Arts & Humanities

Eugenio Bolongaro: The Trial of Sacco and Vanzetti

Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti emigrated from Italy to the US in 1908. They did not meet, however, until 1917 during a strike in which they both participated as anarchist activists. They were accused of the murders of Frederick Parmenter, a paymaster, and Alessandro Berardelli, a security guard, at the Slater-Morrill Shoe Company, in Braintree, Massachusetts, on April 15, 1920. Their trial was heavily politicized, eventually polarizing public opinion and becoming an international “cause celèbre.” The defense strongly argued that the two men were innocent and that the justice system was participating in a political repression of radical dissent.

On August 23, 1927, after a long and vain legal struggle to obtain a new trial, their pardon or, at least, the commutation of the death sentence, Sacco and Vanzetti were executed in the electric chair. On the 50th anniversary of their execution, Governor Michael Dukakis, acting on the basis of recommendations from the Massachusetts Office of Legal Counsel, declared August 23, 1977 the Sacco and Vanzetti Memorial Day. In his proclamation, the Governor stated that the two Italian immigrants had been unfairly tried and convicted, and that “any disgrace should be forever removed from their names.” The legal, political and cultural debates provoked by the Sacco and Vanzetti’s case raise fundamental questions about the nature of justice and the role of the legal system in Western democracies.

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    December 9, 2011 at 2:26 pm