Charles A. Lindbergh Jr.
A new law resulting from an unthinkable crime
He was the twentieth century's first international celebrity--a tall, photogenic, articulate young aviator who soared into the spotlight in 1927 when, at age twenty-five, he completed the first solo crossing of the Atlantic Ocean by air. He was Minnesota's own Charles Lindbergh--soon known around the world as "Lucky Lindy"--and his historic flight from New York to Paris on the Spirit of St. Louis brought him wealth, admiration, and a life in the public eye to which he never became fully accustomed.
His solo flight may have made his a household name, but it was a later event in Lindbergh's life that was to have an even greater impact on the nation's history. On a cold, rainy night in March 1932, Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh's twenty-month-old son, also named Charles, was kidnapped from their New Jersey home. Sadly, after weeks of well-publicized searches, the boy's body was found near the family's estate. The search was on for his murderer.
After almost two years, Bruno Richard Hauptmann was brought to trial for the crime. Lindbergh's celebrity made the trial front-page news, fodder for sensational, invasive reporting from coast to coast. It was, in the words of journalist H. L. Mencken, "the greatest story since the Resurrection." Hauptmann was convicted and executed in 1936, and the Lindbergh family, exhausted by the ordeal and angry with the media, left the United States in 1935 to live in England.
Beyond its lasting impact on Charles Lindbergh and his family, the effects of the trial were felt throughout the legal world. In 1937, the American Bar Association inserted a prohibition on courtroom photography into its Canons of Professional and Judicial Ethics. All but two states adopted the ban, and Congress amended the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure to ban cameras and broadcasting from federal courts. Even more significantly, the kidnapping resulted in the 1932 passage of the Federal Kidnapping Act, popularly called the Lindbergh Law, which made it a federal offense to kidnap someone with the intent to seek a ransom or reward.
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