Sunday, July 14, 2013

July 14, 1921

A paymaster for a shoe company in South Braintree, Mass. and his guard were shot and killed on April 15, 1920.  The murderers, described as two Italian men, escaped with more than $15,000. 

Avowed anarchists Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were arrested and charged with the crime.  They were found guilty of murder in the first degree on July 14, 1921.  Much of the evidence against them was later discredited, including the confession of Medeiros. The Supreme Judicial Court, however, did not overturn the verdict, and Governor Fuller denied the pair clemency. Sporadic protests occurred in Massachusetts and around the world calling for their release, but on August 19, 1927,  U. S. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes denied a stay of execution.   On August 23, 1927 they were electrocuted.

On the 50th anniversary of their execution Governor Dukakis issued a proclamation naming that day Sacco and Vanzetti Memorial Day, urging the people of Massachusetts to "reflect upon these tragic events, and draw from their historic lessons the resolve to prevent the forces of intolerance, fear, and hatred from ever again uniting to overcome rationality, wisdom, and fairness to which our legal system aspires."

Various resources including a chronology, excepts from the trial transcript, summary of evidence and appellate decisions can be found on Famous Trials.  The Sacco and Vanzetti Commemoration Society website highlights activities of the group and includes documents, a bibliography and more. An extensive article was written in the Atlantic Monthly.

While in Boston you may wish to view the 7 foot bas relief sculpture commemorating Sacco and Vanzetti in the Boston Public Library Rare Book room.  There is also an exhibit, "Sacco and Vanzetti:  Justice on Trial," in the Great Hall on the first floor of the John Adams Courthouse.  It is included in public tours of the courthouse on Mondays and Thursdays and  also open to the general public, Monday-Friday, 8:30 am - 5:00 pm.  You can also take a virtual tour.

Since the 1920s this case has inspired books, movies, plays, poems, paintings and music.