The Sacco-Vanzetti Case
RE last las not even now been heard of the case of the two Italians in Ainerica, Sacco and Vanzetti, ho five years ago were convicted of the murder of a Pay-roll clerk at South Braintree, Massachusetts, and are still under sentence of death. On October 23rd of this year the latest motion for a new trial was denied by the Supedor Court of the State of 'Massachusetts. It seems that there will be an appeal to a still higher Mut Few trials in America have caused so much excitement mingled with- misgiving, and 'very few indeed' have caused so many reactions in other parts of the world.
In 1919 and 1920 there was a series of violent street robberies in MassachuSetts. Two of those crimes are connected with the Sacco-Vanzetti case. In December, 1919, a pay-roll clerk of a shoemaking company in Bridgewater was conveying 30;000 dollars -in a motor- car when 'he was stopped by an armed man. The bandit fired and the fire was returned from the motor-car. The bandit, apparently, not'having expected so warm' reception, jumped into another car which was waiting for him and was driven rapidly away. In April, 1920, the pay-roll clerk of another shoemaking company in South Braintree was carrying 16,000 dollars along the main street. He was accompanied by another employee of the company. Suddenly they were stopped by two men armed with revolvers. The bandits fired, killing both the employees, and before they could be seized jump :•.d into a waiting motor-car, and drove off with the money.
While the police were searching for clues to these and similar hold-ups, the Federal police were hard at work conducting a round-up of the Red political elements in the United States. In the course of their inquiries they discovered that two Italians named Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were Anarchists, Communists, or Radicals—the exact title does not matter very much, as in the United States the three terms are almost synonymous. The police also discovered that one of the intimate friends of Sacco and Vanzetti owned a motor-car. Owing to the coincidence of the Red raids and the search for the bandits, Sacco and Vanzetti, after their arrest, were questioned indifferently as to their political opinions and their movements about the time when the robberies were committed. Sacco was able to prove that he had been at work on the day of the Bridge- water robbery in quite a different place. Vanzetti, however, could not satisfy his questioners and was put on his trial for the Bridgewater affair. The trial was held at Plymouth in June, 1920, under Judge Webster Thayer. Vanzetti was sentenced to twelve years' imprisonment for " assault with attempt to rob." As for the much more serious South Braintree crime, Sacco and Vanzetti were both committed for trial. The trial began at Dedham on May 31st, 1921, and lasted till July 14th.
Mr. Thomas O'Connor, writing in the American Nation, recalls the story of the Dedham trial. A squad of armed policemen stood on the Court House steps to guard the place against " the Anarchists." Mounted troops of the State Police Control paraded the little town. The panel of 250 jurors was exhausted without securing the twelve necessary men. A gccond panel of 250 was summoned and yet the jury-box was not filled. Finally,. a special panel was called, after search had been made -" in the highways and byways." Counsel on both sides agreed not to introduce evidence of character, but as regards Vanzetti at all events evidence of character had already been in effect given, for he was freely described in the newspapers as " the convicted hold-up man " who was now being tried for murder. Counsel for the defence was Mr. Fred H. Moore, a Californian. He was an aggressive lawyer who openly associated himself with the Radicalism of the prisoners. His way of carrying war into the enemy's country brought him at once into very bad relations with the Judge—who was again Judge Webster Thayer. Judge Thayer is reported to have said, " I will show them that no damn long-haired Anarchist from California can come to Massachusetts and run this Court." These words, it must be pointed out, though they have frequently been repeated as a proof of the Judge's bias, were not said in court. The Judge, however, seems to have brought the reporters into a much closer contact with the trial than would be permissible in this country. Mr. Frank Sibley, of the Boston Globe, recorded that Judge Thayer said to a group of reporters, " I think I am entitled to have printed a statement in the Boston papers to the effect that this trial is being fairly and impartially conducted." Accord- ing to Mr. Sibley, none of the reporters made any response, whereupon the Judge, addressing. one of them by name, exclaimed " What do you say ? Is this trial being fairly and impartially conducted ? " The reporter, thus singled out, replied emphatically, " We have never seen anything like it ! "
Out of the 160 witnessesmost of them were called by the defence—there were only five who swore that Sacco was in South Braintree on the day of the murder. Mr. O'Connor says that there was reason for regarding the evidence of each of these five with some reserve. Vanzetti wanted to prove that he was selling fish in Plymouth on the day of the murders and suggested that he should go into the witness-box in his own defence. He was dissuaded from doing so by his counsel who told him that his Radical opinions would prejudice his case. Mr. O'Connor sum- marizes the case by saying that it was not the Common- wealth v. Sacco and Vanzetti, but the ComMonwealth r; the Anarchists. This is very likely an exaggeration, but the original coincidence between the search for Reds and the arrest of Sacco and Vanzetti was . certainly unfortunate.
Still more unfortunate was the submission to the jury that the lies told by the two men when they were arrested showed " a consciousness of guilt." The lies were just as easily explicable by the panic of the men, who obviously did not want to be victims of the Red round-up, and who, moreover, knew that the State had against them the fact that they had unnecessarily. visited Mexico during the War in order to escape the draft. - In the end both the prisoners were found guilty of murder in the first degree and sentenced to death. After the trial Captain Proctor of the State -Police, an expert in firearms; said in an affidavit for the benefit of Sacco and Vanzetti that he had made an agreement with the Prosecution that although he would give evidence that the bullet which killed one of the murdered men at South Braintree might have been fired from the revolver found on Sacco, he could not testify that it actually had been. Mr. O'Connor adds. that Captain Proctor, who has since died, expressed the- opinion that the State " had the wrong men."
The verdict was the signal for an outburst by Communist organizations all over the world on the ground that Sacco and Vanzetti had not had a fair trial. When the ease was reviewed for the first time by a higher Court and a fresh trial was refused there were angry demonstrations against the United States Embassies in Paris aid Berlin. In Paris a bomb was exploded in front of the Embassy. Demonstra- tions also took place in Bordeaux, Marseilles, Rome, Algiers, Lisbon and even in London. It was not only Radicals in America who doubted whether the nien had been fairly tried. Large sums were raised by public subscription and for the second time the case was reviewed—again without success. Still more funds were raised—the Nor York correspondent of the Times said that the among collected was £60,000 and last spring another attempt was made to reopen the case. This too failed. Each fresh attempt in America was accompanied by demon• strations in other countries. Bombs were exploded in front of the United States legations in the Argentine and Uruguay.
. Recently it was announced that entirely new -evidence had been obtained in the 'form of a confession by a Portuguese named Madeiros, who is lying under sentence of death at 'Dedham. As Madeiros was a fellow-prisoner of Sacco there may, one fancies, have been an arrangement that Madeiros should bear the guilt, either in order to delay his own execution, or to help Sacco even though lie himself could not escape. This confession led toye_ 17 another motion for a fresh trial of Sacco and Vanzetti. It
motion which was denied on October 23rd, when the Judge said that Madeiros was a "crook, thief, liar, rum- runner, smuggler and employee of a house of ill-fame." The Judge, it should be noted, was Judge Webster Thayer.