Friday, August 11, 2017

Lindbergh Law

Good morning key scholars!

Today’s key has a unique connection to Charles Lindbergh, the famous transatlantic pilot of the Spirit of St. Louis, and a piece of legislative history. On March 1, 1932, Charles and his wife’s child, Charles Jr., was kidnapped and murdered. Because of their high profile status, the nation was outraged by the crime against the Lindberghs. It took two years, but Bruno Richard Hauptmann was finally arrested for the kidnap and murder, before being convicted and executed in 1936.¹

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Charles Lindbergh Jr. was kidnapped in 1932

As a result of the popularity of this trial, the 1932 Federal Kidnapping Act, popularly called the Lindbergh Law, was passed. The law stated that it is “a federal offense to kidnap someone with the intent to seek a ransom or reward.”² Today’s key is connected directly to the implementation of this law. The key is to the handcuffs that were used on Arthur Gooch, the only person at that time to have been executed under the Lindbergh Law. The attached letter states that not only was Gooch the first person to be executed under the law, the same night his guilty verdict was returned, a jury convicted Hauptmann to death for his murder of Charles Jr.

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Arthur Gooch

Below is the full content of the attached letter:
                I understand you have accumulated a rare collection of historic keys and am enclosing one I feel will add materially to the value of your collection. 
                Attached hereto is the handcuff key used by a deputy United States marshal in the eastern district of Oklahoma to shackle Arthur Gooch, the only man in America so far executed under the Lindbergh Law, when he was transported from the city-federal hail at Muskogee, Oklahoma, to the state penitentiary at McAlester, Oklahoma, for incarceration in the death row. 
                Gooch, an escaped prisoner from the Hughes County, Oklahoma, jail was arrested on December 26, 1934, after having kidnapped two policeman in Paris, Texas, on November 26, 1934, and brought them across the state line into Oklahoma. He was indicted on May 30, 1935, and on June 10, 1935, the jury returned a verdict of guilty and assessed the punishment of hanging. 
                On June 19, 1935, Honorable Robert Lee Williams, Federal Judge for the Eastern District of Oklahoma, sentenced Gooch to hang setting the date of the execution for Friday, September 13, 1935. Gooch, however, immediately appealed to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals at Denver. The case went to the Supreme Court of the United States, where the offense was ruled a violation of the Lindbergh Law, and the Supreme Court later refuse to take the appeal on a writ of certiorari. The mandate was returned and filed in the office of the U.S. Court Clerk on April 22, 1936. On Friday, June 19, 1936, the death warrant was returned to the clerk showing that the order of the court had been carried out, that Arthur Gooch had been executed at McAlester, Oklahoma, at 5 o’clock that morning. 
                To date, no other person has been hanged for the same offense. 
                Another odd angle to the case is that the indictment against Gooch was returned the same night jury at Trenton, N.J., dommed Bruno Richard Hauptmann to die for the murder of the Lindbergh baby. It was Hauptmann’s offense which caused Congress to pass the law under which Gooch was executed. 
                I trust this key may find a place in your collection. 
                                                                Sincerely yours,
                                                                John E. Tidwell
Key to Arthur Gooch's handcuffs
It is amazing how some of these keys are connected to famous people and famous events in the history of the U.S. Come find out for yourselves!

Written by:
Brett Meyer
Museum Curator, Baldpate Inn