Sacco and Vanzetti are being tried for highway robbery and murder, but the real charge is radicalism.
The trial before the court in Dedham, Massachusetts, for a capital offense of two Italians, Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, raises issues of fundamental importance. The accused are men of excellent character and of unusual gifts. Sacco is a skilled shoe-worker who has been employed in one establishment seven years, earning sometimes as much as $26 in a single day. Vanzetti left industrial employment and bought a fish route in the Italian section of Plymouth for “love of independence.” Both are radicals and have taken an aggressive part in the industrial struggle; in other words, they belong to the unpopular class of “reds.”
The crimes for which Sacco and Vanzetti were arrested were an unsuccessful attempt to capture a pay roll at Bridgewater on December 24, 1919, and a hold-up at Braintree on April 15, 1920, in which the bandits got away with some $18,000 and the paymaster and one of the guards were killed. Both Sacco and Vanzetti were examined for both of these crimes, but only Vanzetti was put on trial for the first, that of Bridgewater His trial took place last July, when he was found guilty and sentenced to fifteen years in the State’s prison. It is for the second of the crimes, that of highway robbery and murder at Braintree, that both he and Sacco are now facing trial at Dedham.
The circumstances attending the arrest of the two men and still more developments at Vanzetti’s trial have aroused a widespread belief in a frame-up. Substantial basis for this belief is furnished by the transcript of the preliminary hearings and of Vanzetti’s trial. In these documents not a scintilla of evidence is produced showing why either Sacco or Vanzetti should have been charged with the Braintree crime (if further evidence exists, the accused were given no chance to meet it), while the only evidence which afforded ground for more than a surmise connecting Vanzetti with the Bridgewater crime was that of persons who had witnessed the holdup and who claimed to recognize one of the men who had done the shooting—a man, be it remembered, they had never seen before and of whom they got but a momentary glance upon an occasion of intense excitement. An interval of four months had elapsed between this occasion and the first attempt at identification; and between two or three months elapsed before the attempted identification at the trial. All but two of the witnesses, while they were fairly positive in their identification, admitted that there was room for doubt. “I think he is the man,” “I feel so but I may be mistaken.”