Above, San Antonio Express, October 1917. Note the intimidating list of directors of the Central Trust Company that appears adjacent to the news about Hedda Burgemeister’s bail hearing.
Hedda Burgemeister, October 1917
Avoiding driving past the main entrances to the courthouse, Rudolph Bremer pulls the carriage up to a side door. His wife Lucile has not let go of Hedda’s hand once since they left their house on Buena Vista Street. Lucile lowers the dotted black veil on Hedda’s hat and squeezes her hand ever more tightly as they disembark the carriage.
“This way, Miss Burgemeister. Missus Bremer,” whispers Mr. Watson. They slip into a dimly lit stairwell, where Mr. Campbell and Mr. Chambers are waiting.
Mr. Watson leans toward Hedda’s ear. “It’s fortunate that your friends picked you up in Austin yesterday. Newspapermen and several deputies were waiting to intercept you at the train station.”
Mr. Chambers clasps her hand. “We must warn you, Judge Anderson’s in foul humor. He remains testy about you missing your original court date and is unappreciative of our efforts to get the original $7,500 bond returned based on technicalities. Legitimate technicalities that they are.”
Mr. Campbell joins the huddle. “Don’t worry though. District Attorney McAskill will not go back on his word to recommend reasonable bail pending your hearing. Perhaps you should reveal your face in court to make your appeal more personal.”
Lucile lifts Hedda’s veil slightly.
“No, no, keep it as it was. You poor thing.” Mr. Campbell pats her back gently. “You must not have had any sleep for days. We’ll enter the courtroom first. Wait five minutes, and then join us at the front.”
Lucile hugs her in the stairwell, repeatedly telling her not to worry. All will be fine. She is in good hands. Five minutes seem an eternity.
As Lucile guides her to her seat, Sheriff Tobin officially places her under arrest.
“Your honor,” says Mr. Campbell, “if it pleases the court, we request to file an application for a writ of habeas corpus at this time.”
“Your honor,” says the District Attorney, “We request time to assemble the various witnesses needed for a hearing on this application. As your honor knows, locating and arranging for the appearances of witnesses often is difficult. When I met with Miss Burgemeister in New York, I told her I was amenable to a bond in the amount of $7,500, the same as the former bond, if she would return voluntarily. I do not know if this will be acceptable to the court.”
“No,” answers Judge Anderson. Immediately. No hesitation. Hedda’s heart drops into her stomach. “There must be some introduction of proof. There has been a flight, but the case still is bailable. The Sheriff has the right to weigh in on this matter as well. Sheriff Tobin, how much time do you require to summon witnesses?”
“As much time as the law allows,” he responds.
“The law allows you two days.”
“Your honor,” says Mr. Campbell. “I wish to request at least a week delay for the hearing. I am expected to participate in a previously scheduled meeting of the Exemption Board for the Eastern District of Texas. And we ask that a reasonable bond be allowed. Miss Burgemeister has traveled nearly 2,000 miles to surrender herself. This should stand as sufficient evidence there is no danger of flight. When Attorney for the State and the defense agree on bond, the court usually is guided thereby, is it not?”
“Ordinarily it is,” responds Judge Anderson. “But this is a rather unusual case. The amount of the first bond failed to constrain your client.”
“Just a moment, your honor,” pleads Mr. Chambers. “Have you seen Article 192 of the Revised Criminal Statutes which allows bail from day to day, pending the hearing of the habeas corpus application?” He hands Judge Anderson the law book.
At least her attorneys are persistent in their efforts to spare her from the jail.
Judge Anderson reads the statute. Carefully. At least twice. “It appears that way,” he says, passing the book on to Mr. McAskill.
“It looks that way to me as well,” agrees the District Attorney.
“I fix the bond at $25,000,” orders the Judge, leaving no more room for arguments about the extremely high amount, “and set the hearing for ten o’clock Friday morning, October 19.”
“I am willing to sign the bond right now, your honor,” says Mr. Campbell. “You want me to certify, I suppose.”
Hedda watches in awe as her attorney willingly takes an oath that he owns property free from encumbrance that is valued at twice that of the bond. He personally risks so much in placing trust in her. Evidence she can trust him with her life.
~ ~ ~
Confident her attorneys will stand up for her, Hedda feels calmer walking into court today, Lucile again at her side, than during the earlier hearing. Not quite so calm as to lift the veil shielding her eyes.
She again is appearing willingly. Surely Judge Anderson will propose a reduced bail for the period before the trial gets underway.
“Contrary to rumors,” says District Attorney McAskill, “when Miss Burgemeister returned to San Antonio, her attorney notified me immediately. Followed by Sheriff Tobin, I went to 1023 Buena Vista Street where the defendant surrendered to me. I in turn gave her over to the Sheriff. As she had only just returned and of her own accord, Sheriff Tobin allowed her to stay the night with the Bramers on her own recognizance.”
“Your honor,” says Mr. Watson, “I do not think the court should go behind its action in fixing the original bond at $7,500 solely because of the earlier forfeiture. Article 295 is the only provision whereby the court can raise bail when the bond is considered insufficient, and then only when the District Attorney makes affidavit the bond is insufficient. There has been no such filing by the District Attorney. The court therefore is estopped from raising the bond.”
“Do any of you gentlemen wish to answer?” Judge Anderson asks the State officers.
“No, sir,” replies District Attorney McAskill.
“I then fix the bond at $25,000 and refuse discharge.”
Hedda lets out a small gasp. $25,000. She is sunk.
“We give notice to make the bond,” says Mr. Campbell, unable to conceal his irritation with the arbitrariness of the Judge’s ruling. “It is not the bond, your honor. We are willing to commit whatever the amount required. But I want to say, that in my opinion, the bond is absolutely void.”
The gavel slams down. “The case is set for January 14, 1918—three years later than originally scheduled.”
Hedda’s attorneys express their faith in her by signing as sureties, guaranteeing her freedom for the next three months.
Judge Anderson certainly did not seem predisposed to finding Hedda not guilty. In today’s dollars, the bond he set was more than half a million.