March 14, 1955: Accused Arsonist Confined for Public's Safety to Receive Medical Attention


March 14, 1955: The accused arsonist Harry A. Hummer has asked for a public defender, and attorney Alvin Woerle is now representing him because he has changed his story. Hummer had previously said that he did not want a lawyer because he had no money and did not know that free legal counsel was available.

On March 10, Judge H. Robert Mays had asked him, “Did you plead guilty to the charges” of setting the fires at Schmoyer’s Lumber Yard and the office of the Boyertown Times? Hummer replied, “Yes.” “Did you waive hearing?” “Yes.” “How do you plead now?” “Guilty.” “Do you want an attorney to represent you?” “Yes.”

The Judge then postponed the trial until a lawyer was appointed. Hummer now says that he “doesn’t know” if he set the fires. He claimed that he had misunderstood the question when he told the Judge that he was guilty. A psychiatrist report stated that Hummer needs medical treatment and that he could be bullied into making false statements if pressure had been used in the questioning.

Attorney Woerle emphasized that Hummer had suffered great trauma and lost many friends when his ship was torpedoed and destroyed during World War II. After that, he became unsettled, very nervous and easily upset. Woerle asked the Court to allow Hummer to change his plea to not guilty and to get a jury trial. All were in agreement that there should be no bail set because Hummer was a threat to himself as well as the public and should continue to be confined.

In September, the Judge announced his decision not to allow Hummer to change his plea, and he was sentenced to eight to 20 years in the Eastern Pennsylvania correctional facility at Graterford. He felt that Hummer was mentally disturbed and needed the proper medical care and the kind hand of someone who knows how to help him. He believed that that attention was best given in a controlled environment.

More News from Boyertown
I'm interested
I disagree with this
This is unverified