Sacco and Vanzetti

Sacco and Vanzetti
Bartolomeo Vanzetti (left) and Nicola Sacco in handcuffs

Ferdinando Nicola Sacco (April 22, 1891 – August 23, 1927) and Bartolomeo Vanzetti (June 11, 1888 – August 23, 1927) were anarchists who were convicted of murdering two men during a 1920 armed robbery in South Braintree, Massachusetts, United States. After a controversial trial and a series of appeals, the two Italian immigrants were executed on August 23, 1927.[1]

There is a highly politicized dispute over their guilt or innocence, as well as whether or not the trials were fair.[2][3] The dispute focuses on contradictory evidence. As a result, historians have not reached a consensus.



Sacco and Vanzetti were accused of the murders of Frederick Parmenter, a paymaster, and Alessandro Berardelli, a security guard, at the Slater-Morrill Shoe Company, on Pearl Street in Braintree, Massachusetts, during the afternoon of April 15, 1920. Robbers had approached the two men as they were transporting the company payroll in two large steel boxes to the main factory. Berardelli, who was armed with a .38-caliber, five-shot, nickel-plated Harrington & Richardson revolver, was cut down as he reached for his gun on his hip; Parmenter, who was unarmed, was shot twice: once in the chest and a second time - fatally - in the back as he attempted to flee.[4] The robbers seized the payroll boxes and escaped by climbing into a waiting getaway car, a dark blue Buick, which raced off with the robbers firing wildly at company workers nearby.[5]

A coroner's report and subsequent ballistic investigation revealed that six bullets removed from the murdered mens' bodies were of .32 Automatic (ACP) caliber. Five of these .32-caliber bullets were all fired from a single automatic pistol, a .32-caliber Savage Model 1907, which used a particularly narrow-grooved barrel rifling with a right-hand twist.[6][7] Two of the bullets had struck and mortally wounded Parmenter (the second shot being the fatal one), while the other four .32 bullets had struck Berardelli. One bullet removed from Berardelli's body, which was determined by the coroner to be the fatal bullet that had killed the guard, was also of .32 Automatic caliber, but this .32 bullet exhibited rifling marks with wide rifling grooves and a left-hand rifling twist consistent with having been fired from a .32 Colt Model 1903 automatic pistol.[8][9][10] Four .32 Automatic brass shell casings were found at the murder scene, one of them a relatively obsolescent Winchester cartridge loading that had been discontinued from production some years earlier.[11] Two days after the robbery, police located the robbers' getaway car, a dark blue Buick; several 12-gauge shotgun shells were found on the ground nearby.[12]

Police suspicions regarding the Braintree robbery-murder and an earlier attempted robbery on December 24, 1919 in Bridgewater, Massachusetts, centered on local Italian anarchists.[13] While neither Sacco nor Vanzetti had a criminal record, the authorities knew them as radical militants and adherents of Luigi Galleani. Police connected the crimes and the recent activities of the Galleanist anarchist movement, speculating that the robbers were motivated by the need to finance more bombings.

On May 5, 1920, Sacco and Vanzetti along with two other men appeared at a garage in Brockton, Massachusetts to pick up a car that police believed may have been used in the robberies. The garage had been staked out earlier by the police, and both Sacco and Vanzetti were arrested a short time after fleeing the scene by jumping aboard a streetcar. In addition to the two murders, Vanzetti was further charged with the theft of $15,776.73 from the company.[14]

Vanzetti was first tried for the armed robbery in Bridgewater and convicted. Both men were then tried for the Braintree crimes and convicted. After several failed appeals over six years, Sacco and Vanzetti were executed in the electric chair on August 23, 1927. Celestino Madeiros (also spelled Medeiros), who had confessed to the Braintree murders, was executed the same day for a different murder.


Sacco was a shoe-maker born in Torremaggiore, Foggia province, Puglia region, Italy, who emigrated to the United States at the age of seventeen.[15] Vanzetti was a fishmonger born in Villafalletto, Cuneo province, Piemonte region, Italy, who arrived in the United States at age twenty. Both men left Italy for the U.S. in 1908,[16] although they did not meet until a 1917 strike.[17]

Sacco (left) and Vanzetti (right)

The men were followers of Luigi Galleani, an Italian anarchist who advocated revolutionary violence, including bombing and assassination. Galleani published Cronaca Sovversiva (Subversive Chronicle), a periodical that advocated violent revolution, and an explicit bomb-making manual called La Salute è in voi! (Health is in you!). At the time, Italian anarchists  – in particular the Galleanist group  – ranked at the top of the United States government's list of dangerous enemies.[18] Since 1914, they had been identified as suspects in several violent bombings and assassination attempts, including an attempted mass poisoning.[19][20][21] Publication of Cronaca Sovversiva was suppressed in July 1918, and the government deported Galleani and eight of his closest associates on June 24, 1919.[22]

Remaining Galleanists either sought to avoid arrest by becoming inactive or going underground, or remained active. For three years, perhaps 60 Galleanists waged an intermittent campaign of violence against U.S. politicians, judges, and other federal and local officials, especially those who had supported deportation of alien radicals. Among the dozen or more violent acts was the bombing of Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer's home on June 2, 1919. In that incident, one Galleanist, Carlo Valdonoci, a former editor of Cronaca Sovversiva and an associate of Sacco and Vanzetti, was killed. The bomb intended for Attorney General Palmer exploded in Valdonoci's hands. Radical pamphlets entitled "Plain Words" signed "The Anarchist Fighters" were found at the scene of this and several other midnight bombings that night.[22]

Several Galleanist associates were suspected or interrogated about their roles in the bombing incidents. Two days before Sacco and Vanzetti were arrested, a Galleanist named Andrea Salsedo fell to his death from the Justice Department's Bureau of Investigation (BOI) offices on 15 Park Row in New York City. Salsedo worked in the Canzani Printshop in Brooklyn, to where federal agents traced the "Plain Words" leaflet.

People speculated on whether or not Salsedo committed suicide after interrogation by the Bureau of Investigation, or was pushed out of the window by the only other occupant in the locked room, Roberto Elia, a fellow Galleanist.[23] Roberto Elia himself was later deposed in the inquiry, and testified that Salsedo had committed suicide for fear of betraying the others, portraying himself as the 'strong' one who had resisted.[24] According to one anarchist writer, Carlo Tresca, Elia changed his story later, stating that Federal agents had thrown Salsedo out the window.[25] Whatever caused Salsedo's death, the outcome was a disaster for the Bureau, which had lost a potential court witness and source of information.

The Galleanists knew that Salsedo had been held by the Bureau of Investigation and may have talked to authorities. Rumors swirled in the anarchist community that Salsedo had made important disclosures concerning the bomb plot of June 2. The Galleanist plotters realized that they would have to go underground and dispose of any incriminating evidence. After their arrest, Sacco and Vanzetti were found to have correspondence with several Galleanists; one letter warned Sacco to destroy all mail after reading.

Arrests, Indictment, and Anarchist Reaction

On April 16, one day after the robbery-murders, the Federal Immigration Service called local police chief Michael E. Stewart to discuss Galleanist and anarchist Ferruccio Coacci, whom he had arrested on their behalf two years earlier. Coacci had succeeded in postponing his deportation until April 15, 1920, the day of the Braintree holdup. The FIS asked Stewart to investigate Coacci's excuse that he had failed to report for deportation on April 15 because his wife had fallen ill. Stewart sent two policemen to Coacci's house on April 11.

They found Coacci's wife in good health.[26] Authorities accepted his alibi for the robbery, as he was able to produce a timecard showing he was at work on April 15, 1920. At his own request, Coacci refused an offer from immigration authorities to extend his deportation by a week, and he was removed for immediate deportion from the United States on April 18, 1920, leaving his family behind.[27] On April 20, Chief Stewart and officer Albert Brouillard of the Massachusetts State Police returned to the Coacci residence, where they found only one person inside, a "Mike Boda", who stated that he was renting the house and had been sharing it with the Coacci family.[28] 'Mike Boda' was in fact Mario Buda, the chief Galleanist bombmaker and a long-time anarchist.[29] Boda offered to show Stewart and Brouillard around the home, and volunteered the fact that Coacci's wife had left in a hurry.[30] When asked if Coacci owned a gun, Boda stated that Coacci owned a .32 Savage automatic pistol, which he kept in the kitchen.[31] A search of the kitchen revealed no gun, but Chief Stewart found a manufacturer's technical diagram for a Model 1907 .32 Savage automatic pistol - the exact pistol type and caliber used to shoot Parmenter and Berardelli - in a kitchen drawer.[32][33] Stewart then asked Boda if he himself owned a gun, and Boda produced a .32-caliber Spanish-made automatic pistol.[34] Boda also related that he owned a 1914 Oakland automobile, which was being repaired.[35] From tracks found near the abandoned Buick getaway car, Chief Stewart surmised that two cars had been used in the getaway, and that Boda's car might have been the second car.[36]

When Stewart discovered that Coacci had worked for both the plants that had been robbed, he returned with the Bridgewater police, but 'Mike' Boda (aka Mario Buda) had since disappeared, along with his possessions and furniture.[37]

The police had instructed the Johnson garage, where the impounded cars were held, to notify them when the owners came to collect the 1914 Oakland. On May 5, 1920 Mario Buda arrived at the garage with three other men, later identified as Sacco, Vanzetti and Riccardo Orciani. The four men knew each other well; Buda would later call Sacco and Vanzetti "the best friends I had in America."[38] Police were alerted, but the men sensed a trap and fled. Buda escaped on a motorcycle with Orciani. He later resurfaced in Italy in 1928. Sacco and Vanzetti jumped onto a streetcar, but were tracked down and soon arrested. When searched by police, Sacco was found to have an Italian passport, anarchist literature, a loaded .32 Colt Model 1903 automatic pistol, and twenty-one .32 Automatic cartridges in his possession, several of these being of the same obsolescent type as the empty Winchester .32 casing found at the crime scene.[39] Vanzetti had four 12-gauge shotgun shells[40] and a five-shot nickle-plated .38-caliber Harrington & Richardson revolver, the latter identical to that carried by Berardelli, the slain Braintree guard, but which had gone missing after the robbery.[41] Under questioning, the pair denied any connection to anarchists.

Following the indictment for murder of Sacco and Vanzetti for the Braintree robbery, fellow Galleanists and anarchists in the United States and abroad began a campaign of violent retaliation. On September 16, 1920, two days after the mens' indictment, Mario Buda is believed to have left a time-delay dynamite bomb packed with heavy iron sash-weights in a horse-drawn cart on Wall Street, which then exploded, killing 38 people in what would become known as the Wall Street Bombing.[42][13] In 1921, a booby trap bomb mailed to the American ambassador in Paris exploded, wounding his valet.[43] For the next six years, bombs exploded at other American embassies the world over.[44]


First trial

Only Vanzetti was tried for the attempted robbery and attempted murder in Bridgewater, which occurred on Christmas Eve, December 24, 1919. Others arrested supported their alibis with documentation, like Sacco's time-card proving he was at work.[45] In 1927, advocates for Sacco and Vanzetti charged that this case was brought first because evidence against Vanzetti in the Braintree robbery was weak and a conviction for the Bridgewater crimes would help convict him for the Braintree crimes. The prosecution countered that the timing was driven by the schedules of different courts that handled the cases.[46]

On the recommendation of supporters, Vanzetti chose to be represented by John P. Vahey, an experienced defense attorney, rather than accept counsel appointed by the court.[45][47] Frederick Katzmann, Norfolk and Plymouth County District Attorney, prosecuted the case.[48] The presiding judge was Webster Thayer, who was already assigned to the court before this case was scheduled. A few weeks earlier he had given a speech to new American citizens decrying Bolshevism and anarchism's threat to American institutions. He supported the suppression of radical speech.[45][49][50][51]

The trial began on June 22, 1920. The prosecution presented several witnesses who put Vanzetti at the scene of the attempted robbery. Their descriptions varied, especially with respect to the shape and length of Vanzetti’s mustache.[52] Physical evidence included a shotgun shell retrieved at the scene of the crime and several shells found on Vanzetti when he was arrested.[53]

The defense produced sixteen witnesses—all Italians from Plymouth who testified that at the time of the attempted robbery they had bought eels for the Christmas holiday from Vanzetti, in accordance with their Christmas traditions. Such details reinforced the difference between the Italians and the Yankee jurors. Some testified in imperfect English, others through an interpreter whose failure to speak the same dialect of Italian as the witnesses hampered their effectiveness. On cross examination, the prosecution found it easy to make the witnesses appear confused about dates. A boy who testified admitted rehearsing his testimony. "You learned it just like a piece at school?," the prosecutor asked. "Sure," he replied.[54] The defense tried to rebut the eyewitnesses with testimony that Vanzetti always wore his mustache in a distinctive long style, but the prosecution rebutted their testimony.[55]

Though the defense case went badly, Vanzetti did not testify in his own defense.[56] Vanzetti, in 1927, said his lawyers opposed putting him on the stand.[45] That same year, Vahey told the governor that Vanzetti had refused his advice to testify.[57] A lawyer who assisted Vahey in the defense, decades later, said that the defense attorneys left the choice to Vanzetti but warned that it would be difficult to prevent the prosecution from using cross examination to impeach his character based on his political beliefs and that Vanzetti chose not to testify after consulting with Sacco.[45] Herbert Ehrmann, who later joined the defense team, wrote many years later that the dangers of putting Vanzetti on the stand were very real.[58] Another legal analysis of the case concluded that the defense would have little to lose from Vanzetti's testimony, since his conviction looked certain given how poorly his alibi witnesses had performed under cross-examination. That analysis deemed the defense overall "unconvincing" and "not closely argued or vigorously fought."[59] Vanzetti complained during his sentencing on April 9, 1927, for the Braintree crimes that Vahey "sold me for thirty golden money like Judas sold Jesus Christ" and charged that Vahey conspired with the prosecutor "to agitate still more the passion of the juror, the prejudice of the juror" towards "people of our principles, against the foreigner, against slackers."[45][60]

On July 1, 1920, the jury deliberated for five hours and returned guilty verdicts on both counts, attempted robbery and attempted murder.[45] Before sentencing, Thayer learned that during deliberations the jury had tampered with the shells found on Vanzetti at the time of his arrest to determine if the shot they contained was of sufficient size to kill a man.[45][61] Since that prejudiced the jury's verdict on the attempted murder charge, Thayer ignored that conviction. On August 16, 1920, he sentenced Vanzetti for attempted robbery to a term of 12 to 15 years in prison, the maximum sentence allowed.[45][62][63] An assessment of Thayer's conduct of the trial said "his stupid rulings as to the admissibility of conversations are about equally divided" between the two sides and thus provided no evidence of partiality.[64]

The defense raised only minor objections in an appeal that was not accepted.[65] A few years later, Vahey joined Katzmann’s law firm.[66]

Second trial

Norfolk County Courthouse, Dedham, MA
site of the second trial

Sacco and Vanzetti both stood trial in Dedham, Massachusetts, for the South Braintree robbery and murders, with Webster Thayer, who had asked to be assigned the trial, again presiding. Anticipating a possible bomb attack, authorities had the Dedham courtroom outfitted with cast-iron shutters painted to appear wooden and heavy, sliding steel doors.[67][68] Each day during the trial, the courthouse was placed under heavy police security, and Sacco and Vanzetti were escorted in and out of the courtroom by armed guards.[67][68]

The Commonwealth relied on evidence that Sacco was absent from work on the day of the murder; that the defendants were in the neighborhood of the scene of the Braintree robber-murder scene on the morning when it occurred, being identified as having been there seen separately and also together; that the Buick getaway car was also in the neighborhood and that Vanzetti was near and in it; that Sacco was seen near the scene of the murder before it occurred and also was seen to shoot Berardelli after he fell and that that shot caused his death; that used shell casings were left at the scene of the murder, some of which could have been found to have been discharged from a .32 pistol afterwards found on Sacco, and that a cap was found at the scene of the murder, which witnesses identified as a cap that could have been formerly worn by Sacco.[69] Among the more important witnesses called by the prosecution was salesman Carlos E. Goodridge, who stated that as the getaway car raced within twenty-five feet of him, one of the car's occupants pointed a gun in his direction, whom he identified as being Sacco.[70]

Both men offered alibis backed by several witnesses. Vanzetti testified that he had been selling fish at the time of the Braintree robbery. Sacco testified that he had been in Boston applying for a passport at the Italian consulate. He stated he had lunched in Boston's North end with several friends, each of whom testified on his behalf. Prior to the trial, Sacco's lawyer, Fred Moore, went to great lengths to contact the consulate employee Sacco said he had talked with on the afternoon of the crime. Once contacted in Italy, the clerk said he remembered Sacco because of the unusually large passport photo he presented. The clerk also remembered the date, April 15, 1920, but he refused to return to America to testify citing his ill health. Instead he executed a sworn deposition that was read aloud in court and questioned by the prosecution, which argued Sacco's visit to the consulate could not be established with certainty. The prosecution presented witnesses who said that Sacco's lunch companions were fellow anarchists.

Much of the trial focused on material evidence, notably bullets, guns, and a cap. Prosecution witnesses testified that Bullet III, the .32-caliber bullet that had fatally wounded Berardelli, was from a discontinued Winchester .32 Auto cartridge loading so obsolete that the only bullets similar to it that anyone could locate to make comparisons were those found in Sacco's pockets.[71] Prosecutor Frederick Katzmann decided to participate in a forensic bullet examination using bullets test-fired from Sacco's .32 Colt Automatic after the defense arranged for such tests. Sacco, saying he had nothing to hide, had allowed his gun to be test-fired, with experts for both sides present, during the trial's second week. The prosecution then matched bullets fired through the gun to those taken from one of the slain guards. In court, District Attorney Katzmann called two forensic gun expert witnesses, Capt. Charles Van Amburgh of Springfield Armory and Capt. William Proctor of the Massachusetts State Police, who testified that they believed that of the four bullets recovered from Berardelli's body, Bullet III - the fatal bullet - exhibited rifling marks consistent with those found on bullets fired from Sacco's .32 Colt Automatic pistol.[9] Capt. Proctor would later sign an affidavit stating that he could not positively identify Sacco's .32 Colt as the only pistol could have fired Bullet III, meaning that Bullet III could have been fired from any of the 300,000 .32 Colt Automatic pistols then in circulation.[72][73] In rebuttal, two defense forensic gun experts would later testify that Bullet III did not match any of the test bullets from Sacco's Colt.[74] Noting all the witnesses to the shooting testified that they saw one gunman shoot Berardelli four times, the defense questioned how only one of four bullets found in the deceased guard could have come from Sacco's Colt.[9]

Vanzetti was being tried under Massachusett's felony-murder rule, and the prosecution sought to implicate him in the South Braintree robbery by the testimony of several witnesses, one of which testified that he was in the getaway car, and others who stated they saw Vanzetti in the vicinity of the South Braintree factory around the time of the robbery.[75] There was no direct evidence tying Vanzetti's .38 nickel-plated Harrington & Richardson five-shot revolver to the crime scene, except for the fact that it was identical in type and appearance to that carried by the slain guard Berardelli, and which had gone missing after the shooting.[69] It was undisputed that all six of the bullets recovered from both the murder victims were of .32 Automatic caliber and had been fired from at least two different automatic pistols, while Vanzetti carried a .38-caliber revolver.[76][77]

The prosecution claimed Vanzetti's .38 revolver had originally belonged to the slain Berardelli, and that it had been stolen during the robbery. No one testified to seeing anyone take the gun, but Berardelli had an empty holster and no gun on him when he was found.[78] Additionally, witnesses to the payroll shooting had described Berardelli as reaching for his gun on his hip when he was cut down by pistol fire by the robbers.[79]

District Attorney Katzmann pointe out that Vanzetti had lied at the time of his arrest when making statements about the .38 revolver found in his possession. He claimed that the revolver was his own, and that he carried it for self-protection, yet he incorrectly described it to police as a six-shot revolver instead of the five cartridge chambers it actually contained.[80] Vanzetti also told police that he had purchased only one box of cartridges for the gun, all of the same make, yet his revolver was loaded with five .38 cartridges of varying brands.[81] At the time of his arrest, Vanzetti also claimed that he had bought the gun at a store (but could not remember which one), and that it cost $18 or $19 (three times its actual market value)[82], and lied about where he had obtained the .38 cartridges found in the revolver.[83]

In an attempt to show that Vanzetti's revolver was obtained from the slain Berardelli, the prosecution traced the history of Berardelli's .38 Harrington & Richardson (H&R) revolver. Berardelli's wife testified that she and her husband dropped off the gun for repair at the Iver Johnson Co. of Boston a few weeks before the murder.[69] According to the foreman of the Iver Johnson repair shop, Berardelli's revolver was given a repair tag with the number of 94765, and that this number was recorded in the repair logbook with the statement "H. & R. revolver, .32-calibre, new hammer, repairing, half an hour".[69] However, the shop books did not record the gun's serial number, and the caliber was apparently incorrectly labeled as .32 instead of .38-caliber.[69][84] The foreman further testified that a new spring and hammer were put into Berardelli's Harrington & Richardson revolver, which was claimed and the half-hour repair paid for, though the date and identity of the claimant was not recorded.[69] After examining Vanzetti's .38 revolver, the foreman testified that Vanzetti's gun had a new replacement hammer in keeping with the repair performed on Berardelli's revolver.[85] The foreman explained that the shop was always kept busy repairing 20 to 30 revolvers per day, which made it very hard to remember individual guns or keep reliable records of when they were picked up by their owners[86], but noted that unclaimed guns were sold by Iver Johnson at the end of each year, and the shop had no record of an unclaimed gun sale of Berardelli's revolver.[87] To reinforce the conclusion that Berardelli had in fact reclaimed his revolver from the repair shop, the prosecution called a witness who testified that he had seen Berardelli in possession of a .38 nickel-plated revolver of the same type found on Vanzetti the Saturday night before the Braintree robbery.[69]

The defense, noting that the repair shop had no record of the gun ever being picked up by Berardelli, put on testimony by Vanzetti that - in contradiction to what he had told police upon his arrest - that he had actually bought the .38 revolver secondhand from a friend for five dollars.[69][88] This was corroborated by Luigi Falzini (Falsini), a friend of Vanzetti's and a fellow Galleanist, who stated that after buying the .38 revolver from one Riccardo Orciani[89], that he then sold it to Vanzetti.[69][90][91] The defense also called two expert witnesses, a Mr. Burns and a Mr. Fitzgerald, who testified that in their opinion no new spring and hammer had ever been installed in the revolver found in Vanzetti's possession.[69]

The District Attorney's final piece of material evidence was a flop-eared cap claimed to have been Sacco's. Sacco tried the cap on in court and, according to two newspaper sketch artists who ran cartoons the next day, it was too small, sitting high on his head. But Katzmann insisted the cap fitted Sacco and continued to refer to it as his.

Protest for Sacco and Vanzetti in London, 1921

Further controversy clouded the prosecution witnesses who identified Sacco at the scene of the crime. One, a bookkeeper named Mary Splaine, precisely described Sacco as the man she saw firing from the getaway car. Yet cross examination revealed that Splaine had refused to identify Sacco at the inquest and had seen the getaway car for only a second and from nearly a half-block away. While a few others singled out Sacco or Vanzetti as the men they had seen at the scene of the crime, far more witnesses, both prosecution and defense, refused to identify them.

The defendants' radical politics may also have played a role in the verdict. Thayer, though a sworn enemy of anarchists, warned the defense against bringing anarchism into the trial. Yet defense attorney Fred Moore felt he had to call both Sacco and Vanzetti as witnesses to let them explain why they were fully armed when arrested. Both men testified that they had been rounding up radical literature when apprehended, and that they had feared another government deportation raid. Yet both hurt their case with rambling discourses on radical politics that the prosecution mocked. The prosecution also brought out that both men had fled the draft by going to Mexico in 1917.

After deliberating for three hours, then breaking for dinner, the jury returned guilty verdicts. Supporters later insisted Sacco and Vanzetti had been convicted for their anarchist views, yet every juror insisted anarchism had played no part in their decision. First degree murder in Massachusetts was a capital crime. Sacco and Vanzetti were therefore bound for the electric chair unless the defense could find new evidence.

The verdicts and the likelihood of death sentences immediately roused international opinion. There were demonstrations in 60 Italian cities and a flood of mail to the American embassy in Paris. Demonstrations followed in a number of Latin American cities.[92] Anatole France, veteran of the campaign for Alfred Dreyfus and recipient of the 1921 Nobel Prize for Literature, wrote an "Appeal to the American People": "The death of Sacco and Vanzetti will make martyrs of them and cover you with shame. You are a great people. You ought to be a just people."[93]

Defense Committee

The Sacco-Vanzetti Defense Committee was formed on May 9, 1920, immediately following the arrests, by a group of fellow anarchists, headed by Vanzetti's 23-year-old friend Aldino Felicani. Over the next 7 years, it raised $300,000.[94] Fred Moore drew on its funds for his investigations,[95] though differences arose when Moore tried to determine who had committed the South Braintree crimes over objections from anarchists that he was doing the government's work. After the Committee hired William G. Thomson to manage the legal defense, he objected to its propaganda efforts.[96]

A Defense Committee publicist wrote an article about the first trial that appeared in the New Republic. In the winter of 1920-21 the Defense Committee sent stories to labor union publications every week. It produced pamphlets with titles like Fangs at Labor's Throat, sometimes printing thousands of copies. It sent speakers to Italian communities in factory towns and mining camps.[97] The Committee eventually added staff from outside the anarchist movement, notably Mary Donovan, a 40-year-old who had experience as a labor leader and Sinn Féin organizer.[98] In 1927, she and Felicani together recruited Gardner Jackson, a Boston Globe reporter from a wealthy family, to manage publicity and serve as a mediator between the Committee's anarchists and the growing number of supporters with more liberal political views, socialites, lawyers, and intellectuals. He bridged the gap between the radicals and the social elite well enough for Sacco to thank him a few weeks before his execution: "We are one heart, but unfortunately we represent two different class....But, whenever the heart of one of the upper class join with the exploited workers for the struggle of the right in the human feeling is the feel of an spontaneous attraction and brotherly love to one another."[99] John Dos Passos joined the committee and wrote its 127-page official review of the case: Facing the Chair: Story of Americanization of Two Foreignborn Workmen.[100] After the executions, the Committee continued its work, helping to gather material that eventually appeared as The Letters of Sacco and Vanzetti.[101]

Motions for a new trial

Judge Thayer held hearings on five separate motions for a new trial for Sacco and Vanzetti in October and November 1923. Defense attorney Fred Moore presented affidavits and testimony by three prosecution witnesses to the effect that they had been coerced into identifying Sacco at the scene of the crime. However, when confronted by District Attorney Katzmann, the three witnesses denied being subjected to any prosecution coercion. One of them, Lola Andrews, told authorities that she was forced to sign an affidavit stating she had wrongfully identified Sacco and Vanzetti, but signed a counter-affidavit the following day. Another, Lewis Pelser, described how he had submitted to alleged prosecutorial coercion while drunk and signed a counter-affidavit shortly thereafter.[citation needed]

One motion, the so-called Hamilton-Proctor motion, involved the forensic ballistic evidence presented by the expert witnesses for the prosecution and defense. The prosecution's firearms expert, Charles Van Amburgh, had re-examined the evidence in preparation for the motion. By 1923, bullet comparison technology had improved somewhat, and Van Amburgh submitted photos of the bullets fired from Sacco's .32 Colt in support of the argument that they matched the bullet that killed Berardelli. In response, the controversial[102][103] firearms expert for the defense, Dr. Albert H. Hamilton[102], conducted an in-court demonstration involving two brand new Colt .32-caliber automatic pistols belonging to Hamilton along with Sacco's .32 Colt of the same make and caliber. In front of Judge Thayer and the lawyers for both sides, Hamilton disassembled all three pistols and placed the major component parts - barrel, barrel bushing, recoil spring, frame, slide, and magazine - into three piles on the table before him.[104][105][106] He then explained the functions of each part and began to demonstrate how each was interchangeable, in the process intermingling the parts of all three pistols.[105] Judge Thayer stopped Hamilton and demanded that he reassemble Sacco's pistol with its proper parts.[105]

Other motions focused on the jury foreman and a prosecution ballistics expert. In 1923, the defense filed an affidavit from a friend of the jury foreman who swore that prior to the trial, the jury foreman had allegedly said of Sacco and Vanzetti, "Damn them, they ought to hang them anyway!" That same year, the defense read to the court an affidavit by Captain William Proctor (who had died shortly after conclusion of the trial) in which Proctor stated that he could not say that Bullet III was fired by Sacco's .32 Colt pistol.[73]

At the conclusion of the hearings, Thayer denied all motions for a new trial on October 1, 1924.[107]

Several months later, in February, 1925, Judge Thayer asked one of the firearms experts for the prosecution, Capt. Charles Van Amburgh, to reinspect Sacco's Colt and determine its condition. With District Attorney Katzmann present, Van Amburgh took the gun from the clerk and started to take it apart.[105] At this time Van Amburgh realized that the barrel to Sacco's gun was brand new, being still covered in the manufacturer's protective rust preventative.[105] Judge Thayer began private hearings to determine who had tampered with the evidence. After three weeks, the defense expert Hamilton admitted that the new .32 Colt barrel must have come from one of his pistols.[105] Hamilton insisted, however, that he had not made the switch, stating that someone associated with the prosecution must have interchanged the barrels on the three guns.[105] District Attorney Katzmann alleged that Hamilton had made the substitution with the idea of making the discovery himself for purposes of demanding a new trial.[105] Judge Thayer made no finding as to who had actually switched the .32 Colt barrels, but merely held that the singular used and rusty barrel now fitted to one of Hamilton's new .32 Colt pistols was in fact was the barrel from Sacco's .32 Colt.[108][105] The court ordered the rusty barrel returned to Sacco's Colt.[105]

Appeal to the Supreme Judicial Court

The defense appealed Thayer's denial of their motions to the Supreme Judicial Court (SJC), the highest level of the state's judicial system. Both sides presented arguments to its five judges on January 11–13, 1926.[107] The SJC returned a unanimous verdict upholding Judge Thayer's decisions on May 12, 1926.[107][109] The Court did not have the authority to review the trial record as a whole or to judge the fairness of the case. Instead, the judges only considered whether Thayer had abused his discretion in the course of the trial. Thayer later claimed that the SJC had "approved" the verdicts, which advocates for the defendants protested as a misinterpretation of the Court's ruling, which only found "no error" in his individual rulings.[110]

Madeiros confession

In November 1925, Celestino Madeiros, an ex-convict awaiting trial for murder, confessed to committing the Braintree crimes. He absolved Sacco and Vanzetti of participation.[111] In May, once the SJC had denied their appeal and Madeiros was convicted, the defense investigated the details of Madeiros’ story. Police interviews led them to the Morelli gang based in Providence, Rhode Island. They developed an alternative theory of the crime based on the gang’s history of shoe-factory robberies, connections to a car like that used in Braintree, and other details. Gang leader Joe Morelli bore a striking resemblance to Sacco.[112][113][114]

The defense filed a motion for a new trial based on the Madeiros confession on May 26, 1926.[107] In support of their motion they included 64 affidavits. The prosecution countered with 26 affidavits.[115] When Thayer heard arguments on September 13–17, 1926,[107] the defense, along with their Madeiros-Morelli theory of the crime, charged that the U.S. Justice Department was aiding the prosecution by withholding information obtained in its own investigation of the case. Attorney William Thompson made an explicitly political attack: "A government which has come to value its own secrets more than it does the lives of its citizens has become a tyranny, whether you call it a republic, a monarchy, or anything else!"[116] Judge Thayer denied this motion for a new trial on October 23, 1926. After arguing against the credibility of Madeiros, he addressed the defense claims against the federal government, saying the defense was suffering from "a new type of disease,...a belief in the existence of something which in fact and truth has no such existence."[107][117]

Three days later, the Boston Herald responded to Thayer's decision by reversing its longstanding position and calling for a new trial. Its editorial, "We Submit", earned its author a Pulitzer Prize.[118][119] No other newspapers followed suit.[120]

Second appeal to the Supreme Judicial Court

The defense promptly appealed once more to the Supreme Judicial Court and presented their arguments on January 27–28, 1927.[107] While the appeal was under consideration, Harvard law professor and future Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter published an article in the Atlantic Monthly arguing for a retrial. He noted that the SJC had already taken a very narrow view of its authority when considering the first appeal and called upon the court to review the entire record of the case. He called their attention to Thayer's lengthy statement that accompanied his denial of the Madeiros appeal, describing it as "a farrago of misquotations, misrepresentations, suppressions, and mutilations," "honeycombed with demonstrable errors."[121]

At the same time, Major Calvin Goddard, a ballistics expert who had helped pioneer the use of the comparison microscope in forensic ballistic research, offered to conduct an independent examination of the forensic gun and bullet evidence using techniques he had developed for use with the comparison microscope.[122] Goddard first offered to conduct a new forensic examination for the defense, which rejected it, and then to the prosecution, which accepted Goddard's offer.[122] Using the comparison microscope, Goddard compared Bullet III and a .32 Auto shell casing found at the South Braintree shooting with that of several .32 Auto test cartridges fired from Sacco's .32 Colt automatic pistol.[122][72] Goddard concluded that not only did Bullet III match the rifling marks found on the barrel of Sacco's .32 Colt pistol, but that scratches made by the firing pin of Sacco's .32 Colt on the primers of spent shell casings test-fired from Sacco's Colt matched those found on the primer of a spent shell casing recovered at the South Braintree murder scene.[122][72] More sophisticated comparative examinations in 1935, 1961, and 1983 each reconfirmed the opinion that the fatal shot that killed Berardelli came from Sacco's .32 Colt automatic.[72]

The Supreme Judicial Court denied the Madeiros appeal on April 5, 1927.[107] Summarizing the decision, the New York Times said that the SJC had determined that "the judge had a right to rule as he did" but that the SJC "did not deny the validity of the new evidence."[123] The SJC also said: "It is not imperative that a new trial be granted even though the evidence is newly discovered and, if presented to a jury, would justify a different verdict."[124]

Protests and advocacy

Many famous socialists and intellectuals campaigned for a retrial without success. John Dos Passos came to Boston to cover the case as a journalist, stayed to author a pamphlet called Facing the Chair,[125] and was arrested in a demonstration on August 10, 1927, along with Dorothy Parker.[126] After being arrested while picketing the State House, Edna St. Vincent Millay pleaded her case to the governor in person and then wrote an appeal: "I cry to you with a million voices: answer our doubt...There is need in Massachusetts of a great man tonight."[127]

Others who wrote to Fuller or signed petitions included Albert Einstein, George Bernard Shaw and H. G. Wells.[128] The president of the American Federation of Labor cited "the long period of time intervening between the commission of the crime and the final decision of the Court" as well as "the mental and physical anguish which Sacco and Vanzetti must have undergone during the past seven years" in a telegram to the governor.[129]

Benito Mussolini, himself the target of two anarchist assassination attempts, quietly made inquiries through diplomatic channels and was prepared to ask Governor Fuller to commute the sentences if it appeared his request would be granted.[130][131]

In 1926, a bomb presumed to be the work of anarchists destroyed the house of Samuel Johnson, the brother of the Simon Johnson who had called police the night of Sacco and Vanzetti's arrest.[132]

In August 1927, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) called for a three-day nationwide walkout to protest the pending executions.[133] The most notable response came in the Walsenburg coal district of Colorado, where 1,132 out of 1,167 miners participated, which led directly to the Colorado coal strike of 1927.[134]

Defendants in prison

Charlestown State Prison, 1900

For their part, Sacco and Vanzetti seemed to alternate between moods of defiance, vengeance, resignation, and despair. The June 1926 issue of Protesta Umana published by their Defense Committee carried an article signed by Sacco and Vanzetti that appealed for retaliation by their colleagues. In the article, Vanzetti wrote "I will try to see Thayer death [sic] before his pronunciation of our sentence" and asked fellow anarchists for "revenge, revenge in our names and the names of our living and dead."[135] The article concluded by urging readers to recall La Salute è in voi!, Galleani's bomb-making manual. Both wrote dozens of letters asserting their innocence, insisting they had been framed because they were anarchists. Their conduct in prison consistently impressed guards and wardens. In 1927, the Dedham jail chaplain wrote to the head of an investigatory commission that he had seen no evidence or admission of guilt on Sacco's part. Vanzetti impressed fellow prisoners at Charlestown State Prison as a bookish intellectual, incapable of committing any violent crime. Novelist John Dos Passos, who visited both men in jail, observed of Vanzetti, "nobody in his right mind who was planning such a crime would take a man like that along."[136] Vanzetti developed his command of English to such a degree that Murray Kempton later described him as "the greatest writer of English in our century to learn his craft, do his work, and die all in the space of seven years."[137]


On April 9, 1927, Judge Thayer heard final statements from Sacco and Vanzetti. In a lengthy speech Vanzetti said:[138][139]

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. But my conviction is that I have suffered for things that I am guilty of. I am suffering because I am a radical and indeed I am a radical; I have suffered because I am an Italian and indeed I am an Italian...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.

Thayer declared that the responsibility for the conviction rested sole with the jury's determination of guilt. "The Court has absolutely nothing to do with that question." He sentenced each of them to "suffer the punishment of death by the passage of a current of electricity through your body" during the week beginning July 10.[138] He twice postponed the execution date while the governor considered requests for clemency.[140]

On May 10, a package bomb addressed to Governor Fuller was intercepted in the Boston post office.[141]

Clemency Appeal and the Governor’s Advisory Committee

Massachusetts Governor
Alvan T. Fuller

In response to public protests that greeted the sentencing, Massachusetts Governor Alvan T. Fuller faced last minute appeals to grant clemency to Sacco and Vanzetti. On June 1, 1927, he appointed an Advisory Committee of three: President Abbott Lawrence Lowell of Harvard, President Samuel Wesley Stratton of MIT, and Probate Judge Robert Grant. They were tasked with reviewing the trial to determine whether it had been fair. Lowell's appointment was generally well received, for though he had controversy in his past he had also at times demonstrated an independent streak. The defense attorneys considered resigning when they determined that the Committee was biased against the defendants, but some of the defendants' most prominent supporters, including Harvard Law Professor Felix Frankfurter and Judge Julian W. Mack of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, persuaded them to stay because Lowell "was not entirely hopeless."[142]

One of the defense attorneys, though ultimately very critical of the Committee's work, thought the Committee members were not really capable of the task the Governor set for them: "No member of the Committee had the essential sophistication that comes with experience in the trial of criminal cases....The high positions in the community held by the members of the Committee obscured the fact that they were not really qualified to perform the difficult task assigned to them." He also thought that the Committee, particularly Lowell, imagined it could use its fresh and more powerful analytical abilities to outperform the efforts of those who had worked on the case for years, even finding evidence of guilt that professional prosecutors had discarded.[143]

Grant was another establishment figure, a probate court judge from 1893 to 1923 and an Overseer of Harvard University from 1896 to 1921, and the author of a dozen popular novels.[144] Some criticized Grant's appointment to the Committee, with one defense lawyer saying he "had a black-tie class concept of life around him," but Harold Laski in a conversation at the time found him "moderate." Others cited evidence of xenophobia in some of his novels, references to "riff-raff" and a variety of racial slurs. His biographer allows that he was "not a good choice," not a legal scholar, and handicapped by age. Stratton, the one member who was not a Boston Brahmin, maintained the lowest public profile of the three and hardly spoke during its hearings.[145]

In their earlier appeals, the defense was limited to the trial record. The Governor's Committee, however, was not a judicial proceeding, so Judge Thayer's comments outside the courtroom could be used to demonstrate his bias. Once Thayer told reporters that "No long-haired anarchist from California can run this court!"[146] According to the sworn affidavits of eyewitnesses, Thayer also lectured members of his clubs, calling Sacco and Vanzetti "Bolsheviki!" and saying he would "get them good and proper". During the Dedham trial's first week, Thayer said to reporters: "Did you ever see a case in which so many leaflets and circulars have been spread...saying people couldn't get a fair trial in Massachusetts? You wait till I give my charge to the jury, I'll show them!"[147]In 1924, Thayer confronted a Massachusetts lawyer at Dartmouth, his alma mater, and said: "Did you see what I did with those anarchistic bastards the other day. I guess that will hold them for a while.... Let them go to the Supreme Court now and see what they can get out of them."[148] The Committee knew that, following the verdict, Boston Globe reporter Frank Sibley, who had covered the trial, wrote a protest to the Massachusetts attorney general condemning Thayer's blatant bias. Thayer's behavior both inside the courtroom and outside of it had become a public issue, with the New York World attacking Thayer as "an agitated little man looking for publicity and utterly impervious to the ethical standards one has the right to expect of a man presiding in a capital case."[149]

On July 12-13, 1927, following testimony by the defense firearms expert Albert H. Hamilton before the Committee, the Assistant District Attorney for Massachusetts, Dudley P. Ranney, took the opportunity to cross-examine Hamilton, submitting affidavits questioning Hamilton's credentials as well as his performance during the New York trial of Charles Stielow, in which Hamilton's testimony linking rifling marks to a bullet used to kill the victim nearly sent an innocent man to the electric chair.[150][102]

After two weeks of hearing witnesses and reviewing evidence, the Committee determined that the trial had been fair and a new trial was not warranted. They assessed the charges against Thayer as well. Their criticism, using words provided by Judge Grant,[151] was direct: "He ought not to have talked about the case off the bench, and doing so was a grave breach of judicial decorum." But they also found some of the charges about his statements unbelievable or exaggerated, and they determined that anything he might have said had no impact on the trial. The panel's reading of the trial transcript convinced them that Thayer "tried to be scrupulously fair." The Committee also reported that the trial jurors were almost unanimous in praising Thayer's conduct of the trial.[152]

A defense attorney later noted ruefully that the release of the Committee's report "abruptly stilled the burgeoning doubts among the leaders of opinion in New England."[153] Supporters of the convicted men denounced the Committee. Harold Laski said the decision represented Lowell's "loyalty to his class."

Execution and funeral

On August 15, 1927, with the executions scheduled for midnight on August 22, a bomb exploded at the home of one of the Dedham jurors.[154] On Sunday August 21, more than 20,000 protesters assembled on Boston Common.[155]

In their cells at Charlestown State Prison, both Sacco and Vanzetti refused a priest several times on their last day.[156] Their attorney William Thompson asked Vanzetti to make a statement opposing violent retaliation for his death and they discussed forgiving one's enemies.[157] Thompson also asked him to swear to his and Sacco's innocence one last time, and Vanzetti did. Celestino Madeiros, whose execution had been delayed in case his testimony was required at another trial of Sacco and Vanzetti, was executed first. Sacco was next and walked quietly to the electric chair, then shouted "Viva l'anarchia!" and "Farewell, mother."[158][159] Vanzetti, in his final moments, shook hands with guards and thanked them for their kind treatment, read a statement proclaiming his innocence, and finally said, "I wish to forgive some people for what they are now doing to me."[159][160] All three executions were carried out by Robert G. Elliott, the state electrician.[161] Following the executions, death masks were made.[162]

Violent demonstrations swept through many cities the next day, including Geneva, London, Paris, Amsterdam, and Tokyo. In South America wildcat strikes closed factories. Three died in Germany, and protesters in Johannesburg burned an American flag outside the American embassy.[163] Many of these activities that appeared spontaneous were organized by the Communist Party.[164]

At the funeral parlor in Boston's North End, more than 10,000 mourners viewed Sacco and Vanzetti in open caskets over two days. At the funeral parlor, a wreath over the caskets announced Aspettando l'ora di vendetta (Awaiting the hour of vengeance). On Sunday, August 28, a two-hour funeral procession bearing huge floral tributes moved through the city. Police blocked the route, which passed the State House, and at one point mourners and the police clashed. The hearses reached Forest Hills Cemetery where, after a brief eulogy, the bodies were cremated.[165] The Boston Globe called it "one of the most tremendous funerals of modern times."[166] Will H. Hays, head of the motion picture industry's umbrella organization, ordered all film of the funeral procession destroyed.[167]

Sacco's ashes are in Torremaggiore, the town of his birth, at the base of a monument erected in 1998. Vanzetti's ashes were buried with his mother in Villafalletto.[168][169]

Continuing protests and analyses

Italian anarchist Severino Di Giovanni, one of the most vocal supporters of Sacco and Vanzetti in Argentina, bombed the American embassy in Buenos Aires a few hours after Sacco and Vanzetti were condemned to death.[170] A few days after the executions, Sacco's widow thanked Di Giovanni by letter for his support and added that the director of the tobacco firm Combinados had offered to produce a cigarette brand named "Sacco & Vanzetti".[170] On November 26, 1927, Di Giovanni and others bombed a Combinados tobacco shop.[170] On December 24, 1927, Di Giovanni blew up the headquarters of the Citibank and of the Bank of Boston in Buenos Aires in apparent protest of the execution.[170] In December 1928, Di Giovanni and others failed in an attempt to bomb the train in which President-elect Herbert Hoover was traveling during his visit to Argentina.[170]

Three months later, bombs exploded in the New York subway, in a Philadelphia church, and at the home of the mayor of Baltimore. One of the jurors in the Dedham trial had his house bombed, throwing him and his family from their beds. Less than a year after the executions, a bomb destroyed the front porch of the home of executioner Robert Elliott. As late as 1932, Judge Thayer's home was wrecked and his wife and housekeeper injured in a bomb blast.[171] Afterward, Thayer lived permanently at his club in Boston, guarded 24 hours a day until his death.

In October 1927, H.G. Wells wrote an essay that discussed the case at length. He called it "a case like the Dreyfus case, by which the soul of a people is tested and displayed." He felt that Americans failed to understand what about the case roused European opinion:[172]

The guilty or innocence of these two Italians is not the issue....Possibly they were actual murderers, and still more possibly they knew more than they would admit about the crime....Europe is not "retrying" Sacco and Vanzetti or anything of the sort. It is saying what it thinks of Judge Thayer....Executing political opponents as political opponents after the fashion of Mussolini and Moscow we can understand, or bandits as bandits; but this business of trying and executing murderers as Reds, or Reds as murderers, seems to be a new and very frightening line for the courts of a State in the most powerful and civilized Union on earth to pursue.

He used the case to complain that Americans were too sensitive to foreign criticism: "One can scarcely let a sentence that is not highly flattering glance across the Atlantic without some American blowing up."

In the fall of 1928, Upton Sinclair published his novel Boston, an indictment of the American judicial system that took the case, especially Vanzetti's life and writings, as its focus, mixing fictional characters with actual participants in the trials. Though his portrait of Vanzetti was entirely sympathetic, he disappointed advocates for the defense by failing to absolve Sacco and Vanzetti of the crimes, however much he argued that their trial had been unjust.[173] Years later, he explained: "Some of the things I told displeased the fanatical believers; but having portrayed the aristocrats as they were, I had to do the same thing for the anarchists."[174][175]

When the letters Sacco and Vanzetti wrote appeared in print in 1928, journalist Walter Lippmann commented: "If Sacco and Vanzetti were professional bandits, then historians and biographers who attempt to deduce character from personal documents might as well shut up shop. By every test that I know of for judging character, these are the letters of innocent men."[176] On January 3, 1929, as Gov. Fuller left the inauguration of his successor, he found a copy of the Letters thrust at him by someone in the crowd. He knocked it to the ground "with an exclamation of contempt."[177]

Intellectual and literary supporters of Sacco and Vanzetti continued to speak out. In 1936, on the day when Harvard celebrated its 300th anniversary, 28 Harvard alumni issued a statement attacking the University's retired President Lowell for his role on the Governor's Advisory Committee in 1927. They included Heywood Broun, Malcolm Cowley, Granville Hicks, and John Dos Passos.[178]

Massachusetts judicial reform

Following the SJC's assertion that it could not order a new trial even if there was new evidence that "would justify a different verdict," a movement for "drastic reform" quickly took shape in Boston's legal community.[123] In December 1927, four months after the executions, the Massachusetts Judicial Council cited the Sacco and Vanzetti case as evidence of "serious defects in our methods of administering justice." It proposed a series of changes designed to appeal to both sides of the political divide, including restrictions on the number and timing of appeals. Its principal proposal addressed the SJC's right to review. It argued that a judge would benefit from a full review of a trial and that no one man should bear the burden in a capital case. A review could defend a judge whose decisions were challenged and make it less likely that a governor would be drawn into a case. It asked for the SJC to have right to order a new trial "upon any ground if the interests of justice appear to inquire it."[179] Governor Fuller endorsed the proposal in his January 1928 annual message.[180]

The Judicial Council repeated in recommendations in 1937 and 1938. Finally, in 1939 the language it had proposed was adopted and the SJC has since that time been required to review all death penalty cases, to consider the entire case record, and to affirm or overturn the verdict on the law and on the evidence or "for any other reason that justice may require." (Mass laws, 1939 c 341)[181][182][183]

Historical viewpoints

Many historians,[who?] especially legal historians, have concluded the Sacco and Vanzetti prosecution, trial, and aftermath constituted a blatant disregard for political civil liberties, especially Thayer's decision to deny a retrial.

Some critics[184] felt that the authorities and jurors were influenced by strong anti-Italian prejudice and prejudice against immigrants widely held at the time, especially in New England. Against charges of racism and racial prejudice, others pointed out[185] that both men were known anarchist members of a militant organization, members of which had been conducting a violent campaign of bombing and attempted assassinations, acts condemned by most Americans of all backgrounds.[186][187] Though in general anarchist groups did not finance their militant activities through bank robberies, a fact noted by the investigators of the Bureau of Investigation, this was not true of the Galleanist group, as Mario Buda readily admitted to an interviewer: "Andavamo a prenderli dove c'erano" ("We used to go and get it [money] where it was") — meaning factories and banks.[13] Others believe[188][184] that the government was really prosecuting Sacco and Vanzetti for the robbery-murders as a convenient excuse to put a stop to their militant activities as Galleanists, whose bombing campaign at the time posed a lethal threat, both to the government and to many Americans. Faced with a secretive underground group whose members resisted interrogation and believed in their cause, Federal and local officials using conventional law enforcement tactics had been repeatedly stymied in their efforts to identify all members of the group or to collect enough evidence for a prosecution.[187]

Most historians believe that Sacco and Vanzetti were involved at some level in the Galleanist bombing campaign, although their precise roles have not been determined.[189][13] In 1955 Charles Poggi, a longtime anarchist and American citizen, traveled to Savignano in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy to visit old comrades, including the Galleanists' principal bombmaker, Mario "Mike" Buda.[13] While discussing the South Braintree robbery, Buda told Poggi "Sacco c'era" (Sacco was there).[13] Poggi added that he "had a strong feeling that Buda himself was one of the robbers, though I didn't ask him and he didn't say."[190] Whether Buda and Ferruccio Coacci, whose shared rental house contained the manufacturer's diagram of a .32 Savage automatic pistol (matching the .32 Savage pistol used to shoot both Berardelli and Parmenter) had also participated in the South Braintree robbery and murders would remain a matter of speculation.[191]

Later evidence and investigations

In 1941, anarchist leader Carlo Tresca, a member of the Sacco and Vanzetti Defense Committee, told Max Eastman, "Sacco was guilty but Vanzetti was innocent".[192] Both The Nation and The New Republic refused to publish Eastman's revelation, which Eastman said occurred after he pressed Tresca for the truth about the two mens' involvement in the shooting.[192] The story finally appeared in National Review in October 1961.[193] Others who had known Tresca confirmed that he had made similar statements to them[193], but Tresca's daughter insisted her father never hinted at Sacco's guilt. Others attributed Tresca's revelations to his disagreements with the Galleanists.[194]

Labor organizer Anthony Ramuglia, an anarchist in the 1920s, said in 1952 that a Boston anarchist group had asked him to be a false alibi witness for Sacco. After agreeing, he had remembered that he had been in jail on the day in question, so he could not testify.[195]

Both men had previously fled to Mexico, changing their names in order to evade draft registration, a fact the prosecutor in their murder trial used to demonstrate their lack of patriotism and which they were not allowed to rebut. Sacco and Vanzetti's supporters would later argue that the men fled the country to avoid persecution and conscription, their critics, to escape detection and arrest for militant and seditious activities in the United States. However, a later Italian history of anarchism written by anonymous colleagues revealed a different motivation:

Several dozen Italian anarchists left the United States for Mexico. Some have suggested they did so because of cowardice. Nothing could be more false. The idea to go to Mexico arose in the minds of several comrades who were alarmed by the idea that, remaining in the United States, they would be forcibly restrained from leaving for Europe, where the revolution that had burst out in Russia that February promised to spread all over the continent.[196]

In October 1961, ballistic tests were run with improved technology using Sacco's Colt automatic. The results confirmed that the bullet that killed Berardelli in 1920 was fired from Sacco's pistol.[197] The Thayer court's habit of mistakenly referring to Sacco's .32 Colt pistol as well as any other automatic pistol as a 'revolver' (a popular custom of the day) has sometimes mystified later-generation researchers attempting to follow the forensic evidence trail.[69]

In 1987, Charlie Whipple, a former Boston Globe editorial page editor, revealed a conversation that he had with Sergeant Edward J. Seibolt in 1937. According to Whipple, Seibolt said that "we switched the murder weapon in that case", but indicated that he would deny this if Whipple ever printed it.[198][199] However, at the time of the Sacco and Vanzetti trial, Seibolt was only a patrolman, and did not work in the Boston Police ballistics department; Seibolt died in 1961 without corroborating Whipple's story.[198] In 1935, Captain Charles Van Amburgh, a key ballistics witness for the prosecution, wrote that Thayer told him that he had caught the defense ballistics expert Albert Hamilton attempting to leave a 1923 hearing with Sacco's gun in his pocket. Following the hearing, Van Amburgh kept Sacco's gun in his house where it remained until the Boston Globe did an expose in 1960.[200]

Sacco's .32 Colt pistol is also claimed to have passed in and out of police custody and to have been dismantled several times between 1925 and 1961 for the conduct of various examinations, most notably in the demonstration performed by defense firearms expert Albert H. Hamilton in which he removed the original barrel from Sacco's .32 Colt. It has been alleged that this dismantling and the exchange of barrels between Hamilton's two .32 Colt Automatic pistols and Sacco's gun effectively interrupted the chain of custody of the evidence. The central problem with these charges is that the evidence tying Sacco's gun to the South Braintree murders was based not only on the .32-caliber Colt pistol barrel and the .32-caliber Bullet III, the fatal bullet that killed Berardelli, but also the spent .32 Auto cartridge cases (shell casings) found at the scene.[122] Hamilton himself acknowledged that the new .32 barrel in Sacco's Colt pistol must have come from one of Hamilton's own brand-new two .32 Colt automatics that he had used for his demonstration.[122] The fact that Bullet III and one of the South Braintree .32-caliber empty shell casings were both independently linked to Sacco's Colt means that a conspirator determined to fabricate evidence linking Sacco's gun to Berardelli's murder would have to access police evidence lockers and switch the barrel that fired Bullet III into Sacco's gun as well as substitute a spent .32 Auto shell casing fired from Sacco's Colt of the same type as the obsolete loading retrieved by police at the murder scene, or else obtain the actual murder weapon, then transfer that weapon's barrel and firing pin into the .32 Colt pistol taken from Sacco, all before Calvin Goddard's first microscopic examination in 1927 when the first scientific comparative match was made to Sacco's gun.[122]

Critics of the prosecution's evidence emphasize that while four bullets were recovered from Berardelli, the slain guard, only one bullet was linked to Sacco's pistol, the other three bullets were found to have been fired from a .32 Savage automatic pistol that was never recovered. Several witnesses insisted that one gunman fired four bullets into Berardelli, which might have been the man wielding the .32 Savage. "I seen this fellow shoot this fellow," one witness told the court. "It was the last shot. He put four bullets into him."[201] In 1927, the defense suggested that the bullet had been planted, noting the scratches on the base of the one bullet unlike those found on the others. The Lowell Commission dismissed this claim as desperate. One theory is that another gunman, perhaps Mario Buda, must have been involved along with Sacco, and that this unknown gunman used a .32 Savage pistol to shoot Parmenter twice and Berardelli three times, leaving Sacco to fatally shoot Berardelli with the sixth .32 bullet traced to the latter's .32 Colt pistol.

In 1973 a former mobster published a confession by Frank "Butsy" Morelli, Joe's brother. "We whacked them out, we killed those guys in the robbery," Butsy Morelli told Vincent Teresa. "These two greaseballs Sacco and Vanzetti took it on the chin."[202]

Before his death in June 1982, Giovanni Gambera, a member of the four-person team of anarchist leaders that met shortly after the arrest of Sacco and Vanzetti to plan their defense, told his son that "everyone [in the anarchist inner circle] knew that Sacco was guilty and that Vanzetti was innocent as far as the actual participation in killing."[203]

Russell had originally written about the case, arguing that Sacco and Vanzetti were innocent, but further research led him to write a 1962 book, asserting that Sacco was, in fact, guilty. Russell used the Gambera revelation as the basis of a new book in 1986, in which he claims that the case is "solved," and presents his view that Sacco was one of the shooters, while Vanzetti was an accessory after the fact. While Russell's 1962 book was praised, even by those who disagreed with his conclusion, for being balanced and well-reasoned, his 1986 book was much more negatively received.[citation needed]

Months before he died, the distinguished jurist Charles E. Wyzanski, Jr., who had presided for 45 years on the U.S. District Court in Massachusetts, wrote to Russell stating "I myself am persuaded by your writings that Sacco was guilty." The judge's assessment was significant, because he was one of Felix Frankfurter's "Hot Dogs," and Justice Frankfurter had advocated his appointment to the federal bench.[204]

Dukakis proclamation

In 1977, as the 50th anniversary of the executions approached, Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis asked the Office of the Governor's Legal Counsel to report on "whether there are substantial grounds for believing–at least in the light of the legal standards of today–that Sacco and Vanzetti were unfairly convicted and executed" and to recommend appropriate action.[205] The resulting "Report to the Governor in the Matter of Sacco and Vanzetti" detailed grounds for doubting that the trial was conducted fairly in the first instance and argued as well that such doubts were only reinforced by "later-discovered or later-disclosed evidence."[206] The Report questioned prejudicial cross-examination that the trial judge allowed, the judge's hostility, the fragmentary nature of the evidence, and eyewitness testimony that came to light after the trial. It found the judge's charge to the jury troubling for the way it emphasized the defendants' behavior at the time of their arrest and highlighted certain physical evidence that was later called into question.[207] The Report also dismissed the argument that the trial had been subject to judicial review, noting that "the system for reviewing murder cases at the time...failed to provide the safeguards now present."[208]

Based on recommendations of the Office of Legal Counsel, Dukakis declared August 23, 1977, the 50th anniversary of their execution, Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti Memorial Day.[209] His proclamation, issued in English and Italian, stated that Sacco and Vanzetti had been unfairly tried and convicted and that "any disgrace should be forever removed from their names." He did not pardon them, because that would imply they were guilty. Neither did he assert their innocence.[210][211][212] A resolution to censure the Governor failed in the Massachusetts Senate by a vote of 23 to 12.[213] Dukakis later expressed regret only for not reaching out to the families of the victims of the crime.[214]

Later tributes

Sacco and Vanzetti by Gutzon Borglum in the Boston Public Library

A memorial committee attempted to present a plaster cast executed in 1937 by Gutzon Borglum, the sculptor of Mount Rushmore, to Massachusetts governors and Boston mayors in 1937, 1947, and 1957 without success. On August 23, 1997, on the 70th anniversary of the Sacco and Vanzetti executions, Boston's first Italian-American Mayor Thomas Menino and the Italian-American Governor of Massachusetts Paul Cellucci unveiled the work at the Boston Public Library, where it remains on display. "The city's acceptance of this piece of artwork is not intended to reopen debate about the guilt or innocence of Sacco and Vanzetti," Menino said. "It is intended to remind us of the dangers of miscarried justice, and the right we all have to a fair trial."[215] The event occasioned a renewed debate about the fairness of the trial in the editorial pages of the Boston Herald.[216] There is also a mosaic mural of the trial of Sacco and Vanzetti on the main campus of Syracuse University. In Braintree, Massachusetts on the Corner of French Ave and Pearl Street their is a memorial where the murders happened.

The "Sacco and Vanzetti Century" was an American anarchist military unit in the Durruti Column that fought in the Spanish Civil War.[217]

There are many sites in the former USSR named after "Sacco and Vanzetti", for example a beer production facility in Moscow,[218] a kolkhoz in Donetsk region, Ukraine, and an apartment complex in Yekaterinburg.[219] There are also numerous towns in Italy that have streets named after Sacco and Vanzetti, including Via Sacco-Vanzetti in Torremaggiore, Sacco's home town, and Villafalletto, Vanzetti's.[220]

References in creative works


  • The scenario of Maxwell Anderson's 1935 play Winterset was inspired by the case.
  • The plot of James Thurber and Elliot Nugent's 1940 play The Male Animal turns on a college professor's insistence on reading Vanzetti's statement at sentencing to his English composition class.[221] It appeared on film the next year, starring Henry Fonda and Olivia de Havilland.[222]
  • In 2000, the play Voices on the Wind by Eric Paul Erickson centered around the final hours of the lives of Sacco and Vanzetti. Former Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis recorded an audio clip of his public statement on the 50th anniversay for the production.[223]
  • The trial of Sacco and Vanzetti is the subject of the eponymous play by Argentine playwright Mauricio Kartun.



Written works, paintings

Sacco and Vanzetti mosaic by Ben Shahn at Syracuse University
Detail of mosaic
  • In 1927, editorial cartoonist Fred Ellis published a compendium called The case of Sacco and Vanzetti in cartoons from the "Daily Worker".
  • Upton Sinclair's 1928 book, Boston: A Novel, is a fictional interpretation of the affair.[231]
  • H. G. Wells's 1928 book Mr. Blettsworthy on Rampole Island references the case and the main character's reaction to it.[232]
  • In 1935, Maxwell Anderson's award-winning drama Winterset presented the story of a man who attempts to clear the name of his Italian immigrant father who has been executed for robbery and murder.[233] It became a feature film a year later.[234]
  • In 1936, the third novel in John Dos Passos' U.S.A. trilogy, The Big Money, Mary French works on the Sacco and Vanzetti Defense Committee and is arrested protesting their imminent executions.[235]
  • James T. Farrell's 1946 novel Bernard Clare uses the anti-Italian sentiment provoked by coverage of the case and the crowd scene in New York City's Union Square awaiting news of the executions as critical plot elements.[236]
  • Howard Fast published his novel The Passion of Sacco and Vanzetti, based on the case, in 1954.
  • Mark Binelli presented the two as a Laurel-and-Hardy-like comedy team in the 2006 novel Sacco And Vanzetti Must Die![237]
  • Ben Shahn produced a series of works related to the case. The Passion of Sacco and Vanzetti, for example, consists of 3 panels. One depicts protesters. Another shows Sacco and Vanzetti as large figures dwarfing that of Governor Fuller. A third shows the members of the Governor's Advisory Commission standing over Sacco and Vanzetti in their coffins. It is owned by the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City.[238] A similar sixty-by-twelve-foot mural by Shahn executed in marble and enamel is found on the east wall of Huntington Beard Crouse Hall at Syracuse University.[239]


  • In his poem "America", Allen Ginsberg presents a catalog of slogans that includes the line: "Sacco and Vanzetti must not die".[240]
  • Carl Sandburg described the execution of Sacco and Vanzetti in his poem "Legal Midnight Hour".[241]
  • Edna St. Vincent Millay wrote a poem after the executions titled "Justice Denied In Massachusetts".[242]
  • William Carlos Williams wrote a poem entitled "Impromptu: The Suckers" in response to the trial.[243]
  • Turkish poet Nazım Hikmet's poem "Sacco ile Vanzetti" (Sacco and Vanzetti) hails the two as revolutionaries.


  1. ^ New York Times, 1927-08-23
  2. ^ Montgomery 1960 p. v.
  3. ^ Young & Kaiser 1985 preface.
  4. ^ Reed, Barry C., The Sacco-Vanzetti Case: The Trial of the Century, ABA Journal, August 1960, pp. 867-869
  5. ^ Reed, Barry C., The Sacco-Vanzetti Case: The Trial of the Century, ABA Journal, August 1960, pp. 867-869
  6. ^ Reed, Barry C., The Sacco-Vanzetti Case: The Trial of the Century, ABA Journal, August 1960, pp. 867-869
  7. ^ Watson, Bruce, Sacco and Vanzetti: The Men, the Murders, and the Judgment of Mankind, p. 127
  8. ^ Reed, Barry C., The Sacco-Vanzetti Case: The Trial of the Century, ABA Journal, August 1960, pp. 867-869: The rifling of Bullet III, identified as Exhibit 18, did not match the other three .32 bullets recovered from Berardelli's body.
  9. ^ a b c Anderson, Terence, Schum, David A., and Twining, William L., Analysis of Evidence, 2nd ed., Cambridge University Press, ISBN 052167316X, 9780521673167 (2005), p. 22
  10. ^ Watson, Bruce, p. 127
  11. ^ Reed, Barry C., The Sacco-Vanzetti Case: The Trial of the Century, ABA Journal, August 1960, pp. 867-869
  12. ^ Reed, Barry C., The Sacco-Vanzetti Case: The Trial of the Century, ABA Journal, August 1960, pp. 867-869
  13. ^ a b c d e f Avrich, Paul, Anarchist Voices: An Oral History of Anarchism in America, AK Press, ISBN 1904859275, 9781904859277 (2005), Interview of Charles Poggi, pp. 132-133
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  15. ^ The New York Times, March 5, 1922
  16. ^ Avrich, Paul (1996). Sacco and Vanzetti: The Anarchist Background. Princeton University Press. pp. 13, 31. ISBN 0691026041, 9780691026046. 
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  18. ^ Avrich, Paul, Sacco and Vanzetti: The Anarchist Background, Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press, ISBN 0691026041, 9780691026046 (1996), p. 134
  19. ^ New York Times: "Chicago Anarchists Held in Poison Plot," February 14, 1916, accessed July 12, 2010
  20. ^ Avrich, Paul, Sacco and Vanzetti: The Anarchist Background, Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press, ISBN 0691026041, 9780691026046 (1996), p. 98
  21. ^ Anonimi Compagni (Anonymous Fellow Anarchists), Un Trentennio di Attività Anarchica, 1914- 1945, Edizioni L'Antistato, Cesena (1953)(reprinted 2002), pp. 195-197
  22. ^ a b University of Pennsylvania
  23. ^ McCormick, Charles H., Hopeless Cases, The Hunt For The Red Scare Terrorist Bombers, Lanham Maryland: University Press of America, pp. 61-61: Elia claims to have been soundly asleep when Salsedo allegedly climbed out the window a few feet away from him, then silently jumped into eternity. Nor did he hear the agents running into his room to find out what had happened; he was snoring loudly when they entered.
  24. ^ David Felix, Protest: Sacco-Vanzetti and the Intellectuals (1965), 75-76, 80
  25. ^ McCormick, Charles H., Hopeless Cases, The Hunt For The Red Scare Terrorist Bombers, Lanham Maryland: University Press of America, p. 60
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  33. ^ Young, William, and Kaiser, David E., Postmortem: New Evidence in the Case of Sacco and Vanzetti, University of Massachusetts Press, ISBN 0870234781 (1985), p. 23
  34. ^ Avrich, Paul, Sacco and Vanzetti: The Anarchist Background, ISBN 0691026041, 9780691026046 (1991), p. 202
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  43. ^ New York Times. "Bomb For Herrick Wounds His Valet In His Paris Home." 19 October 1921: Years later, the sender of the bomb was revealed to be May Picqueray (1893-1983), a militant anarchist and editor of Le Réfractaire.
  44. ^ Temkin, Moshik, The Sacco-Vanzetti Affair: America on Trial, Moshik Temkin, publisher, ISBN 9780300124842 (2009), p. 63
  45. ^ a b c d e f g h i Watson, Bruce, Sacco and Vanzetti: The Men, the Murders, and the Judgment of Mankind, New York: Viking Press, 2007, ISBN 0670063533, pp. 65-66, 74-76, 116-118
  46. ^ Joughin, 9
  47. ^ Ehrmann, 73-4
  48. ^ Watson, 59-60; Sacco and Vanzetti, Letters, 225n
  49. ^ Ehrmann, 460
  50. ^ Young and Kaiser, 21-3
  51. ^ Russell, Resolved, 111
  52. ^ Joughin, 34-8
  53. ^ Joughin, 39
  54. ^ Joughin, 42-3, 45-6; Ehrmann, 115ff.
  55. ^ Joughin, 43, 46
  56. ^ Joughin, 46
  57. ^ Joughin, 300, 304
  58. ^ Ehrmann, 114-5
  59. ^ Joughin, 10, 47
  60. ^ Amerika-Institut: Last Statements (1927), Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, accessed June 22, 2010: "Slacker" was the contemporary term for "draft dodger."
  61. ^ Joughin, 56
  62. ^ Joughin, 56
  63. ^ Ehrmann, 114-5
  64. ^ Joughin, 47
  65. ^ Joughin, 47-8
  66. ^ Ehrmann, 151; Sacco and Vanzetti, Letters, 225n
  67. ^ a b Linder, Doug Linder (2001), The Trial of Sacco and Vanzetti, Kansas City MO: University of Missouri, Kansas City School of Law (2001)
  68. ^ a b Watson, Bruce, Sacco and Vanzetti: the men, the murders, and the judgment of mankind, New York: Viking Penguin, ISBN 9780670063536 (2007) pp. 103-104
  69. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Commonwealth v. Nicola Sacco & Another: Background for Opinion, Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, 255 Mass. 369; 151 N.E. 839, January 11-13, 1926, Argued; May 12, 1926, Decided
  70. ^ Reed, Barry C., The Sacco-Vanzetti Case: The Trial of the Century, ABA Journal, August 1960, p. 869
  71. ^ Ramsland, Katherine. "Ballistics: The Science of Guns". truTV. Retrieved 9 July 2010. 
  72. ^ a b c d Grant, Robert, and Katz, Joseph, The Great Trials of the Twenties: The Watershed Decade in America's Courtrooms, New York: Da Capo Press, ISBN 1885119526, 9781885119520 (1998), p. 43
  73. ^ a b Neville, John F., Twentieth-century cause cèlébre: Sacco, Vanzetti, and the Press, 1920-1927, Greenwood Publishing Group, ISBN 0275977838, 9780275977832 (2004), p. 52
  74. ^ Russell, 1962, pp.158-160
  75. ^ Reed, Barry C., The Sacco-Vanzetti Case: The Trial of the Century, ABA Journal, August 1960, pp. 867-869
  76. ^ Russell, Francis (June 1962). "Sacco Guilty, Vanzetti Innocent?". American Heritage 13 (4): 111. "About the gun found on Vanzetti there is too much uncertainty to come to any conclusion. Being of .38 caliber, it was obviously not used at South Braintree, where all the bullets fired were .32's" 
  77. ^ Reed, Barry C., The Sacco-Vanzetti Case: The Trial of the Century, ABA Journal, August 1960, pp. 867-869
  78. ^ Reed, Barry C., The Sacco-Vanzetti Case: The Trial of the Century, ABA Journal, August 1960, pp. 867-869
  79. ^ Reed, Barry C., The Sacco-Vanzetti Case: The Trial of the Century, ABA Journal, August 1960, pp. 867-869
  80. ^ Reed, Barry C., The Sacco-Vanzetti Case: The Trial of the Century, ABA Journal, August 1960, pp. 867-869
  81. ^ Reed, Barry C., The Sacco-Vanzetti Case: The Trial of the Century, ABA Journal, August 1960, pp. 867-869
  82. ^ Bortman, Eli, Sacco and Vanzetti, Applewood Books, ISBN 1889833762, 9781889833767 (2005), p. 40
  83. ^ Reed, Barry C., The Sacco-Vanzetti Case: The Trial of the Century, ABA Journal, August 1960, pp. 867-869
  84. ^ Watson, Bruce, Sacco and Vanzetti: The Men, The Murders, and the Judgment of Mankind, p. 126: Upon questioning by the prosecution, witnessess testified that the shop's incorrect labeling of Berardelli's revolver as a .32 instead of a .38 was a common mistake, as there were few outward visible differences between the .32 and 38-caliber Harrington & Richardson five-shot revolvers.
  85. ^ Watson, Bruce, Sacco and Vanzetti: The Men, The Murders, and the Judgment of Mankind, p. 126
  86. ^ Reed, Barry C., The Sacco-Vanzetti Case: The Trial of the Century, ABA Journal, August 1960, pp. 867-869
  87. ^ Watson, Bruce, Sacco and Vanzetti: The Men, The Murders, and the Judgment of Mankind, p. 126
  88. ^ Bortman, Eli, Sacco and Vanzetti, Applewood Books, ISBN 1889833762, 9781889833767 (2005), p. 40
  89. ^ Avrich, Paul, Sacco and Vanzetti: The Anarchist Background, Princeton University Press (1991), p. 199: Orciani, who did not testify at trial, was the same person who had helped Mario Buda escape the police trap on May 5, 1920 at the Johnson garage via motorcycle.
  90. ^ Bortman, Eli, Sacco and Vanzetti, Applewood Books, ISBN 1889833762, 9781889833767 (2005), p. 40
  91. ^ Avrich, Paul, Sacco and Vanzetti: The Anarchist Background, Princeton University Press (1991), pp. 158, 189, 202: Both Orciani and Falzini (Falsini), like Sacco and Vanzetti, were Galleanists.
  92. ^ Watson, 178, 183-4
  93. ^ Watson, 184
  94. ^ Watson, pp. 64.; See also: Financial Report of the Sacco-Vanzetti Defense Committee (Century Press, 1925)
  95. ^ The Committee also supported Moore's request for grant money. See Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, The Rebel Girl: An Autobiography, My First Life (1906-1926), revised edition (Masses & Mainsream, 1973), 326
  96. ^ Flynn, 330-1
  97. ^ Watson, pp. 194.
  98. ^ Watson, pp. 265.
  99. ^ Kempton, 42-4. For a brief biography of Jackson, see Brandeis University: "Jackson, Gardner", accessed February 15, 2011
  100. ^ Virginia Spencer Carr, Dos Passos: A Life (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1984), 222; John Dos Passos, Facing the Chair: Story of Americanization of Two Foreignborn Workmen (Boston: Sacco-Vanzetti Defense Committee, 1927)
  101. ^ Sacco and Vanzetti, Letters, pp. ?
  102. ^ a b c Evans, Colin, Casebook of Forensic Detection: How Science Solved 100 of the World's Most Baffling Crimes, New York: Penguin Publishers Ltd., ISBN 0425215598, 9780425215593 (2007), pp. 12-23: "Doctor" Hamilton was not actually a doctor, but a former patent medicine salesman. He acquired a self-taught reputation as a expert firearms witness, though his testimony had been called into question as early as 1918, three years after Hamilton had testified in a New York murder case, People v. Stielow, that scratches on the barrel rifling of a revolver claimed to be Stielow's exactly matched marks on the bullet that killed the murder victim. Stielow was convicted and sentenced to death, and was only saved from execution after another man confessed to the murder. Subsequent new forensic examinations of both pistol and bullet demonstrated conclusively that no 'scratches' existed and that Stielow's revolver could not have been the murder weapon, and Stielow received a full pardon from the governor of New York.
  103. ^ People v. Stielow, 160 N.Y.S. 555 (1916)
  104. ^ Joughin, Louis and Morgan, Edmund M., An Unpublished Chapter in the Record: The Legacy of Sacco and Vanzetti, New York: Harcourt, Brace and Co. (1948)
  105. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Fisher, Jim, Firearms Indentification in the Sacco-Vanzetti Case, retrieved 11 October 2011
  106. ^ Russell, Francis, Sacco & Vanzetti: The Case Resolved, New York: Harper & Row Publishers Inc., ISBN 0060155248, 9780060155247 (1986), p. 150
  107. ^ a b c d e f g h Ehrmann, xvii
  108. ^ Russell, Francis (June 1962). "Sacco Guilty, Vanzetti Innocent?". American Heritage 13 (4): 107. "At the conclusion of the investigation Thayer passed no judgment as to who had switched the barrels but merely noted that the rusty barrel in the new pistol had come from Sacco's Colt." 
  109. ^ Watson, 260-1
  110. ^ Frankfurter, 165
  111. ^ Watson, 257-60; Tropp reproduces the original note Medeiros passed to Sacco in prison, Tropp, 34; on Medeiros' early life, see Russell, Case Resolved, 127-8
  112. ^ Watson, 265-73; Young and Kaiser, 141ff.
  113. ^ Ehrmann develops the theory at length. He consistently spells the name Medeiros without explanation. Ehrmann, 404-31, and passim
  114. ^ In 1925 Joe Morelli denied any involvement in the Braintree robbery-murders (Watson, 270-1). A 1973 Mafia informant’s autobiography quotes his brother Frank Morelli saying of Sacco and Vanzetti: "Those two suckers took it on the chin for us. That shows you how much justice there really is." Young and Kaiser, 151-2 (their dating of the autobiography to 1975 is mistaken); Vincent Teresa, My Life in the Mafia (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1973)
  115. ^ Watson, 266-73, 279
  116. ^ Watson, 273-5, 280
  117. ^ Watson, 280-1
  118. ^ Pulitzer Prizes: "Winners and Finalists: 1927", accessed July 7, 2010
  119. ^ William David Sloan and Laird B. Anderson, eds., Pulitzer Prize Editorials: America's Best Writing, 1917-2003 (Wiley-Blackwell, 2007), 3rd edition, 33-6. Reprinted in Topp, Sacco and Vanzetti Case, 158-60; Frankfurter, Case of Sacco and Vanzetti, 115-8. Available online: Google Books.
  120. ^ Watson, 282
  121. ^ Frankfurter, Case of Sacco and Vanzetti, 103. The article later appeared, slightly expanded, in book form. Chief Justice of the United States William Howard Taft and some others who believed the pair guilty considered Frankfurter’s article to be the foundation of most intellectuals' criticism of the Sacco and Vanzetti case. Robert Grant, Fourscore: An Autobiography (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1934), 366-74
  122. ^ a b c d e f g Goddard, Calvin H., Who Did The Shooting?, Popular Science, Vol. 111 No. 5, ISSN 01617370 (November 1927), pp. 21-22, 171
  123. ^ a b New York Times: Louis Stark, "What Seven Years of Legal Struggle Have Developed," April 17, 1927, accessed June 22, 2010
  124. ^ Watson, 289
  125. ^ Watson, 277, 294
  126. ^ Watson, 331
  127. ^ Watson, 345
  128. ^ Watson, 294
  129. ^ New York Times: "Green Begs Fuller to Extend Clemency to Sacco," August 9, 1927, accessed July 24, 2010
  130. ^ Philip Cannistraro, "Mussolini, Sacco-Vanzetti, and the Anarchists: The Transatlantic Context," in Journal of Modern History, vol. 68, No. 1 (March 1996), 31-62. Italy had deported one of his attackers, Violet Gibson, to Great Britain.
  131. ^ Tropp, 171, Mussolini's telegram to the Italian consul in Boston, July 23, 1927.
  132. ^ Watson, 271
  133. ^ Donald J. McClurg, "The Colorado Coal Strike of 1927 – Tactical Leadership of the IWW," Labor History, vol. 4, no. 1, Winter 1963, 71
  134. ^ Donald J. McClurg, The Colorado Coal Strike of 1927 -- Tactical Leadership of the IWW, Labor History, Vol. 4, No. 1, Winter, 1963, page 72. See also Charles J. Bayard, "The 1927-1928 Colorado Coal Strike," Pacific Historical Review, vol. 32, no. 3, August 1963, 237-8
  135. ^ Watson, Bruce. Sacco and Vanzetti: The Men, the Murders, and the Judgment of Mankind (NY: Viking Press, 2007, ISBN 0670063533, 9780670063536, p. 264
  136. ^ Watson, 277
  137. ^ Kempton, 46
  138. ^ a b Ehrmann, 458
  139. ^ Ehrmann provides the full record on the court's one-hour sentencing session, 450-8
  140. ^ Watson, 308, 333
  141. ^ Watson, 303-4
  142. ^ Herbert B. Ehrmann, The Case That Will Not Die: Commonwealth vs. Sacco and Vanzetti (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1969), 485
  143. ^ Ehrmann, 255-6, 375, 512, 525ff.
  144. ^ New York Times: "Ex-Judge Grant, Boston Novelist," May 20, 1940, accessed Dec. 20, 2009
  145. ^ Bruce Watson, Sacco and Vanzetti: The Men, the Murders, and the Judgment of Mankind (NY: Viking, 2007), 311-3
  146. ^ Watson, 115
  147. ^ Watson, 116.
  148. ^ Watson, 252
  149. ^ New York Times: "Judge Thayer Dies in Boston at 75," April 19, 1933, accessed Dec 20, 2009
  150. ^ Newby, Richard, Kill Now, Talk Forever: Debating Sacco and Vanzetti, AuthorHouse Publishers, ISBN 1420843931, 9781420843934 (2006), p. 594
  151. ^ Robert Grant, Fourscore: An Autobiography (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1934), 372
  152. ^ New York Times: "Advisers Hold Guilt Shown," Aug. 7, 1927, accessed Dec. 20, 2009; Later Grant allowed that he was "amazed and incensed" at the biased comments Judge Thayer made outside the courtroom.
  153. ^ Ehrmann, 539;
  154. ^ Watson, 334
  155. ^ Watson, 339
  156. ^ Watson, 341-2, 344
  157. ^ Watson, 343
  158. ^ Watson, 345-6
  159. ^ a b "Sacco and Vanzetti Put to Death Early This Morning". New York Times. 23 August 1927. Retrieved 9 July 2010. 
  160. ^ Watson, 346
  161. ^ TIME: Books: Executioner," January 15, 1940, accessed November 16, 2010
  162. ^ Brandeis University: "Sacco and Vanzetti collections: Mrs. Walter Frank Collection, 1927-1963", accessed February 15, 2011
  163. ^ Watson, 347
  164. ^ Bortman, 60: "An East German scholar researching in the Soviet Union archives in 1958 discovered that the Communist Party had instigated these 'spontaneous demonstrations.'"
  165. ^ Watson, 348-50
  166. ^ Watson, 349
  167. ^ Young and Kaiser, 6
  168. ^ Findagrave: Nicola Sacco, accessed June 2, 2010; Bartolomeo Vanzetti, accessed June 2, 2010
  169. ^ Watson, 350, 371-2
  170. ^ a b c d e Felipe Pigna, Los Mitos de la historia argentina, ed. Planeta, 2006, chapter IV "Expropriando al Capital", esp. 105-114
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  172. ^ New York Times: "Wells Speaks Some Plain Words to us," October 16, 1927, accessed February 2, 2011
  173. ^ For some continuing controversy over Sinclair's politics in this work, see the charges made in Los Angeles Times: Jean O. Pasco, "Sinclair Letter Turns Out to Be Another Expose," December 24, 2005, accessed July 6, 2010; for the rebuttal see Greg Mitchell "Sliming a Famous Muckraker: The Untold Story," in Editor & Publisher, January 30, 2006, available online as History News Network: "Roundup: Talking About History", accessed July 6, 2010
  174. ^ Upton Sinclair, The Autobiography of Upton Sinclair (NY: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., 1962), 242
  175. ^ Leon Harris, Upton Sinclair, American Rebel (NY: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1975), 243-51
  176. ^ Marion Denman Frankfurter and Gardner Jackson, eds., The Letters of Sacco and Vanzetti (NY: Vanguard Press, 1929), xi
  177. ^ New York Times: "Fuller Spurns Book of Sacco Letters," January 4, 1929, accessed July 28, 2010; Watson, 352. Garner Jackson, a longtime supporter of the defense, presented the volume, which carried an inscription warning the Governor that he would always be watched and paying tribute to its authors as "victims not of the laws but of men."
  178. ^ Bruce Watson, Sacco and Vanzetti: The Men, the Murders, and the Judgment of Mankind (NY: Viking, 2007), 311-5, 325-7, 356; New York Times: "Lowell's Papers on Sacco and Vanzetti Are Released," Feb. 1, 1978, accessed Dec. 28, 2009; New York Times: "Assail Dr. Lowell on Sacco Decision," Sept. 19, 1936, accessed Dec. 28, 2009
  179. ^ New York Times: F. Lauriston Bullard, "Proposed Reforms Echo of Sacco Case," December 11, 1927, accessed June 22, 2010; Bullard was the author of the Boston Herald's Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial earlier in the year. The Times explained that the Judicial Council was a body established by law in 1924 to recommend legal changes. It included lawyers and judges named by governor, including a judge or former judge of the SJC.
  180. ^ New York Times: "Fuller Urges Change in Criminal Appeals," January 5, 1928, accessed June 22, 2010
  181. ^ Joughin, 537
  182. ^ Caspar Willard Weinberger, "Review of Joughin and Morgan, Legacy of Sacco and Vanzetti", in Stanford Law Review, v. 1 (1949), 573-8
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  191. ^ Pernicone, Nunzio, Carlo Tresca: Portrait of a Rebel, Oakland, CA: AK Press, ISBN 9781849350037 (2010), p. 118
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  • Avrich, Paul (1996). Anarchist Voices: An Oral History of Anarchism in America. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. ISBN 9780691034126. 
  • Robert D'Attilio, "La Salute è in Voi: the Anarchist Dimension" in Sacco-Vanzetti: Developments and Reconsiderations - 1979, Conference Proceedings (Boston: Trustees of the Public Library of the City of Boston, 1982)
  • Herbert B. Ehrmann, The Case That Will Not Die: Commonwealth vs. Sacco and Vanzetti (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1969)
  • Frankfurter, Felix (March 1927). "The Case of Sacco and Vanzetti". Atlantic Monthly. ; reprinted in book form as The Case of Sacco and Vanzetti: A Critical Analysisfor Lawyers and Laymen (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1927)
  • G. Louis Joughin and Edmund M. Morgan, The Legacy of Sacco and Vanzetti (NY: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1948)
  • Murray Kempton, Part of our Time: Some Monuments and Ruins of the Thirties (NY: Simon & Schuster, 1955)
  • Montgomery, Robert (1960). Sacco-Vanzetti: The Murder and the Myth. NY: Devin-Adair. 
  • John Neville, Twentieth-Century Cause Cèlébre [sic]: Sacco, Vanzetti, and the Press, 1920-1927 (Westport, CT: Praeger, 2004), ISBN 0275977838. Accents are incorrect in the original.
  • "Sacco and Vanzetti Put to Death Early This Morning". New York Times. 1927-08-23. Retrieved 2008-09-20. 
  • "Proclamation by the Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts," July 19, 1977, in Upton Sinclair, Boston: A Documentary Novel (Cambridge, MA: Robert Bentley, Inc., 1978), 797-9
  • "Report to the Governor in the Matter of Sacco and Vanzetti," July 13, 1977, in Upton Sinclair, Boston: A Documentary Novel (Cambridge, MA: Robert Bentley, Inc., 1978), 757-90
  • Francis Russell, Sacco and Vanzetti: The Case Resolved (NY: Harper & Row, 1986)
  • Francis Russell, Tragedy in Dedham: The Story of the Sacco-Vanzetti Case (NY: McGraw Hill, 1962)
  • Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, The Letters of Sacco and Vanzetti, Marion Denman Frankfurter and Gardner Jackson, eds. (NY: Penguin Books 2007); various editions, first published 1928
  • Michael M. Tropp, The Sacco and Vanzetti Case: A Brief History with Documents (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2005), ISBN 0312400888
  • William Young and David E. Kaiser, Postmortem: New Evidence in the Case of Sacco and Vanzetti (Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 1985)
  • Bruce Watson, Sacco and Vanzetti: The Men, the Murders, and the Judgment of Mankind (NY: Viking Press, 2007), ISBN 0670063533

Further reading

  • Paul Avrich, Sacco and Vanzetti: The Anarchist Background, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991, ISBN 0691026041
  • Paul Avrich, Anarchist Voices: An Oral History of Anarchism in America, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996
  • Eli Bortman, Sacco & Vanzetti (New England Remembers), Commonwealth Editions, 2005 ISBN 1889833762
  • Herbert B. Ehrmann, The Case That Will Not Die: Commonwealth vs. Sacco and Vanzetti, Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1969
  • Howard Fast, The Passion of Sacco and Vanzetti, A New England Legend ISBN 0837155843
  • David Felix, Protest: Sacco-Vanzetti and the Intellectuals, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1965
  • Roberta Strauss Feuerlicht, Justice Crucified, The Story of Sacco and Vanzetti, McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1977
  • James Grossman, "The Sacco-Vanzetti Case Reconsidered," in Commentary, January 1962
  • Brian Jackson, The Black Flag: A Look Back at the Strange Case of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1981
  • Joseph B. Kadane and David A. Schum, A Probabilistic Analysis of the Sacco and Vanzetti Evidence, Wiley Series in Probability & Mathematical Statistics, 1996
  • Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruling denying new trial at Case citation 255 Mass. 369, decided May 12, 1926
  • Robert H. Montgomery, Sacco-Vanzetti: The Murder and the Myth, New York: Devin-Adair, 1960
  • Michael Musmanno, The Sacco-Vanzetti Case, [Lawrence, KS], 1963
  • Michael Musmanno, Was Sacco Guilty?, [New York], 1963
  • Richard Newby, Kill Now, Talk Forever: Debating Sacco and Vanzetti, 2002, ISBN 0759607923
  • Katherine Anne Porter, The Never-Ending Wrong, Boston: Little, Brown, 1977
  • Report to the Governor in the matter of Sacco and Vanzetti, Boston: Commonwealth of Massachusetts, 1977
  • Francis Russell, Tragedy in Dedham: The Story of the Sacco-Vanzetti Case, New York: McGraw-Hill, 1962
  • Francis Russell, Sacco and Vanzetti: The Case Resolved, New York: Harper & Row, 1986
  • Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, The Letters of Sacco and Vanzetti, New York: Octagon Books, 1928
  • Nicola Sacco, The Sacco-Vanzetti Case, New York: Russell & Russell, 1931
  • Sacco-Vanzetti: Developments and Reconsiderations - 1979, Conference Proceedings, Boston: Trustees of the Public Library of the City of Boston, 1979, ISBN 0890730679
  • The Sacco-Vanzetti Case: Transcript of the Record of the Trial of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti in the Courts of Massachusetts, 6 vols., NY: Henry Holt & Co., 1928-9
  • Upton Sinclair, Boston: A Documentary Novel of the Sacco-Vanzetti Case, Cambridge: R. Bentley, 1978
  • James E. Starrs, "Once More Unto the Breech: The Firearms Evidence in the Sacco and Vanzetti Case Revisited," in Journal of Forensic Sciences, 1986, 630–54, 1050–78
  • Moshik Temkin, The Sacco-Vanzetti Affair: America on Trial, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009
  • Lorenzo Tibaldo, Sotto un cielo stellato. Vita e morte di Nicola Sacco e Bartolomeo Vanzetti, Turin: Claudiana, 2008
  • Bruce Watson, Sacco and Vanzetti: The Men, The Murders, and the Judgment of Mankind, New York, Viking, 2007
  • Robert P. Weeks, Commonwealth vs. Sacco and Vanzetti, Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1958
  • William Young and David E. Kaiser, Postmortem: New Evidence in the Case of Sacco and Vanzetti, Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 1985, ISBN 087023479X

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