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Sacco-Vanzetli Trial: 1921

A Car To Move Red Literature, Defense Committee Organized, Outdated Bullets And A Cap, Trial For Murder, Nothing Else

Defendants: Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti
Crime Charged: Murder
Chief Defense Lawyers: William J. Callahan, Herbert B. Ehrmann, James M. Graham, Arthur Dehon Hill, Jeremiah J. McAnarney, Thomas F. McAnarney, Fred H. Moore, Michael Angelo Musmanno, William G. Thompson, and John P. Vahey
Chief Prosecutors: Frederick Gunn Katzmann, Donald P. Ramsey, and Harold P. Williams
Judge: Webster Thayer
Place: Dedham, Massachusetts
Dates of Trial: May 31-July 14, 1921
Verdict: Guilty
Sentences: Death

SIGNIFICANCE: The Sacco-Vanzetti case began as a simple trial for murder. It ended as an international cause in which the world believed that Massachusetts had executed two innocent men because they held radical views. A study of the trial and its aftermath provides a superb lesson in how myths are made.

On the afternoon of April 15, 1920, as a shoe manufacturer's paymaster, Frederick Parmenter, and his guard, Alessandro Berardelli, carried the $15,777 cash payroll in South Braintree, Massachusetts, they were killed by two men armed with pistols. Seizing the money, the men jumped into a car containing several other men and sped away. Eyewitnesses thought the murderers looked like Italians.

At the time, police were investigating an attempted holdup on the preceding Christmas Eve by a gang of Italians with a car in nearby Bridgewater. Police Chief Michael E. Stewart suspected one Mike Boda, whose car was now awaiting repairs in Simon Johnson's garage. Stewart told Johnson to call the police when anyone came to get Boda's car.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1918 to 1940