to some lawyer: ďHe then discussed with meĒ-
[Defense objects, Court allows the State to pursue the issue of false testimony, not the reimbursement.]
Q. Didnít you then make an affidavit, after you had given your testimony, that you had testified falsely?
 A. I made an affidavit that the lawyer wanted me to testify to certain things which I didnít see.
 Q. Had you ever been to the Smith stand before 1928?
 A. That I donít remember.
 Q. Well, you swore in this affidavit that you hadnít been, isnít that a fact? Will you say now that you did not testify falsely in this Smith case?
 A. Not to my knowledge. In fact, as I stated when I walked in there, the lawyer came to me, he had an artificial arm and he took me aside and he wanted for me to say certain things, which I absolutely refused, and he says, ďYou might as well go home.Ē I says, ďI can go home right now.Ē
 Q. Did you go home?
 A. Why, no, I didnít go.
 Q. And you testified about a matter of which you knew absolutely nothing, isnít that right?
 A. I testified about certain bottles that exploded there, which I did witness.
 Q. Thatís so, but the date you made a mistake in, didnít you?
 A. If there was a mistake, it wasnít deliberately done.
 Q. No, but you found out later you made a mistake as to the date?
 A. I think my attention was called to it, yes.
 Q. And you found out that you made an error about the date. So that when you were on the stand in 1930 you testified that you saw these bottles explode before 1928, and then later you found out that when you saw them explode it was after 1928, isnít that right.
 A. That was after she had the accident.
 Q. It was after she had the accident that you saw the bottles explode, but in your testimony you made the mistake of testifying that you saw the bottles explode before the accident, isnít that right?
 A. Not to my knowledge.
 Q. You donít ever remember being to Smithís stand before 1928, do you?
 A. I canít say positively yes or no.
 Q. Well, you wouldnít swear that you had been, would you?
 A. No, I would not.
 Q. Let me read you the question and the answer then.

[Mr. Pope objects. Mr. Wilentz wants to pursue the matter further. The Court is wary of introducing separate cases into this one, requiring new witnesses. The State proceeds on admonition that it will be bound by the witnesses answer under cross examination.]

 Q. So that at trial you testified to the explosion of bottles before 1928 and then later learned that you had been mistaken?
 A. That was an error made, which I went and had corrected later on.
 Q. And you went and had it corrected with the affidavit?
 A. Yes.
 Q. Isnít it a fact that you only had it corrected because you werenít paid the money? That you threatened to go to the District Attorney, and when he paid you $15 you didnít go to the D.A.?
 A. That was my expenses

 Mr. Wilentz: Yes. That is all.

Re-Direct by Mr. Reilly:

 Q. Were you called as a witness to demonstrate the theory of law that like accidents had occurred at this stand prior to the date that the girl was injured?
 A. I really donít know.
 Q. Had you seen bottles explode at the stand before the trial?
 A. Yes, before the trial.
 Q. Now, whether you gave testimony in that action or not, there isnít any doubt but what you were on this ferry boat, is there?
 A. I was on the ferry boat, yes, sir.
 Q. Is it a fact that you reported the next day to the police?
 A. It is.
 Q. And you didnít anticipate that you would ever testify in any trial of Hauptmann, who wasnít under arrest then?
 A. No, sir.

[Re-Cross Examination by Mr. Wilentz; followed by a Re-Direct, by a Re-Cross, by a Re-Direct. No new information is presented, just more jousting.]
 


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