Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Re-Enacting The Trial of the Century

Decades before the O.J. Simpson murder trial, the "Trial of the Century" was the nickname given to the trial of Bruno Richard Hauptmann. Hauptmann was arrested for the kidnapping and killing of the baby of aviator Charles A. Lindbergh and Anne Morrow Lindbergh in March, 1932. The child was snatched from the Lindbergh home in Hopewell, New Jersey, five years after the pilot’s record-setting first solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean.

The subsequent trial took place in the Hunterdon County Courthouse on Main Street in Flemington, New Jersey, and it was the first modern "media circus" trial. Movie newsreels and photographs show hundreds of reporters gathered at the Union Hotel across the street awaiting the latest trial news, which was then relayed to radio stations and newspapers around the world.

The trial ended with a conviction for Hauptmann, who was then executed in Trenton in April, 1936. Hauptmann proclaimed his innocence until the end. Controversy and conspiracy theories concerning the incident continue today. Hauptmann's wife tried unsuccessfully to have the verdict overturned until her death in 2001 at the age of 94.

Beginning in 1990, a theater group has been re-enacting the Lindbergh trial for several weeks each year, and their staging has a unique twist: It takes place in the now fully-restored courtroom in which the actual trial was conducted. Theater-goers do not sit in an auditorium, but in the gallery seats of the courtroom. For a premium price, audience members are seated in the actual jury seats during the production.

After the play, which ends with the historically accurate guilty verdict, the modern "jurors" are questioned as to what verdict they would have delivered based on the evidence shown.

Before the show, kids dressed in period costumes are out in front of the courthouse selling newspapers – "Extra, Extra, read all about it!" – to create an atmosphere like 1935. This year the production begins this weekend, October 3-4, and continues through October 25. Details are available at
http://www.famoustrials.com/ .

The production, which requires a cast of 15 actors and a technical crew of about eight, was named one of New Jersey's Top 100 Things To Do by the state's Division of Travel and Tourism. In particular we can recommend it as a great cross-generational family outing, particularly if your family has elders who were alive at the time of the original trial.

Monday, September 28, 2009

That’s Bull! (Really!)

If you are a police officer in the city of Paterson, you are prepared to encounter any number of difficult and potentially dangerous situations. But you are probably not completely prepared to encounter a bull on the loose.

But a bull on the loose was exactly what Paterson officers had on their hands Monday morning, when a 1,400-pound bull ran along East 7th Street.

The bull was being unloaded from a truck into ENA Meat Packing Inc. on East Fifth Street when he broke loose just before 8:30 AM, according to a report by The Record of Bergen County.

The driver of a cattle truck opened a side door to the truck to push the bull out the back of the vehicle, but the beast instead pushed back and was able to run out the door. He trotted from the slaughterhouse toward River Street with a crowd of meat packing workers chasing behind him.

Freedom has a universal appeal.

Slaughterhouse workers and police then tried to corral the beast cowboy-style, using a rope to lasso the bull, but the animal dragged more than five officers and workers behind him like an extra-large dog on a walk.

Now there’s an image!

Finally, police were able to wrap the rope around a light post and the city’s animal control officer was able to inject the bull with a sedative, which took about three or four minutes to kick in and knock out the animal.

"Police did a fantastic job corralling him," the animal control officer said.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Hang Up, Sit Down, and Watch.

At the moment, Utah has the toughest law in the nation on texting while driving. If you are just caught texting while driving, it can be up to three months in jail and a $750 fine. If you cause injury to someone, the fine and the jail time go up. "And," says Brent Wilhite, program director for Zero Fatalities, the state's public campaign against distracted driving, "if you kill someone, it's up to 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine."

Why so harsh? Take 15 minutes of your life and sit down and watch the following video.


If you don’t think that you have 15 minutes to spare, then watch this 5-minute video.


It's not easy. Sit down and watch anyway.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Car vs Bicycle

For adults, bicycling has always been a popular, if somewhat fringe, form of exercise and transportation. But bicyclists and motorists have long had a somewhat rocky relationship on the roads they must share.

Last year we blogged about how, if a car and a pedestrian collide, the pedestrian always loses. The same is true of a bicyclist struck by a car. So, while bicyclists must be extra-vigilant to ensure that they are not struck by a car, motorists are obligated to exercise care, too.

Bicycles are generally subject to the same traffic regulations as cars. Similarly, motorists are generally expected to treat bicycles like any other vehicle on the road. The law requires bicyclists to not run red lights, for example, and the law requires motorists entering a roadway from a driveway to yield to vehicles already on the road, including bicycles.

It is perhaps best expressed in this way: There is only one road and it is up to motorists and bicyclists to share it, to treat each other with care and respect. Given the potentially grave consequences of a collision between a bicycle and a car, care and respect is in everyone’s best interests.

Monday, September 21, 2009

High Water

Ten years ago this month, in September, 1999, this photo was taken by an Associated Press photographer in downtown Bound Brook, New Jersey.

The unprecedented flooding was the result of Hurricane Floyd, the remnants of which pounded the state and caused massive property damage and significant loss of life.

Things are dry today in Bound Brook, but among of the legacies of the storm are the extensive flood control efforts that are either in place, under construction, or on the drawing board in Bound Brook and surrounding towns.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Today's Cartoon

By Jimmy Margulies,
as published in The Record of Bergen County.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Behind Every Great Man...

From the Police Blotter:

A man and his girlfriend went shopping at a discount store. Once they walked in the store, the girlfriend went to the restroom and the man began shopping. He picked up cat food, kitty litter, beer and soda, and walked toward the exit without paying.

An employee asked him for his receipt, so he briefly held up a piece of paper and hustled out the door. His girlfriend was outside by this time, and he hurried her to the car. She got in the driver’s seat, but before she could back out, the employee appeared again and asked for a receipt.

The man told his girlfriend to drive, but she asked him if he actually had a receipt and got out of the car. He jumped in the driver’s seat and backed out of the parking spot, bumping the store employee. He drove off, leaving his girlfriend.

She told police where to find him.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

That Famous Firefighter Photo

Everyone around the world has seen this photo from September 11, 2001. Many have tried to take credit for it, copy it, or use it for commercial gain. But as another anniversary of the day approaches we want to share the facts behind this iconic photograph.

The photographer who made the photo is New Jersey newspaper photographer Thomas E. Franklin, and the three firefighters in the photo are William Eisengrein, George Johnson and Daniel McWilliams.

The photo was taken late in the afternoon of September 11, 2001, around 4 or 5 p.m. A trio of firefighters at the World Trade Center site caught Franklin’s eye. "I would I say was 150 yards away when I saw the firefighters raising the flag. They were standing on a structure about 20 feet above the ground. This was a long-lens picture; there was about 100 yards between the foreground and background, and the long lens would capture the enormity of the rubble behind them," Franklin said.

"As soon as I shot it, I realized the similarity to the famous image of the Marines raising the flag at Iwo Jima," Franklin recalled. In 1945, when the US was in World War II, Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal snapped a picture of six Marines raising Old Glory on Mount Suribachi on the Pacific island. That photo became an icon and the basis for a Marine Corps memorial sculpture in Washington, D.C. The Battle of Iwo Jima also is recognized as the beginning of the end of the campaign against the Japanese in the Pacific.

The three firemen decided to raise the flag on the spur of the moment. They had been digging in the rubble and searching for survivors when they were told to evacuate. During the evacuation, McWilliams saw the flag on the stern of a yacht inside a boat slip at the World Financial Center. He took the flag and its pole from the yacht and carried it to the evacuation area.

McWilliams asked Johnson to give him a hand. Eisengrein saw them and joined in. The firefighters found a flagpole within rubble, and used an used a improvised ramp to climb to the pole to raise the flag. As they performed their act, Franklin aimed his lens in their direction.

Franklin's photograph appeared in the September 12th edition of The Record of New Jersey, his employer. Reaction was swift and emotional. The flag-raising firemen were hit with numerous calls from friends and family. Their first reaction was surprise, because they didn't know Franklin took their picture.

The Record itself received 30,000 requests to reprint the photograph, which the paper initially granted if they were not for profit. Among the requests from commercial concerns were to reprint it on shirts and other objects.

The newspaper stopped the gratis distribution and instead asked for donations to its disaster fund, which eventually swelled to $400,000. The money was distributed to charities selected by McWilliams, Johnson and Eisengrein. The photo eventually was made into an authorized poster sold through the paper's Web site and private companies.

Slight variations and outright replicas began to appear across the US in the Fall of 2001. Firefighters with flags began to appear in paintings and drawings, and on pins, buttons, T-shirts, hats and Christmas ornaments. Taverns, hair salons and offices hung the picture. Phoenix, Arizona, firefighters reenacted the scene before the start of the first game of the World Series featuring the Diamondbacks and New York Yankees. Through Associated Press distribution, the Franklin photo was used by many magazines and papers.

At the end of 2001, the Associated Press Managing Editors Association and Editor & Publisher magazine named it the best picture of the year. The photo was on the short list of photographs considered for the Pulitzer Prize.

The use of the firefighter photo for profit became so rampant that by December 2001, the firemen and The Record hired a New York law firm to protect the paper's copyright and block unauthorized uses for commercial purposes.

One revenue generating venture that was approved was the "Heroes 2001" stamp issued in 2002 by the US Postal Service with the Franklin image. President George W. Bush unveiled the stamp in the Oval Office with Franklin, Johnson, Eisengrein and McWilliams in attendance.

Franklin remains modest about the picture, saying that it was only by chance that he witnessed the scene. The only reason the photo was printed in The Record was because Franklin got a police boat ride to Liberty State Park, hitchhiked to his car in Jersey City, and used the facilities at a hotel to transmit it after he could not get around a roadblock.

"In the back of our minds, all photographers believe we're going to get 'the big one.' I've shot hurricanes (and) earthquakes. But I've never seen anything like this," Franklin said. "There were times during the day that I cried. Nothing had ever touched me as emotionally as this. But I had a job to do. Once I made deadline, all I wanted to do was see my wife and my son."

In all, 343 firefighters died in the Trade Center disaster, along with 23 New York City and 37 Port Authority police officers and six medical rescue workers. The Thomas Franklin photo stands as a fitting reminder of their dedication and sacrifice.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Mail Carrier Had Better be Careful

A police blotter report from the Bridgton News in Bridgton, Maine:

An officer received a report at 10:35 AM of a woman unable to gain entry to her home on Smith Street due to a problem with the lock. The officer was able to unlock the door. However, upon entry, the woman's dog bit the police officer's leg. The officer was transported to Bridgton Hospital for treatment.

With a hard-to-open lock and a cop-biting dog, we think that woman’s house has sufficient security for rural Maine.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Sidewalk Rage?

Labor Day weekend is about to kick off, and AAA is predicting high traffic volume in New Jersey – the third-highest in the last ten years, they say. All we can recommend is, stay cool.

What is it about getting behind the wheel of an automobile that turns so many people into arrogant fools? "Road Rage" is a common term today, and it describes behavior that is unique to driving.

Consider: You are walking through the shopping mall, and – whoops – you and anther person bump into each other. What do you do? Both of you probably mumble "Excuse me" apologetically, and move on. The entire incident lasts one second and one second later you have forgotten it.

On the highway, when you don’t even bump but only have a close encounter, one or both of you honks the horn, yells out nasty adjectives, and makes hand gestures. Sometimes the exchange of sounds and gestures goes on, and sometimes it escalates further. In the worst cases it ends with roadside violence.

Humorist George Carlin famously spoke about how drivers tend to refer to someone who drives slower than themselves as an idiot, and someone who drives faster than themselves as a maniac. Yet if you encounter someone on the sidewalk who is walking either slower or faster than you, you don’t give it a second thought.

Admittedly, there are times when you bump into someone on the sidewalk and they react in an enraged fashion, telling you off. But even so, it rarely escalates the way that highway encounters often do. And persons who erupt on the sidewalk are generally those with other issues, whereas road rage, to a significant extent, seems to afflict everyone.

When driving, would it kill us to deal with other drivers as we might deal with other pedestrians? New Jersey roads are crowded roads, but most of us get along in crowds just fine when we’re on our feet instead of our wheels. It can’t be hard when on the road to share the space, to think "excuse me" instead of "moron!"

Thursday, September 3, 2009


Georgetown, Delaware, is not anybody’s idea of a city. It is a town, with a population of about 5,000, in the southern portion of the state. With that population it is the largest town in its immediate area.

On Tuesday of this week, Georgetown Police Officer Chad Spicer was shot and killed while on duty.

A tragic reminder that it can happen anywhere.