During the 20th century, a number of trials have excited widespread interest. One case in particular was the case of Nicola Sacco, a ,32 year- old shoemaker,and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, a 29 year old fish peddler, who were accused of double murder. On April 15,1920, a paymaster and a payroll guard carrying a factory payroll of $15,776. were shot during a robbery in Braintree, Massachussets, near  Boston.About three weeks later, Sacco and Vanzetti were charged with the crime. Their trial aroused intense controversy because it was widely believed that the evidence against the men was flimsy, and that they were being prosecuted for their immigrant background  and their radical political beliefs.  Sacco and Vanzetti were Italian immigrants and avowed anarchist who advocated the violent overthrow of capitalism.

It was the height of the post-would war I Red Scare, Revolutionary upheavals had been triggered by the war, and one third of the U.S. population consisted of immigrants of children of immigrants. The U.S. Attorney General  Mitchell Palmer  had ordered foreign radicals rounded up for deportation. Just three days before Sacco and Vanzetti were arrested ,one of the people sized during the Palmer raids, an anarchist editor  had died after falling from a 14th floor window of the New york Department of Justice office. The police, judge , jury and newspapers were deeply concerned about labor unrest.  

No witnesses had gotten a good look at the perpetrators of the murder and robbery. The witnesses described a shoot out in the street and the robbers escaping in a Buick, while scattering tacks to deter any pursuers.  Anti-immigrant and ant-radical led the police to focus on local anarchists.  Sacco and Vanzetti were followers of Luigi Galleani, a radical anarchist who had instigated a wave of bombings against public officials just after world war I. Carlos Valdinoci, a close friend of Galleani, had blown himself up while trying to plant a bomb at Attorney General Palmer’s house.  Palmer’s house was largely destroyed but his family although badly shaken were not injured from the blast..

After the incident Sacco and Vanzetti acted nervelessly , although nether had a criminal record, the arresting officer testified they were reaching for weapons when they were apprehended. Police linked Sacco’s gun to the double murder,the only piece of physical evidence that connected the men to the crime. The defense,however argued that the link was overstated.  

In 1921, Sacco and Vanzetti  were convicted in a trial that that was marred by prejudice against Italian immigrants,and radical beliefs. The evidence was ambiguous as to the pairs guilt or innocence, but the trail was a sham: the prosecution played heavily on the pairs radical beliefs; the men were keep in an iron cage during the trail: the jury foreman muttered unflattering stereotypes about Italians. In his instructions to the jury ,the presiding judge urged the jury to remember their “true American citizenship.The pair were electrocuted in 1927.

 As the guards adjusted his straps, Vanzetti  said in broken English,              “I wish to tell you I am innocent and never connected with any crime…I wish to forgive some people for what they are now doing to me.”

The execution divided the nation and produce uproar in Europe.

Harvard law Professor and later U.S. Supreme Court Justice Filex Frankfurter , condemned the prejudice of the presiding judge( who reportedly said  in 1924, “did you see what I did with those anadcharist bastards the other day?”) and procedural errors during the trial. The errors included the prosecution’s failure to disclose eyewitness evidence favorable to the defense. A commission that included the presidents of Harvard and MIT defended the trial’s fairness,

Today many historians now believe Sacco was probable guilty and Vanzetti was innocent but that the evidence was insufficient to convict either Harvard, one.

A true story from digital History copywrite 2016

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