Executed 1922 for rape and murder of a 12-year old. Pardoned in 2008.
Ross was involved in one of the most famous cases in history, the Gun Alley Murder. Twelve-year-old Alma Tirtschke was sent to collect a package from her uncle. Her naked, dead body was found the next day in Gun Alley. Despite several witnesses testifying to Ross’s innocence, Ross was convicted of murder due to poor forensic research. Strands of hair were found in Ross’s home in his bed. While the scientist believed that the hair on the bed and Alma’s were the same, by his own admission, he stated the diameter of the hairs were different. Testimonies of others stated that Ross was at his saloon at the time of the murder. Unfortunately, public opinion was strongly in favor of Ross’s guilt and they wanted him dead. Upon his execution, an anonymous letter was sent to Ross’s lawyers, this letter is believed to be from the true killer. In 1998, Dr. Bentley Atchison found that the DNA on Ross’s bed did not match Alma’s. In 2008 Ross was finally pardoned for Alma’s murder.
1.The murder trial in Massachusetts extended over 7 years (1920-1927).
2.People believed that Sacco & Vanzetti’s conviction was unfair.
3.Celestino Madeiros & Joe Morelli were the true murderers.
4.Guilt is what probably caused the two men to confess that it was truly them who robbed and killed Frederick Parmenter and Alessandro Berardelli.
Controversial murder trial in Massachusetts, U.S., extending over seven years, 1920–27, and resulting in the execution of the defendants, Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti.
The trial resulted from the murders in South Braintree, Massachusetts, on April 15, 1920, of F.A. Parmenter, paymaster of a shoe factory, and Alessandro Berardelli, the guard accompanying him, in order to secure the payroll that they were carrying. On May 5 Sacco and Vanzetti, two Italian anarchists who had immigrated to the United States in 1908, one a shoemaker and the other a fish peddler, were arrested for the crime. On May 31, 1921, they were brought to trial before Judge Webster Thayer of the Massachusetts Superior Court, and on July 14 both were found guilty by verdict of the jury. Socialists and radicals protested the men’s innocence. Many people felt that the trial had been less than fair and that the defendants had been convicted for their radical, anarchist beliefs rather than for the crime for which they had been tried. All attempts for retrial on the ground of false identification failed. On November 18, 1925, Celestino Madeiros, then under a sentence for murder, confessed that he had participated in the crime with the Joe Morelli gang. The state Supreme Court refused to upset the verdict, because at that time the trial judge had the final power to reopen on the ground of additional evidence. The two men were sentenced to death on April 9, 1927.
A storm of protest arose with mass meetings throughout the nation. Governor Alvan T. Fuller appointed an independent advisory committee consisting of President A. Lawrence Lowell of Harvard University, President Samuel W. Stratton of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Robert Grant, a former judge. On August 3, 1927, the governor refused to exercise his power of clemency; his advisory committee agreed with this stand. Demonstrations proceeded in many cities throughout the world, and bombs were set off in New York City and Philadelphia. Sacco and Vanzetti, still maintaining their innocence, were executed on August 23, 1927.
Opinion has remained divided on whether Sacco and Vanzetti were guilty as charged or whether they were innocent victims of a prejudiced legal system and a mishandled trial. Some writers have claimed that Sacco was guilty but that Vanzetti was innocent. Many historians believe, however, that the two men should have been granted a second trial in view of their trial’s significant defects.
On the 50th anniversary of their deaths in 1977, the governor of Massachusetts, Michael S. Dukakis, issued a proclamation stating that Sacco and Vanzetti had not been treated justly and that no stigma should be associated with their names.
by Sacco-Vanzetti Defense Committee View this item in the Collection.
Sacco-Vanzetti Defense Committee, “Justice the Issue! Shall Sacco and Vanzetti be Judicially Murdered?” broadside, ca. July 1927. (Gilder Lehrman Collection) On May 31, 1921, Nicola Sacco, a 32-year-old shoemaker, and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, a 29-year-old fish peddler, went on trial for murder in Boston. More than a year earlier, on April 15, 1920, a paymaster and a payroll guard were shot to death during a payroll heist in Braintree, Massachusetts, near Boston. Three weeks later, Sacco and Vanzetti were charged with the crime.
Many Americans found the evidence against the men flimsy and believed that they were being prosecuted for their immigrant background and their radical political beliefs. This broadside, published by the Sacco-Vanzetti Defense Committee, articulates the reasons for the pair’s persecution: “The two workers were convicted in the midst of the red hysteria of 1921. They hold views opposed by the controlling influences of America.” Sacco and Vanzettti were both Italian immigrants and avowed anarchists who advocated the violent overthrow of capitalism. It was the height of the post–World War I Red Scare, and the atmosphere was seething with anxieties about Bolshevism, aliens, domestic bombings, and labor unrest.
Sacco and Vanzetti trial were convicted of murder on July 14, 1921. In June 1927, responding to public criticism of the trial and verdict, a committee was appointed by the governor of Massachusetts to review the trial’s fairness. The committee, which included Abbott Lawrence Lowell, the president of Harvard University, determined that the trial had been fair, and the men were electrocuted on August 28, 1927.
[Broadside against the Sacco-Vanzetti execution], ca. August, 1927. (Gilder Lehrman Collection) Their execution divided the nation and produced an uproar in Europe. Newspaper columnist and Harvard alumnus Heywood Broun criticized the execution and the trial committee’s findings. Broun’s opinion about the Sacco and Vanzetti case is the focus of this broadside, printed just after the executions: “What more can these immigrants from Italy expect? It is not every prisoner who has a President of Harvard University throw on the switch for him"
1.Working class immigrants were being treated badly around the 1920’s.
2.Sacco & Vanzetti left town when the US went to war, so how is it that they were accused of murder ? (question to think about).
3.Both men left the town in order to avoid being enlisted in the army.
4.Eye witnesses claim that the murderers were Italian so authorities decided to convict Sacco & Vanzetti for the fact that they believed the men robbed the two guys to raise money for their anarchist campaign.
Nicola Sacco was born in the Italian town of Torremaggiore on 22nd April, 1891. He emigrated to the United States when he was seventeen. Sacco found work in a shoe factory in Stoughton, Massachusetts. He got married and started a family. Sacco also became involved in left-wing politics and at one anarchist gathering met Bartolomeo Vanzetti, an Italian immigrant working as a fish peddler in Plymouth. The two men became friends and often attended the same political meetings together. Bartolomeo Vanzetti was born in the Italian town of Villaffalletto on 11th June, 1888. The son of a farmer, Vanzetti emigrated to the United States when he was twenty years old. Vanzetti settled in Plymouth, Massachusetts, where he worked as a fish peddler. Vanzetti was shocked by the way working class immigrants were treated in America and became involved in left-wing politics. He went to anarchist meetings where he met Nicola Sacco, an Italian immigrant working in a shoe-factory in Stoughton, Massachusetts. The two men became friends and often attended the same political meetings together.
Like many left-wing radicals, Sacco and Vanzetti were opposed to the First World War. They took part in protest meetings and in 1917, when the United States entered the war, they fled together to Mexico in order to avoid being conscripted into the United States Army. When the war was over the two men returned to the United States. On 5th May, 1920, Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were arrested and interviewed about the murders of Frederick Parmenter and Alessandro Berardelli, in Bridgewater, Massachusetts. The men had been killed while carrying two boxes containing the payroll of a shoe factory. After Parmenter and Berardelli were shot dead, the two robbers took the $15,000 and got into a car containing several other men, and driven away. Several eyewitnesses claimed that the robbers looked Italian. A large number of Italian immigrants were questioned but eventually the authorities decided to charge Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti with the murders. Although the two men did not have criminal records, it was argued that they had committed the robbery to acquire funds for their anarchist political campaign. The trial started on 21st May, 1921. The main evidence against the men was that they were both carrying a gun when arrested. Some people who saw the crime taking place identified Vanzetti and Sacco as the robbers. Others disagreed and both men had good alibis. Vanzetti was selling fish in Plymouth while Sacco was in Boston with his wife having his photograph taken. The prosecution made a great deal of the fact that all those called to provide evidence to support these alibis were Italian immigrants.
Vanzetti and Sacco were disadvantaged by not having a full grasp of the English language. It was clear from some of the answers they gave in court that they had misunderstood the question. During the trial the prosecution emphasized the men's radical political beliefs. Vanzetti and Sacco were also accused of unpatriotic behaviour by fleeing to Mexico during the First World War. The trial lasted seven weeks and on 14th July, 1921, both men were found guilty of first degree murder and sentenced to death. The Sacco and Vanzetti Case received a great deal of publicity. Many observers believed that their conviction resulted from prejudice against them as Italian immigrants and because they held radical political beliefs. The case resulted in anti-US demonstrations in several European countries and at one of these in Paris, a bomb exploded killing twenty people. In 1925 Celestino Madeiros, a Portuguese immigrant, confessed to being a member of the gang that killed Frederick Parmenter and Alessandro Berardelli. He also named the four other men, Joe, Fred, Pasquale and Mike Morelli, who had taken part in the robbery. The Morelli brothers were well-known criminals who had carried out similar robberies in area of Massachusetts. However, the authorities refused to investigate the confession made by Madeiros. Many leading writers and artists such as John Dos Passos, Alice Hamilton, Paul Kellog, Jane Addams, Upton Sinclair, Dorothy Parker, Ben Shahn, Edna St. Vincent Millay, John Howard Lawson, Floyd Dell, George Bernard Shaw and H. G. Wells became involved in a campaign to obtain a retrial. Although Webster Thayer, the original judge, was officially criticised for his conduct at the trial, the authorities refused to overrule the decision to execute the men. By the summer of 1927 it became clear that Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti would be executed. Vanzetti commented to a journalist: "If it had not been for this thing, I might have lived out my life talking at street corners to scorning men. I might have died, unmarked, unknown, a failure. Now we are not a failure. This is our career and our triumph. Never in our full life can we hope to do such work for tolerance, justice, for man's understanding of man, as now we do by accident. Our words - our lives - our pains - nothing! The taking of our lives - lives of a good shoemaker and a poor fish peddler - all! That last moment belong to us - that agony is our triumph. On 23rd August 1927, the day of execution, over 250,000 people took part in a silent demonstration in Boston. Fifty years later, on 23rd August, 1977, Michael Dukakis, the Governor of Massachusetts, issued a proclamation, effectively absolving the two men of the crime
(1) Bartolomeo Vanzetti, letter to Governor Alvan Fuller, Governor of Massachusetts (28th 1927) Now, Governor Fuller, you have told me that almost all those who have seen me and say to have seen me have identified me. Now to show you that only such people as witnessed the crime or the passing of the bandits, or something relating to it, I will tell how Bowles did identify me. For three or four consecutive days he brought with company trucks gangs of people from Bridgewater to identify us at the Brockton Police station, hundreds and hundreds of people. You have no idea how many people were brought to identify us by Bowles and others. I remember in the crowd a Chinaman, Japanese, Salvation Army people, Negroes, and people of every kind and class, even children. Even suppose that only a third of them came from Bridgewater. You see that there are a thousand or hundreds of people in a condition to see the crime or the bandits, and out of these several hundred only one or two persons said that they seen me and all the others deny it squarely. Out of the five or six witnesses that perjured voluntarily against me, only one or two have come to identify me when they come together with these hundreds of people. And one of these is Mrs. Georgina Brooks, and I am told she is half blind. But not to make too long a story, I will also submit to you that these witnesses from Bridgewater came all together on the corridor at the trial, which was for them a real picnic. They laugh and jeer at the Italians that were there, and myself, and there was a clique of them to create a hostile atmosphere in the court against the general sympathy that I have by all the people who know me. Of course your Excellency cannot expect that any of the jury will admit to you that they made a mistake, or that any witnesses for the Government will now come forward and throw doubt on their own testimony. Just think of convicting a foreigner on the testimony of a boy who said he can tell a man is an Italian from the way he runs, or what nationality he is by the way he runs. Would that testimony convict an American before an American jury? He said that he identified me; he pointed to me and said, "The man in the booth," with all the despisement at his command, in order to impress the jury against me.
(2) Bartolomeo Vanzetti, statement to court after being sentenced to death (9th April, 1927) What I say is that I am innocent. Everybody that knows these two arms knows very well that I did not need to go into the streets and kill a man or try to take money. I can live by my two hands and live well. But besides that, I can live even without work with my hands for other people. I have had plenty of chance to live independently and to live what the world conceives to be a higher life than to gain our bread with the sweat of our brow. My father in Italy is in a good condition. I could have come back in Italy and he would have welcomed me every time with open arms. Even if I come back there with not a cent in my pocket, my father could have give me a position, not to work but to make business, or to oversee upon the land that he owns. He has wrote me many letters in that sense, and as another well-to-do relative has wrote me letters in that sense that I can produce. Now, I should say that I am not only innocent of all these things, not only have I never committed a real crime in my life - though some sins but not crimes - not only have I struggled all my life to eliminate crimes, the crimes that the official law and the moral law condemns, but also the crime that the moral law and the official law sanction and sanctify, the exploitation and the oppression of the man by the man. There is the best man I ever cast my eyes upon since I lived, a man that will last and will grow always more near to and more dear to the heart of the people, so long as admiration for goodness, for virtues, and for sacrifice will last. I mean Eugene Victor Debs. He has said that not even a dog that kills chickens would have found an American jury disposed to convict it with the proof that the Commonwealth has produced against us. That man was not with me in Plymouth or with Sacco where he was on the day of the crime. You can say that it is arbitrary, what we are saying from him, that he is good and he applied to the other his goodness, that he is incapable of crime, and he believed that everybody is incapable of crime. He knew, and not only he knew, but every man of understanding in the world, not only in this country but also in other countries, men to whom we have provided a certain amount of the records of the case at times, they all know and still stick with us, the flower of mankind of Europe, the better writers, the greatest thinkers of Europe, have pleaded in our favor. The scientists, the greatest scientists, the greatest statesmen of Europe, have pleaded in our favor. Is it possible that only a few, a handful of men of the jury, only two or three other men, who would shame their mother for worldly honor and for earthly fortune; is it possible that they are right against what the world, for the whole world has said that it is wrong and I know that it is wrong? If there is one that should know it, if it is right or if it is wrong, it is I and this man. You see it is seven years that we are in jail. What we have suffered during these seven years no human tongue can say, and yet you see me before you, not trembling, you see me looking you in your eyes straight, not blushing, not changing color, not ashamed or in fear. We were tried during a time whose character has now passed into history. I mean by that, a time when there was a hysteria of resentment and hate against the people of our principles, against the foreigner, against slackers, and it seems to me - rather, I am positive of it, that both you and Mr. Katzmann have done all what it were in your power in order to work out, in order to agitate still more the passion of the juror, the prejudice of the juror, against us. The jury were hating us because we were against the war, and the jury don't know that it makes any difference between a man that is against the war because he believes that the war is unjust, because he hate no country, because he is a cosmopolitan, and a man that is against the war because he is in favor of the other country that fights against the country in which he is, and therefore a spy, an enemy, and he commits any crime in the country in which he is in behalf of the other country in order to serve the other country. We are not men of that kind. Nobody can say that we are German spies or spies of any kind. We believe more now than ever that the war was wrong, and we are against war more now than ever, and I am glad to be on the doomed scaffold if I can say to mankind, "Look out; you are in a catacomb of the flower of mankind. For what? All that they say to you, all that they have promised to you - it was a lie, it was an illusion, it was a cheat, it was a fraud, it was a crime. They promised you liberty. Where is liberty? They promised you prosperity. Where is prosperity? I never committed a crime in my life - I have never stolen and I have never killed and I have never spilt blood, and I have fought against crime, and I have fought and I have sacrificed myself even to eliminate the crimes that the law and the church legitimate and sanctify. This is what I say: I would not wish to a dog or to a snake, to the most low and misfortunate creature of the earth - I would not wish to any of them what I have had to suffer for things that I am not guilty of. I am suffering because I am a radical and indeed I am a radical; I have suffered because I was an Italian, and indeed I am an Italian; I have suffered more for my family and for my beloved than for myself; but I am so convinced to be right that you can only kill me once but if you could execute me two times, and if I could be reborn two other times, I would live again to do what I have done already.
(3) Bartolomeo Vanzetti, comment to a reporter before his execution (1927) If it had not been for this thing, I might have lived out my life talking at street corners to scorning men. I might have died, unmarked, unknown, a failure. Now we are not a failure. This is our career and our triumph. Never in our full life can we hope to do such work for tolerance, justice, for man's understanding of man, as now we do by accident. Our words - our lives - our pains - nothing! The taking of our lives - lives of a good shoemaker and a poor fish peddler - all! That last moment belong to us - that agony is our triumph.
(3) Bartolomeo Vanzetti, comment to a reporter before his execution (1927) If it had not been for this thing, I might have lived out my life talking at street corners to scorning men. I might have died, unmarked, unknown, a failure. Now we are not a failure. This is our career and our triumph. Never in our full life can we hope to do such work for tolerance, justice, for man's understanding of man, as now we do by accident. Our words - our lives - our pains - nothing! The taking of our lives - lives of a good shoemaker and a poor fish peddler - all! That last moment belong to us - that agony is our triumph.
(2) Bartolomeo Vanzetti, comments about Nicola Sacco (9th April, 1927) Sacco is a worker from his boyhood, a skilled worker lover of work, with a good job and pay, a bank account, a good and lovely wife, two beautiful children and a neat little home at the verge of a wood, near a brook. Sacco is a heart, a faith, a character, a man; a man lover of nature and of mankind. A man who gave all, who sacrifice all to the cause of Liberty and to his love for mankind; money, rest, mundane ambitions, his own wife, his children, himself and his own life. Sacco has never dreamt to steal, never to assassinate. He and I have never brought a morsel of bread to our mouths, from our childhood to today--which has not been gained by the sweat of our brows. Never. His people also are in good position and of good reputation. Oh, yes, I may be more witfull, as some have put it, I am a better babbler than he is, but many, many times in hearing his heartful voice ringing a faith sublime, in considering his supreme sacrifice, remembering his heroism I felt small small at the presence of his greatness and found myself compelled to fight back from my eyes the tears, and quench my heart troubling to my throat to not weep before him--this man called thief and assassin and doomed. But Sacco's name will live in the hearts of the people and in their gratitude when Katzmann's and yours bones will be dispersed by time, when your name, his name, your laws, institutions, and your false god are but a deem remembering of a cursed past in which man was wolf to the man.
Because of War World 1, education became extremely important because it was necessary to have some type of education in order to get a job. Education main focus was on the 3 R’s (reading, writing, and arithmetic). Soon, immigration and nativism started to become an issue. US citizens complained that immigrants were taking jobs away from them and threatening their American religion, politics, and traditions. Although the American citizens kept complaining, immigrants continued coming in from Europe. In 1915, a group called the KKK (Ku Klux Klan) was created in Georgia. This group had a strong hate for African Americans, Jews, and Catholics. This group consisted of white men who burned crosses and terrorized anyone outside of their kind. In the year of 1919, states passed the 18th amendment which forbidden the sale of alcohol in the US. Because of the prohibition, bootleggers, like Al Capone, began to sell alcohol to consumers. Years later, in 1933 Prohibition ended when the twenty first amendment was passed. The roles of women began to change. Freely and more stylishly, women started to wear clothes that revealed more of their body. Women even started having the same political and social rights as men. After War World 1, many things began to change and modernize from the way women dressed all the way down to the type of music Americans began to listen to.
Sacco and Vanzetti were targeted because of their beliefs. As anarchist and Italian immigrants, a lot of opinions about them were biased. When the United States entered the war in 1917, Sacco and Vanzetti decided to leave the state for Mexico in order to avoid being enlisted. In the year of 1920, on May 5th, Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were arrested for the murder of Frederick Parmenter and Alessandro Beradelli in Bridge Water, Massachusetts. Parmenter and Beradelli were leaving a shoe factory while carrying two boxes of the factory’s payroll, which contained $15,000. Eyewitnesses claimed that they saw two Italian men rob the other men for the money and jump into a car as they fled the scene. Curious and unsure, I thought to myself, “How could Vanzetti and Sacco be accused of murder when they were out of the state?” Although neither men had a criminal record, it was assumed that they robbed the men so that they could raise money for their anarchist campaign. The only evidence against the men was the fact that they were both carrying a gun when arrested. A disadvantage Sacco and Vanzetti had was their Italian accent. Because of their lack of English, they did not understand most of the questions they were being asked in court. In 1925, Celestino Madeiros confessed that him and four other men were the ones who robbed and killed Parmenter and Beradelli. Extremely shocked and surprised, I could not help but to shake my head back and forth repeatedly at the fact that the true murderers admitted to their criminal acts. Although the real criminals confessed, in 1927 Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were still executed. My opinion of this case is that both Nicola and Bartolomeo were treated unfairly. The fact that they were immigrants, anarchist, and could not speak English fluently was used against them. Gone but never forgotten, these two men will be greatly remembered as powerful and strong.
Executed in 1996 for the murder and rape of Evelyn Joy Ludlum. Conviction inconclusive in 2000.
When Ludlum went missing in 1981, police immediately put Felker under surveillance for two weeks to monitor any suspicious behavior. He had been convicted of sodomy in 1977. During that time, they found the body of Ludlum raped and murdered by asphyxiation in a nearby creek. Several days later Felker was brought to court and found guilty. The gathering and offering of information was flawed. Previous autopsy reports found Ludlum to have died five days prior to the discovery of her body, which excluded Felker as a suspect since he was under surveillance at the time. Instead of admitting he could not have killed her, the police had another untrained technician redo the report and note the death as three days prior to the discovery. Felker’s lawyers also discovered withheld evidence during the trial that included DNA samples and a signed confession from another man (though the man was mentally retarded). Despite this, Felker was found guilty and executed in 1996, 15 years after his initial hearing. In 2000, the courts reopened the case for exoneration, and the DNA evidence came up inconclusive. The DNA would not be enough to fully exonerate Felker, but it allowed the case and conviction to be inconclusive.
Judge Wyzanski Makes History: Sacco and Vanzetti Reconvicted
Edward M. Joffe wrote on p. 184 of his book "Sacco and Vanzetti: Guilty as Charged": In his letter to Harvard Law School professor Felix Frankfurter on March 9, 1927, Justice Louis D. Brandeis said Frankfurter's book, The Case of Sacco and Vanzetti--a copy of which Brandeis obtained on March 7--would cause a stir and perhaps be "a turning point." Justice William O. Douglas and other intellectuals called Frankfurter�s book their "bible." Less impressed, John D. Wigmore, Dean of Northwestern University Law School, called Frankfurss article in the March issue of the Atlantic Monthly--a shortened version of Frankfurter's book--the product of "the plausible pundit of the leading law school." Reviews of Frankfurter by Stumberg, Sherriff, and Ernst should be read.
Frankfurter said in both article and book that members of the Joe Morelli gang and Celestino Madeiros murdered at South Braintree on April 15, 1920, not Sacco and Vanzetti. This thesis Encyclopaedia Britannica placed in their Sacco-Vanzetti article in 1929. The thesis became a staple in many reference books. See Ernst's entry on the Sacco-Vanzetti case in Britannica, 1961-1973. Frankfurter's analysis of Vanzetti's Plymouth trial for assault with intent to rob and murder at Bridgewater on December 24, 1919, deserve scrutiny.
Saddened by the execution of Sacco and Vanzetti in 1927, Herbert Brutus Ehrmann, junior counsel to Thompson in 1926-27, published The Untried Case in 1933, a book that indicts the Morelli gang and Madeiros for the South Braintree crime. Edmund M. Morgan, Frankfurter's Harvard colleague, said Ehrmann had failed to offer "proof of the innocence of Sacco and Vanzetti." See Harvard Law Review, January 1934.
In his Note on Republication, June 5, 1961, Justice Frankfurter observed: "Sacco-Vanzttti have probably the unique distinction for men convicted for robbery-murder of having a favoring account of themselves in the Dictionary of American Biography" (1935 volume). Louis Joughin, in his section of The Legacy of Sacco and Vanzetti (1948), called Sylvester Gates�s 3-column sketch of Sacco and Vanzetti in the DAB "a masterpiece of accuracy and condensation." Later, Gates reviewed Osmond K. Fraenkel�s 1931 book, The Sacco-Vanzetti Case, in The New Republic, and stated: "Fraenkel�s 550 pages are as fair, accurate and well-balanced an account of the case as it is possible to make." Taped by Dr. Philips in 1960, Frankfurter acknowledged Gates had been his "pupil" at Harvard Law School, 1925-27, and said Gates�s article in the DAB was an index to Gates�s "quality." Unfortunately, factual errors crop up in both of Gates�s review efforts.
Gates must have been ill-informed or disingenuous when he left unchallenged Fraenkel�s 1931 portrait of militant anarchist Mike Boda (p. 10):
"Just what this man�s occupation was remains uncertain. Himself perhaps not a radical, he was a friend of radicals, at a time when to be such in one�s associations and a foreigner besides, constituted strong grounds for suspicion."
Undaunted by the DAB and an impressive array of Sacco-Vanzetti defenders--H. G. Wells, Harold Laski, Madame Curie, Albert Einstein, Walter Lippmann, Robert M. Lovett, Arthur M. Schlesinger, Sr., John Dewey, H. L. Mencken, Anatole France, Romain Rolland, Malcolm Cowley, Bennett Cerf, George Seldes (the "media watchdog"), A. M. Schlesinger, Jr., William Allen White (who flip-flopped on the verdict)--Boston attorney Robert H. Montgomery launched the first of four challenges to Frankfurter�s book in the 1960s. Montgomery published Sacco-Vanzetti: The Murder and the Myth in 1960 after his epistolary dispute with Frankfurter in 1958. He justified the guilty verdict at Plymouth, July 1, 1920, and the guilty verdict at Dedham, July 14, 1921.
New York lawyer James Grossman, the second revisioinist of the case (see Professor Nunzio Pernicone�s footnote in JAH, Dec., 1979, p. 535), noted "the force of the facts" in Montgomery�s book (see "The Sacco-Vanzetti Case Reconsidered" in Commentary, Jan.,1962), declared Sacco guilty, rejected the bullet-switching hypothesis made by defense attorneys William Thompson and Herbert Brutus Ehrmann on June 15, 1927, defended Goddard�s ballistic test with a comparison microscope on June 3, 1927, and stressed Gill�s break with Thompson, while scouting Ehrmann�s romantic portrait of convicted murderer Madeiros in The Untried Case. When Michael A, Musmanno challenged Grossman in the September issue of Commentary, Grossman dismissed him politely and praised Russell�s just-published Tragedy in Dedham. Before 1962, Grossman published in Partisan Review and Kenyon Review, and argued in Commentary (December 1953) that Alger Hiss was guilty. Does Grossman establish credentials?
While Grossman found Vanzetti innocent, Francis Russell, third revisionist, declared both defendants innocent in the Antioch Review (Winter 1955). In Tragedy in Dedham (1962), Russell called Sacco guilty, Vanzetti innocent. In Sacco and Vanzetti: The Case Resolved (1986), Russell said Sacco was guilty, Vanzetti an accessory after the fact, believing now that Vanzetti was carrying, upon his arrest, the 38 H. & R. revolver of the slain Berardelli. (Compare that hypothesis with the hypothesis built on the testimonies of Atwater, Slater, and Falzini--re the migratory gun from Maine.) After a time, Russell no longer let Vanzetti seduce him. In 1988 he expressed to me his desire to get his two books on the case published in paperback, with new introductions and photos from the 1983 ballistic test. He died in 1989.
David Felix, fourth revisionist, called Sacco and Vanzetti guilty of murder at South Braintree in Protest: Sacco-Vanzetti and the Intellectuals (1965). Reviews of this book stir a host of questions about champions of Sacco and Vanzetti. Why did Bickel, for example, review Felix�s book in The New Republic?
Ehrmann replied to these four attacks on Frankfurter with his second book, The Case That Will Not Die (1969). In a footnote on p. 173, Ehrmann wrote of Frankfurter�s book: "[I]ts complete accuracy has never been successfully challenged." He also said (p. 534) Montgomry and Felix had failed "to discredit Frankfurter�s great authority." Both Ehrmann�s book and the bibliography have curious omissions.
On March 31, 1986, Charles E. Wyzanski, Jr., Senior District Judge of the U. S. District Court in Boston, where he had presided for 45 years, wrote to Russell: "I myself am persuaded by your writings that Sacco was guilty. Wyzanski underlined.
Frankfurter said of Wyzanski: "He was one of the most brilliant students I ever had." (See NY Times obit., Sept. 5, 1986, A20.) Frankfurter helped Wyzanski to enter government service; and after Roosevelt put Frankfurter on the U. S. Supreme Court, Justice Frankfurter campaigned to get Wyzanski appointed to the federal bench. The Times called Wyzanski a profound legal thinker, while Max Lerner dubbed him one of Frankfurter�s "Hot Dogs." Joseph Lash dedicated his book, From the Diaries of Felix Frankfurter (1975), to Frankfurter and his "Hot Dogs."
Whereas Wyzanski said Vanzetti was "not proven guilty," he vouched for the integrity of Assistant District Attorney Harold P. Williams, whom he knew slightly. Ironically, Frankfurter implied in his book that Williams and District Attorney Frederick Katzmann schemed to deceive the Dedham jury on Sacco�s gun and bullet 3. Deepening the irony, Wyzanski said that "Brute" Ehrmann had been his friend " from boyhood."
Wyzanski did not mention Postmortem: New Evidence in the Case of Sacco and Vanzetti (1985) by William Young and David E. Kaiser. Hugh Brogan said in TLS ("New Convictions," Dec 27, 1985) that Kaiser must answer for this book since Young died in 1980. Brogan�s stance in the TLS review of Kaiser is absent in his letter to me. Kaiser (p. 110) imputes evil action to Williams and renews the 1927 allegation of a substitute bullet and spent crime-scene shell. Something in Kaiser�s book brought a rebuke from James E. Starrs, professor of law and forensic sciences, The George Washington University (see "Once More Unto the Breech:The Firearms Evidence in the Saccoand Vanzetti Case Revisited: Part I (Journal of Forensic Sciences, p. 650). Starrs rebuked Ehrmann (and the defense in general) in the July issue (p. 1063), and said that Albert H. Hamilton, a "defense expert . . . has been quite reliably proved accountable for a switching of the barrel in the Sacco Colt for another, . . ." (p. 1053). Further, he said Thompson, in 1927, engaged in "minutiae-specking" (p. 1056). He concluded: "Sacco can be linked to the crime, and even more to the crime scene, through the cartridges found in his possession on his arrest" (p. 1050). Starrs rejected the bullet-switching hypothesis. Dates make clear that Wyyzanski�s letter was writtten before the two articles by Starrs appeared in print.
One page prior to announcing Sacco�s guilt, Wyzanski wrote to Russell: "As a friend, and associate in the Solicitor General�s Office (1935-7), of Alger Hiss I had testified in both trials of U. S. v Hiss, whom I initially had supposed innocent but as to whom I now share the views of his former counsel, William L. Marbury . . . that Hiss was guilty." It would seem that Wyzanski�s final judgment of Hiss came after Grossman�s 1953 judgment.
Finally, Wyzanski told Russell that Governor Fuller asked Jeremiah Smith, Jr. "to serve on the Commission to Advise the Governor." This request was made "before A. L. Lowell" was asked to serve. Wyzanski underlined. On the advice of his doctor, Smith declined Fuller�s offer. But Smith later read the entire record of the case "and concluded that both Sacco and Vanzetti were guilty." Thus did Broun attack Lowell, not Smith.
Wyzanski said nothing of Vanzetti�s Plymouth trial, choosing not to rule on Vanzetti�s version of why he did not take the stand. Encyclopaedia Britannica has never mentioned the Plymouth trial, Sacco�s gun/bullets, Vanzetti�s gun/bullets, or lies Sacco and Vanzetti told about them to Katzmann on May 6, 1920. For years, Britannica�s editorial staff allowed a biased bibliography on the case to be published. Their gatekeeping of history and their explanatory letter to me in June 1988 invite Clio�s scorn. On this disputed case, all encyclopedias fail as disinterested historians,as do numerous books of reference.
A Midwest manuscript has 52 research questions on the Sacco-Vanztti case--and other tests.
Wyzanski�s 5-page letter is filed with the Francis Russell Papers at the Boston Athenaeum. Stephen Z. Nonack, Head of Reference, grants "permission to quote from or publish Judge Wyzanski�s letter."
The Sacco-Vanzetti Case: Transcript of the Record of the Trial of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti in the Courts of Massachusetts and Subsequent Proceedings, 1920-7. 5 volumes. With a supplemental volume on the Bridgewater Case. Prefatory essay by William O. Douglas. Mamaroneck, N.Y.: Paul P. Appel, 1969.
Frankfurter, Felix. The Case of Sacco and Vanzetti: A Critical Analysis for Lawyers and Laymen. Boston: Little, Brown, 1927. See Note on Republication in Universal Library Edition, January 1962.
Ehrmann, Herbert Brutus. The Untried Case. New York: Vanguard Press, 1933.
Morgan, Edmund M. Rev. of The Untried Case, by Herbert B. Ehrmann. Harvard Law Review (January 1934): 538-547.
Fraenkel, Osmond K. The Sacco-Vanzetti Case. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1931.
Gates, Sylvester G. "A Formidable Shadow." Rev. of The Sacco-Vanzetti Case, by Osmond K. Fraenkel. The New Republic (December 9, 1931): 103-104.
Joughin, G. Louis, and Edmund M. Morgan. The Legacy of Sacco and Vanzetti. Harcourt, Brace, 1948. Reprint with an Introduction by Arthur M. Schlesinger. Princeton Univ. Press, 1978.
Montgomery, Robert H. Sacco-Vanzetti: The Murder and the Myth. New York: Devin-Adair, 1960.
Grossman, James. "The Sacco-Vanzetti Case Reconsidered." Commentary (January 1962): 31-44.
Russell, Francis. Tragedy in Dedham: The Story of the Sacco-Vanzetti Case. New York: McGraw-Hill. 1962.
Felix, David. Protest: Sacco-Vanzetti and the Intellectuals. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1965.
Ehrmann, Herbert Brutus. The Case That Will Not Die. Boston: Little, Brown, 1969.
Pernaicone, Nunzio. "Carlo Tresca and the Sacco-Vanzetti Case." Journal of American History (December 1979): 535-547. [Footnotes 6 and 7 are helpful in evaluating Pernicone.]
Young, William, and David E. Kaiser. Postmortem: New Evidence in the Case of Sacco and Vanzetti. Amherst: Univ. of Massachusetts Press, 1985.
Russell, Francis. Sacco and Vanzetti: The Case Resolved. New York: Harper & Row, 1986.
Starrs, James E. "Once More Unto the Breech: The Firearms Evidence in the Sacco and Vanzetti Case Revisited." Journal of Forensic Sciences (April 1986): 630-654; (July 1986): 1050-1078.
Avrich, Paul. Sacco and Vanzetti: The Anarchist Background. Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1991.
Pernicone, Nunzio. "Sacco, Nicola . . . and Bartolomeo Vanzetti. American National Biography. Eds. John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes. 24 vols. New York: Oxford University Press. Pernicone says The Case That Will Not Die is "[t]he most thorough and well-balanced study of the case."
Newby, Richard. Manuscript. Kill Now, Talk Forever: Debating Sacco and Vanzetti. September 1999.
1.Vanzetti & Sacco lied to authorities when questioned and police found guns on them, which made things look even worse than they already were.
2.Sacco and believed that their case was biased.
3.Both men’s arrest had occurred at the same time as the “Red Scare”
4.Sacco & Vanzetti were both involved in labor strikes, politician agitation, and antiwar propaganda
At 3:00 P.M. on April 15,1920, a paymaster and his guard were carrying a factory payroll of $15,776 through the main street of South Braintree, Massachusetts, a small industrial town south of Boston. Two men standing by a fence suddenly pulled out guns and fired on them. The gunmen snatched up the cash boxes dropped by the mortally wounded pair and jumped into a waiting automobile. The bandit gang, numbering four or five in all, sped away, eluding their pursuers. At first this brutal murder and robbery, not uncommon in post-World War I America, aroused only local interest.
Three weeks later, on the evening of May 5, 1920, two Italians, Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, fell into a police trap that had been set for a suspect in the Braintree crime. Although originally not under
Sacco & Vanzetti
suspicion, both men were carrying guns at the time of their arrest and when questioned by the authorities they lied. As a result they were held and eventually indicted for the South Braintree crimes. Vanzetti was also charged with an earlier holdup attempt that had taken place on December 24, 1919, in the nearby town of Bridgewater. These events were to mark the beginning of twentieth-century America's most notorious political trial.
Contrary to the usual practice of Massachusetts courts, Vanzetti was tried first in the summer of 1920 on the lesser of the two charges, the failed Bridgewater robbery. Despite a strong alibi supported by many wit nesses, Vanzetti was found guilty. Most of Vanzetti's witnesses were Italians who spoke English poorly, and their trial testimony, given largely in translation, failed to convince the American jury. Vanzetti's case had also been seriously damaged when he, for fear of revealing his radical activities, did not take the stand in his own defense.
For a first criminal offense in which no one was hurt, Vanzetti received a sentence that was much harsher than usual, ten to fifteen years. This signaled to the two men and their supporters a hostile bias on the part of the authorities that was political in nature and pointed to the need for a new defense strategy in the Braintree trial.
On the advice of the anarchist militant and editor Carlo Tresca, a new legal counsel was brought in--Fred H. Moore, the well-known socialist lawyer from the West. He had collaborated in many labor and Industrial Workers of the World trials and was especially noted for his important role in the celebrated Ettor-Giovannitti case, which came out of the 1912 Lawrence, Massachusetts, textile strike.
The arrest of Sacco and Vanzetti had coincided with the period of the most intense political repression in American history, the "Red Scare" 1919-20. The police trap they had fallen into had been set for a comrade of theirs, suspected primarily because he was a foreign-born radical. While neither Sacco nor Vanzetti had any previous criminal record, they were long recognized by the authorities and their communities as anarchist militants who had been extensively involved in labor strikes, political agitation, and antiwar propaganda and who had had several serious confrontations with the law. They were also known to be dedicated supporters of Luigi Galleani's Italian-language journal Cronaca Sovversiva, the most influential anarchist journal in America, feared by the authorities for its militancy and its acceptance of revolutionary violence.Cronaca, because of its uncompromising antiwar stance, had been forced to halt publication immediately upon the entry of the U.S. government into World War I in 1917; its editors were arrested and at war's end deported to Italy, in 1919. During this period the government's acts of repression, often illegal, were met in turn by the anarchists' attempts to incite social revolution, and at times by retal iatory violence; the authorities and Cronaca were pitted against each other in a bitter social struggle just short of open warfare. A former editor of Cronaca was strongly suspected of having blown himself up during an attentat on Attorney General Palmer's home in Washington, D.C. on June 2, 1919, an act that led Congress to vote funds for anti-radical investigations and launch the career of J. Edgar Hoover as the director of the General Intelligence Division in the Department of Justice. The Sacco-Vanzetti case would become one of his first major responsibilities. In 1920, as the Italian anarchist movement was trying to regroup, Andrea Salsedo, a comrade of Sacco and Vanzetti, was detained and, while in custody of the Department of Justice, hurled to his death. On the night of their arrest, authorities found in Sacco's pocket a draft of a handbill for an anarchist meeting that featured Vanzetti as the main speaker. In this treacherous atmosphere, when initial questioning by the police focused on their radical activities and not on the specifics of the Braintree crime, the two men lied in response. These falsehoods created a "consciousness of guilt" in the minds of the authorities, but the implications of that phrase soon became a central issue in the Sacco-Vanzetti case: Did the lies of the two men signify criminal involvement in the Braintree murder and robbery, as the authorities claimed, or did they signify an understandable attempt to conceal their radicalism and protect their friends during a time of national hysteria concerning foreign-born radicals, as their supporters were to claim?
Their new lawyer, Moore, completely changed the nature of the legal strategy. He decided it was no longer possible to defend Sacco and Vanzetti solely against the criminal charges of murder and robbery. Instead he would have them frankly acknowledge their anarchism in court, try to establish that their arrest and prosecution stemmed from their radical activities, and dispute the prosecution's insistence that only hard, nonpolitical evidence had implicated the two men in common crimes. Moore would try to expose the prosecution's hidden motive: its desire to aid the federal and military authorities in suppressing the Italian anarchist movement to which Sacco and Vanzetti belonged.
Moore's defense of the two men soon became so openly and energetically political that its scope quickly transcended its local roots. He organized public meetings, solicited the support of labor unions, contacted international organizations, initiated new investigations, and distributed tens of thousands of defense pamphlets throughout the United States and the world. Much to the chagrin of some anarchist comrades, Moore would even enlist the aid of the Italian government in the defense of Sacco and Vanzetti, who were still, nominally at least, Italian citizens. Moore's aggressive strategy transformed a little known case into an international cause celebre.
After a hard-fought trial of six weeks, during which the themes of patriotism and radicalism were often sharply contrasted by the prosecution and the defense, the jury found Sacco and Vanzetti guilty of robbery and murder on July 14,1921. This verdict marked, however, only the beginning of a lengthy legal struggle to save the two men. It extended until 1927, during which time the defense made many separate motions, appeals, and petitions to both state and federal courts in an attempt to gain a new trial.
Presented in these motions were evidence of perjury by prosecution witnesses, of illegal activities by the police and the federal authorities, a confession to the Braintree crimes by convicted bank robber Celestino Madeiros, and powerful evidence that identified the gang involved in the Braintree affair as the notorious Morelli Gang. All were ruled on and rejected by Judge Webster Thayer, the same judge who earlier had so severely sentenced Vanzetti. Judge Thayer would even rule on a motion accusing himself of judicial prejudice. His conduct--or misconduct--during the trials and the appeals became another of the controversial issues surrounding the case, but it, too, would prove insufficient to bring about a new trial.
From the beginning, Moore's strategy of politicizing the trial in tradition-bound Massachusetts had been controversial and confrontational. His manner of utilizing mass media was quite modern and effective, but it required enormous sums of money, which he spent too freely in the eyes of many of the anarchist comrades of Sacco and Vanzetti, who had to raise most of it painstakingly from working people, twenty-five and fifty cents at a time. Moore's efforts came to be questioned even by the two defendants, when he, contrary to anarchist ideals, offered a large reward to find the real criminals. As a result, in 1924 he was replaced by a respected Boston lawyer, William Thompson, who assumed control of the legal defense for the last three years of the case. Thompson, a Brahmin who wanted to defend the reputation of Massachusetts law as well as the two men, had no particular sympathy for the ideas of the two men, but he later came to admire them deeply as individuals.
Thompson's defense no longer emphasized the political, but these aspects of the case, once they had been set into motion, could not be stopped and continued to gain momentum. Throughout America liberals and well-meaning people of every sort, troubled and outraged by the injustice of the legal process, joined the more politically radical anarchists, socialists, and communists in protesting the verdict against Sacco and Vanzetti. Felix Frankfurter, then a law professor at Harvard, who did more than any individual to rally "respectable" opinion behind the two men, saw the case as a test of the rule of law itself. Ranged against the defenders of Sacco and Vanzetti were conservatives and patriots who wanted to defend the honor of American justice and to uphold law and order. Many of them came to see these protests as an attack upon the "American way of life" on behalf of two common criminals.
On April 9, 1927, after all recourse in the Massachusetts courts had failed, Sacco and Vanzetti were sentenced to death. By then the dignity and the words of the two men had turned them into powerful symbols of social justice for many throughout the world. Public agitation on their behalf by radicals, workers, immigrants, and Italians had become international in scope, and many demonstrations in the world's great cities--Paris, London, Mexico City, Buenos Aires--protested the unfairness of their trial. This great public pressure, combined with influential behind-the-scenes interventions, finally persuaded the governor of Massachusetts, Alvan T. Fuller, to consider the question of executive clemency for the two men. He appointed an advisory committee, the "Lowell Committee," so-called because its most prominent member was A. Lawrence Lowell, president of Harvard University. The committee, in a decision that was notorious for its loose thinking, concluded that the trial and judicial process had been just "on the whole" and that clemency was not warranted. It only fueled controversy over the fate of the two men, and Harvard, because of Lowell's role, became stigmatized, in the words of one of its alumni, as "Hangman's House." "Not every wop has the switch to the electric chair thrown by the president of Harvard."
Sacco and Vanzetti were executed on August 23, 1927, a date that became a watershed in twentieth-century American history. It became the last of a long train of events that had driven any sense of utopian vision out of American life. The workings of American democracy now seemed to many Americans as flawed and unjust as many of the older societies of the world, no longer embodying any bright ideal, but once again serving the interests of the rich and the powerful. American intellectuals were powerfully moved by the case. In his epochal masterpiece, USA, John Dos Passos raged in one "Camera Eye" episode,
All right you have won ... America our nation has been beaten by strangers who have turned our language inside out ... they have built the electric chair and hired the executioner to throw the switch . . . all right we are two nations . . .
while Edmund Wilson coolly observed that the Sacco-Vanzetti case
revealed the whole anatomy of American life with all its classes, professions, and points of view and all their relations, and it raised almost every fundamental question of our political and social system.
Up to the present, most writers have focused their attention on the legal, social, and cultural dimensions of the Sacco-Vanzetti case. The legal dimension, in particular, has been rather exhaustively considered, and its two major issues--the fairness of the trial and the innocence or guilt of the two men--still dominates most of the literature about the case.
Earlier opinion almost unanimously felt that the two men were innocent and had been unjustly executed, but later revisionist points of view emerged: some totally, if implausibly, defending the verdict as correct; others more plausibly arguing that, based on new ballistics tests and words by Carlo Tresca and Fred Moore, Sacco was guilty, Vanzetti innocent. No single account nor any ballistics test has been able to put all doubts about innocence or guilt completely to rest, despite the two most recent books that have claimed to have done so, while arriving at almost directly opposite conclusions.
Surprisingly, although the Sacco-Vanzetti case is considered the political case par excellence, few accounts have taken the politics of the two men--their anarchism--very seriously and fewer still are knowledgeable about it. As in all great political trials, the figures of Sacco and Vanzetti have been transformed into passionate symbols, symbols that are often rather understood. A full and accurate account of the political dimension--and, in particular, the anarchist dimension--still remains to be written. The importance of the Sacco-Vanzetti case remains not only because it called into question some of the fundamental assump- tions of American society, but because it calls into question some of the fundamental assumptions of American history.
Sacco and Vanzetti Put to Death Early This Morning
Walk to Death Calmly Sacco Cries 'Long Live Anarchy'; Vanzetti Insists on His Innocence Warden Can Only Whisper Much Affected as the Long-Delayed Execution Is Carried Out Madeiros First to Die Machine Guns Bristle, Search Lights Glare During Execution -- Crowds Kept Far From Prison From a Staff Correspondent of THE NEW YORK TIMES
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Four Final Legal Pleas Made to the Governor that Failed to Delay Execution of Death Sentence
Governor Fuller Rejects Last-Minute Pleas for Delay After a Day of Legal Moves and Demonstrations: Fuller Hears Petitioners: Governor Is Under Steady Pressure Until the Final Hour: Women Last to Appeal: Mrs. Sacco and Miss Vanzetti Leave Him and at 11:03 P.M. He Gives Decision: Defense Tried Every Plea: Stone, Taft, Holmes and Other Federal as Well as State Judges Refused to Act
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Charlestown State Prison, Mass., Tuesday, Aug. 23 -- Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti died in the electric chair early this morning, carrying out the sentence imposed on them for the South Braintree murders of April 15, 1920.
Sacco marched to the death chair at 12:11 and was pronounced lifeless at 12:19.
Vanzetti entered the execution room at 12:20 and was declared dead at 12:26.
To the last they protested their innocence, and the efforts of many who believed them guiltless proved futile, although they fought a legal and extra legal battle unprecedented in the history of American jurisprudence.
With them died Celestino f. Madeiros, the young Portuguese, who won seven respites when he "confessed" that he was present at the time of the South Braintree murder and that Sacco and Vanzetti were not with him. He died for the murder of a bank cashier.
Defense Works as They Die
The six years of legal battle on behalf of the condemned men was still on as they were walking to the chair and after the current had been applied, for a lawyer was on the way by airplane to ask Federal Judge George W. Anderson in Williamstown for a writ of habeas corpus.
The men walked to the chair without company of clergy, father Michael Murphy, prison chaplain, waited until a minute before twelve and then left the prison.
Sacco cried, "Long live anarchy," as the prison guards strapped him into the chair and applied the electrodes. He added a plea that his family be cared for.
Vanzetti at the last made a short address, declaring his innocence.
Madeiros walked to the chair in a semi-stupor caused by overeating. He shrugged his shoulders and made no farewell statement.
Warden William Hendry was almost overcome by the execution of the men, especially that of Vanzetti, who shook his hand warmly and thanked him for all his kindness.
The Warden was barely able to pronounce above a whisper the solemn formula required by law:
"Under the law I now pronounce you dead, the sentence of the court having been legally carried out."
The words were not heard by the official witnesses.
After Governor Fuller had informed counsel for the two condemned radicals that he could take no action, their attorney, Michael A. Musmanno, made a dash to the prison in an automobile and tried to make another call on Sacco and Vanzetti, but Warden Hendry refused, as the legal witnesses were just about to pass into the execution chamber.
The Witnesses Gather
The witnesses gathered in the Warden's office an hour before midnight. They were instructed as to the part they would take.
W. E. Playfair of the Associated Press was the only reporter permitted to attend the execution, as the State law designated one representative of the press as a witness. The assignment was handed to him six years ago after Sacco and Vanzetti had been convicted in Dedham for the murder of William Parmenter and Alexander Berardelli.
At 11:38 all but the official witnesses were asked to leave the Warden's office. Led by Warden Hendry the official witnesses walked toward the rotunda of the prison. He rapped three times on the inner door. A key grated in the lock. Just then Mr. Musmanno dashed in breathlessly.
"Please, Warden," he said, touching Mr. Hendry on the arm. "A last request."
His voice was faint and broken.
"No, no," the Warden said, sternly, slightly unnerved at the last-minute interruption. Mr. Musmanno turned away, weeping. He had refused to accept as a farewell gift a book from Vanzetti because he felt that the men would be saved.
"I only tried to see them the last time and he refused me," said Musmanno through tears.
The witnesses walked through the prison and entered the death house with the Warden. They took their places and then Madeiros was escorted into the chamber. He walked without support, attended by two guards, one at each side. He was strapped in the chair at 12:03 and at 12:09 he was pronounced dead.
He was officially pronounced dead by Dr. George Burgess MacGrath, Medical Examiner of Norfolk County, and Dr. Howard A. Lothrop, Surgeon-in-Chief of the Boston City Hospital. Stethoscopes were also applied to Madeiros's chest by Dr. Joseph J. MacLaughlin, the prison physician, and Colonel Frank P. Williams, Surgeon-General of the Massachusetts National Guard. The same procedure was followed in the case of Sacco and Vanzetti.
Sacco, whose cell was next to that of Madeiros, was the next. A guard opened his door. Sacco was ready. His face was pale from his long confinement. Without a word he took his place between the guards. Walking slowly but steadily, he traversed the seventeen steps into the death chamber. He required no support and sat down in the chair. As the guards were finishing their work Sacco cried out in Italian:"Long live anarchy."
In English he shouted: "Farewell, my wife and child, and all my friends!"
He has two children, Dante, 14, and Inez, 6, but his difficulty in speaking English and the excitement of the occasion were responsible for the slip."Good evening, gentlemen," he said, jerkily. Then came his last words: "Farewell, mother."
Warden Hendry waited until Sacco apparently was satisfied that there was no more to say. Then he gave the signal. Sacco was pronounced dead at 12:19:02.
Vanzetti's cell door was opened. He, too, was calm. He shook hands with the two guards and kept step with them. He had four more steps to the death chair than Sacco. On entering the chamber he spoke to the Warden, shaking his hand and saying:"I want to thank you for everything you have done for me, Warden."Vanzetti spoke in English. His voice was calm throughout. There was not the slightest tremor or quaver.Then, addressing the witnesses, he said:"I wish to tell you that I am innocent, and that I never committed any crime but sometimes some sin."They were almost the same words he addressed to Judge Webster Thayer in the Dedham courtroom last April when he was sentenced to die during the week of April 10, the sentence having been deferred because the Governor's advisory committee was working in the case."I thank you for everything you have done for me," he went on calmly and slowly. "I am innocent of all crime, not only of this, but all. I am an innocent man."Then he spoke his last words:"I wish to forgive some people for what they are now doing to me."Vanzetti stepped into the chamber at 12:20:30. At 12:26:55 he was declared dead.
Warden Broke News to Them
Before midnight Warden Hendry told reporters how he broke the news to Sacco and Vanzetti.
"I simply told them that it was my painful duty to convey to them the information that they were to die shortly after midnight," he said. "I told them that their lawyers had informed me that they had done all they could and failed."Father Michael J. Murphy, Prison Chaplain, again offered the men his services, but they refused his offer of the last rites. Earlier in the day, the Chaplain visited the men, and on coming from the death house said:"I offered them consolation of religion, but all three preferred to die as they had lived, outside the pale. They can call on me at any time before the execution, and I will hear their confessions and give them communion."Warden Hendry received two telegrams, one addressed to himself, which he did not make public, and another addressed to Sacco. After reading the Sacco telegram, the Warden refused to make known its contents to the prisoner, explaining that he did not know the writer.
The telegram read:
"Take heart, men. It is justice that dies. Sacco and Vanzetti will live in history." It was signed Epstein and sent from New York.The police, despite their elaborate precautions, had a surprise about an hour before midnight, when it was discovered that some one had penetrated the lines thrown around the prison for blocks and made his way to the very entrance of the Warden's office, where he had passed an envelope to one of the regular guards and strolled off.
The envelope contained a two-page letter, the contents of which the Warden withheld. An investigation was begun at once to learn how the mysterious messenger had gained entrance to the guarded area.The first of the legal witnesses to arrive at the prison were Dr. Joseph I. McLaughlin, the prison physician, and Dr. Edward A. Lathrop, a surgeon of the Boston City Hospital. They reached the prison at 9:40 P.M.
Electricians Test Chair
Warden Hendry at 9 P. M. made his second visit to the death house. He informed newspaper men on his return to his office that he had found the trio resigned to their fate. Sacco requested him to have his body sent to his home in Italy. The Warden declared that they showed no change regarding their religious viewpoint and entertained the belief that they would go to the chair without spiritual aid.At 10 P.M. Granville Greenough, chief electrician, and John Mullaney, assistant electrician made a final test of the electric chair and found it to be in good working order.
Police Break Up Crowds
Superintendent Crowley's men broke up a meeting of nearly 500 Italians in Salem Street, in the North End, as midnight approached. They threatened to hold a demonstration in front of the Bunker Hill Monument, and also threatened to hold a protest meeting before the State House and on the Common.Mounted policemen charged a crowd of several thousand that gathered just outside the roped-off area surrounding the jail at the hour of execution. Two hundred Sacco and Vanzetti sympathizers had congregated in Thompson Square to join a parade out to Bunker Hill. Police men afoot were unable to control the excited crowd. The charge of the mounted police drove men, women and children back in a wave. Several persons were crushed. Two women were arrested, charge with sauntering and loitering.More than 1,000 cars were blocked in a traffic jam along Main Street, obstructing the passage of pedestrians and police. The street became a tangled mass of automobiles and other vehicles. There was a terrific din as policemen shouted orders, the iron-shod hoofs of their mounts clattered over pavements and hundreds of automobilists sounded their sirens continuously.Charlestown prison was armed and garrisoned as if to withstand a siege. Machine guns, gas and tear bombs, not to mention pistols and riot guns, constituted the armament and to man it were 500 patrolmen, detectives and State constables besides the usual prison guard.They took their posts at 7 o'clock, cutting off Rutheford Avenue and other streets approaching the long, gloomy brick walls of the prison. No one was allowed to pass either on foot or in vehicles unless on official business.A truck filled with State police jangled and clanged along the cobblestones and into the glare of light, about the entrance to the prison. Forty mounted policemen clamped over the Prison Point Bridge. All reported to Captain Goff, then deployed down streets and alleys.
Barricade Prison Entrance
The south and west walls of the death house and cell blocks facing on the Boston & Maine Railroad yards were lined with machine guns and searchlights in clusters of three at twenty-yard intervals. The powerful lights flooded the railroad yards in a brilliant glare that accentuated the pitchy blackness of shadows. Across the tracks marine patrol boats could be seen moving slowly up and down the river in the region of the prison. Each of the police vessels was equipped with flares and searchlights that played along the gloomy prison walls.From the comparative gloom of the cement walk along the siding came the click, click of horses hoofs as mounted patrolmen rode up and down. A prison entrance facing on the railroad yards was heavily barricaded with ladders, doors and other lumber. At 11 P. M. searchlights installed by the police on the roof of the State House were turned on. Their brilliant rays were kept sweeping up and down the adjacent streets. Twenty policemen armed with riot guns were stationed at intervals between the searchlights. It was the first time in Massachusetts's history that such a scene had been enacted.Chapman Street, Austin Street, Miller Street, as well as Rutherford Avenue were completely cut off as far as automobile or pedestrian traffic was concerned, but those living in houses in the district, warned by the police not to leave them, leaned out of windows. On other houses occasional sweeps of searchlights revealed entire families, including babies in arms, perched on roof tops.In Main Street, the street nearest the prison on which traffic was permitted, a throng circulated. At a late hour adherents of Sacco and Vanzetti were not in evidence. Most of the men and women chattered excitedly, but without attempting to make any sort of demonstration. Rather, they were merely curious and interested in the display of martial power. Passengers of elevated trains crowded to windows on the side near the prison. Some who tried to alight were urged not to by the police.
All Streets Are Cut Off
All streets leading toward the sprawling collection of steel barred brick and cement buildings were closed off at 8 P. M. and no one could get within blocks of the entrance. Police stood in little knots. Inside the area of restriction was an entire platoon of mounted policemen, their horses stamping restlessly in the yellow glare of street, lights. For the first time in the records of the police department, roll call was taken on post instead of in station houses.
Persons living within the restricted area were kept as closely to their houses as during an air raid. When they ventured to their doors they were told to stay inside unless their business was extremely urgent and were warned that they might have difficulty getting back. Gasoline filling stations and small shops were ordered to close and stay closed until tomorrow.Captain N. J. Goff of the Charlsestown Station was in charge of police arrangements at the prison. All Boston police, State Constabulary and special detectives assigned to duty there reported to him for instructions. Despite the elaborate police precautions, windows of the officers room of the prison, which was given over to newspaper men, were nailed down and blinds drawn as a precaution in case some one should "try to throw something in," according to Captain Goss.A weird and martial picture was presented when motion picture photographers held aloft flaming calcium torches, lighting up a passing detail of mounted State police with a ghastly flicker and silhouetting their silent figures against the grim gray of the prison walls.
Last Visit to the Men
Mrs. Rose Sacco and Miss Luigia Vanzetti called three times at the death house during the day. Their last visit was at 7 o'clock in the evening, when they remained five minutes and departed weeping. Gardiner Jackson and Aldini Felicani of the Defense Committee, who accompanied the women, arranged with Warden Hendry for the transfer of the bodies to the relatives.
Mrs. Consuelo Aruda of New Bedford, sister of Madeiros, was the first of the relations of the condemned men to go to the prison. Madeiros was worried because his mother did not visit him Sunday. His sister told him that his mother had had a breakdown and could not come to Boston. Madeiros was much affected by the news of his mother's condition. The two spoke for an hour in Portuguese and the young woman left in tears with a last message for her mother.
Mrs. Sacco and Miss Vanzetti arrived at the prison for the first time in the day at 11 A. M. Dr. Joseph I. McLaughlin, the prison physician was in the death house at the time and Vanzetti introduced his sister to him. The two women were downcast. They pressed their faces close to the heavily barred cell doors under the eyes of the guards.An hour passed and the interview ended with tearful farewells. Farewell embraces were not permitted. There were handclasps and faces were pressed to the cell doors. The bars are an inch thick and an inch apart and heavily meshed.Madeiros at noon seemed quite and smoked many cigarettes. Vanzetti worked on a letter to his father. Sacco paced up and down his cell. But when Michael A. Musmanno of defense counsel called on Sacco and Vanzetti at 2:30 P. M. he found them depressed and ready for death. They depressed and ready for death. They told him they were convinced that no power on earth would save them. Sacco begged to see his wife again. Vanzetti regretted that his sister had come from Italy to be with him in his last moments of agony. He was sorry that her last memories of him would be clouded with knowledge of the gray prison, the death cell and the electric chair.At 3:10 P. M. the two women returned to the death house in an automobile driven by Miss Edith Jackson of New Haven. Mrs. Sacco, who has always presented a tearless and composed face to the public, wept for the first time as she approached the gate. Miss Vanzetti's arm supported her as the two passed into the death house for the second time in the day. They greeted the men again through the wire mesh and remained an hour. Sacco spoke of his children and Vanzetti of his old home in Italy. The women remained an hour and they were weeping when they stepped into the automobile.
Joseph F. Linharen, a lawyer, of Somerville, called at the prison on behalf of Madeiros and asked permission to see him. The warden refused, after calling up the State House on the telephone.
Thompson Calls on Men
William G. Thompson, former counsel for Sacco and Vanzetti, called on them late in the day. Mr. Thompson had returned from the Summer home at South Tamworth, N. H., at the request of Vanzetti and visited both men at the death house. He spent nearly an hour there. Then he left he said that Sacco and Vanzetti had reasserted that they were absolutely innocent of the South Braintree murders. He declared also that there was no truth in the report that he had been offered an opportunity to inspect the files of the Department of Justice and had refused.
The conversation with Vanzetti, said Mr. Thompson, was partly on the man's political and philosophical beliefs. He declined to discuss the report of Governor Fuller or that of the Advisory Committee other than to say that, having read both documents with care, he found nothing in them which altered his opinion "that these two men are innocent and that their trial was in a very real sense unfair."Mr. Thompson left, and half and hour later Mrs. Sacco and Miss Vanzetti arrived for their third and final visit to the condemned men. They were in an automobile with Gardner Jackson and Felicani asked Warden Hendry for permission to have the women to see their unfortunate relatives for the last time. The request was granted. During the final visit, which lasted five minutes, Mr. Jackson and Mr. Felicani arranged for the bodies of the two men to be turned over to Mrs. Sacco and Miss Vanzetti.
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