Dewane Barnes

Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Dubofsky, Melvyn, 1934-||Hayter, Earl W. (Earl Wiley), 1901-1994

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of History


Sacco; Nicola; 1891-1927. defendant; Vanzetti; Bartolomeo; 1888-1927. defendant; Sacco-Vanzetti case


At about three o‘clock in the afternoon of April 15, 1920, the Slater and Morrill paymaster, Parmenter, and his guard, Berardelli, were killed by two men, and the pay roll of the Slater and Morrill Shoe Company was stolen. On the night of May 5 Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were arrested and charged with the South Braintree murders. Sacco and Vanzetti were indicted on September 14, 1920, and brought to trial May 31, 1921. The trial lasted for seven weeks, and on July 14, 1921, the jury returned a verdict of guilty. After seven years of legal maneuvers by defense counsel, Sacco and Vanzetti were executed. During the trial the prosecution relied upon five main points to secure a conviction. 1. The testimony of various eyewitnesses identifying Sacco and Vanzetti as participating in the crime or being rear the scene. 2. The testimony of experts who contended that the bullet which killed Berardelli and one of the shells found near the scene of the crime had been fired through Sacco's 32-caliber Colt automatic. 3. The Commonwealth claimed that a cap found at the scene of the crime belonged to Sacco. 4. The revolver found on Vanzetti when he was taken into custody had been taken from the body of Berardelli by Sacco, who, in turn, gave it to Vanzetti. 5. The defendants exhibited a consciousness of guilt. In other words when the defendants were apprehended they told lies to the officers who interrogated them and to the Districts Attorney. The prosecution maintained that if Sacco and Vanzetti were innocent they would have had no reason to lie. There are two conspicuous elements which are lacking from the prosecution's case. The prosecution was never able to trace any of the money to either of the defendants, and no information was ever presented concerning the identity and whereabouts of the other bandits. The defense attorneys built their case around four main contentions. Sacco and Vansetti were not involved in the South Braintree shooting. In order to support this claim the defense called 29 witnesses to the stand. All of these witnesses had seen the killers before, during, or after the shooting, and all of them testified that there was no resemblance between the men that they had seen and Sacco and Vanasettl. Both defendants claimed that they were elsewhere at the time of the crime, Sacco was in Boston enquiring about a passport and Vanzetti was peddling fish in Plymouth. Twelve witnesses gave testimony that tended to support Sacco's alibi and five witnesses testified on behalf of Vansetti. The defense also claimed that the South Braintree murders were committed by the Morelli gang. Finally the defendants claimed that they had been denied a fair trial. During the trial the foreran of the jury was guilty of misconduct and he had told a friend that Sacco and Vanzetti ought to hang. Defense counsel also claimed that the prosecution deliberately suppressed testimony favorable to the defense; that the prosecution planned the testimony of the Ballistics experts so as to mislead the jury; that the prosecution played on the prejudices of the jury by emphasizing the radicalism of the defendants. Defense counsel also argued that the state of mind of Judge Thayer made a fair trial impossible. Only the first two defense contentions were brought out at the trial; the last two were raised in suplementary motions.


Includes bibliographical references.


140 pages, 18 unnumbered pages




Northern Illinois University

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