23 August 1927 – Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti

Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti

Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti

It seems the whole world sat up and took notice when Ferdinando Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti took to the hot seat on this day in 1927.

They were sent to the electric chair in Massachussets apparently for armed robbery, which resulted in the death of two clerks.

Accusations of prejudice surrounded the Italian-born duo’s trial and criticism centred around the judge who was said to have skewed the jury towards convicting the pair, because they were known for their anarchic activity.

Looting Louts

However, anarchy doesn’t mean murder and many reckoned the men were stitiched up. Indeed two years before the executions were carried out a Portuguese bloke by the name of Celestino Madeiros confessed to being a member of the notorious gang who’d carried out the robbery. This gang included the Morelli brothers who were well-known for being looting louts, but it seemed no-one was listening…save for the rest of the world.

As well as protests in New York, the deathly verdict sparked furore as far apart as South America, South Africa and Tokyo, as well as European cities such as London, Amsterdam, Paris and Geneva, with demos ranging from mass walk-outs to rioting, even bombings took place against key people involved with the sentencing, according to Wkipedia.

Confession…what confession?

Yet Massachussets carried on regardless, choosing to ignore the actual admission of guilt from the Portuguese immigrant and indeed the rest of the world, instead opting to execute the two Italians instead.

According to 36-year-old Vanzetti, this was not so bad. He said of his execution ‘If it had not been for this thing…I might have died, unmarked, unknown, a failure. Now we are not a failure. This is our career and our triumph’. So he and 39-year-old comrade Sacco were barbecued on Old Sparky and it wasn’t until 50 years later that the state acknowledged its shortcomings in relation to this case.

Michael Dukakis, the Governor of Massachusetts, admitted that while the laws of Massachusetts wouldn’t allow him to exonerate the two men, he realised the case had been biased. He even went as far as to say that had he been governor at that time, he would have granted them clemency, but it was a bit late for all that…

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