The Trial Of Sacco And Vanzett Essay

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The Trial Of Sacco And Vanzett Essay, Research Paper Tainted Justice: The Trial of Sacco and Vanzetti Beneath the surface of economic prosperity and social liberation, America in the 1920’s was a place of great fear, distrust, and prejudice. The Russian Revolution of 1917 had heightened anxieties about global Socialist movements, and any political ideology which strayed from good old-fashioned white-Protestant patriotism was met with suspicion and often hostility. This “Red Scare” resulted in violations of the civil rights of many immigrants and other individuals in an attempt to protect American democracy against the cancer of socialism. It was amid this climate of fear and prejudice that two Italian immigrants, Niccola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, fell victim to an

American judicial system that reflected the prejudices of the society it presided over. The Italian ethnicity and radical political beliefs of Sacco and Vanzetti affected the process of their trial and its resulting conviction. On April 15, 1920, two men ambushed and killed two employees of the Slater and Morrill shoe factory in South Braintree, Massachusetts. The murderers escaped with two payroll boxes, which contained $15, 776.51. On May 5, 1920, Sacco and Vanzetti were arrested and charged with the Braintree murders. On July 14, 1921, following a seven-week trial, they were found guilty of murder in the first degree. Seven years later, after numerous appeals and strong public protest, Sacco and Vanzetti were executed. These events have since spawned a large controversy as

there is much evidence which suggests that Sacco and Vanzetti’s trial was unjust and the verdict may have been reached in a spirit of prejudice. At the time of the trial, Massachusetts was considered one of the most conservative states in America, and it was from this pool of conservatism that 12 white males were selected to serve as the jurors in the trial. One researcher observed that the jurors were “all cut out of the same bolt of cloth; staid, torpid, highly patriotic, oblivious to progress or a progressive idea….” (Montgomery 83). Unfortunately for the defendants, the strength of their case lay in the testimony of many other Italian immigrants who swore that Sacco and Vanzetti were not the Braintree murderers. These witnesses often spoke very broken English with

thick Italian accents. The jurors all lived in predominantly white communities, and having little contact with Italian immigrants in their day to day lives, had trouble understanding much of their testimonies. These testimonies were also easily misrepresented by the prosecution in attempts to incriminate the defendants (Frankfurter 23). The foreman of the jury, Walter R. Ripley, was a former police chief and a strong patriot. Each morning, upon entering the courtroom, Ripley would pause and perform a highly visible, highly symbolic salute of the flag. Before the trial, when the possibility of Sacco and Vanzetti’s innocence was brought up by a friend, Ripley responded “Damn them, they ought to be hanged anyway!” (Freuerlicht 202). By its nature, patriotism stands in

opposition to any other opinion or belief that attempts to question or undermine the government. Could a jury possessing such patriotic sentiments have been considered able to provide two known anarchists a fair judgment? It seems very unlikely. Throughout the trial, the prosecution, led by Frederick Katzman, produced many controversial witnesses. Of the sixteen witnesses used to identify Sacco as one of the South Braintree assailants, none were able to give a positive identification of Sacco at the trial’s preliminary hearings. However, during the actual trial, seven out of sixteen claimed to have been absolutely certain that Sacco was one of the murderers (Freuerlicht 204). Also, of all the eyewitnesses who claimed to have seen Sacco or Vanzetti at the scene of the crime, not