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SACCO AND VANZETTI COURT CASEBACKGROUND:On April 15, 1920, F.A. Parmenter, a shoe factory paymaster, and guard Alessandro Berardelli were murdered in South Braintree, Massachusetts. The two men who fired the shots escaped in a waiting car with more than $15,000. Initially this appeared to be a local story only, not unlike similar incidents elsewhere in America during the often lawless postwar years. Three weeks later, arrests were made and charges brought against two Italian immigrants — Nicola Sacco, a shoemaker, and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, a fish peddler.VANZETTISACCO
EVIDENCE CONCERNING SACCOTYPE OF EVIDENCEPROSECUTIONEVIDENCEDEFENSE RESPONSENOTESEyewitnesssIdentificationSeven eyewitnesses (Andrews,Tracy, Heron, Pelser, Splaine,Devlin, and Goodridge) placedSacco in or near Braintreearound the time of crime. A fewother witnesses testified thatSacco resembled one of thebandits, but declined to make apositive identification.None of the seven eyewitnesses was at all timescertain of his or her identification. Andrews andPelser had told a defense investigator that theycould not make an identification. Splaine andDevlin only briefly saw a man leaning out ofautomobile from a distance of over 70 feet. Noneof the witnesses identified Sacco until well afterhis arrest. The witnesses were not required topick Sacco out a line-up. Several of the closestwitnesses to the crime were notable to identifySacco.(1) Before the Lowell Committee, the policechief of South Braintree expressed surprisethat the eyewitnesses seemed much morecertain of their identifications in the trial thanthey did at the preliminary hearing a yearearlier. (2) Years after the trial, an Italian workmansaid he saw Sacco among the bandits, but hechose not to come forward and testify.Ballistics EvidenceOne of the recovered bullets couldnot have been fired from Sacco'sColt automatic. It clearly was firedfrom someone's Colt. Ballisticsexpert Proctor testified that "Bullet3" was "consistent with being firedthrough [Sacco's] pistol." ExpertVan Amburgh noted a scratch onBullet 3 likely made by a defect inthe rifling of Sacco's pistol.Two defense experts (Burns, Fitzgerald)testified that "Bullet 3" could not havebeen fired from Sacco's Colt.(1) Jurors reported after the trial that theyfound the ballistics evidence compelling. (2)Prosecution expert Proctor told DistrictAttorney Katzmann prior to trial that hedid not believe that "Bullet 3" was firedfrom Sacco's gun. (3)In 1961, a ballistics test conducted atthe Mass. Police Lab suggested thatSacco's Colt wasused to fire "Bullet 3."Evidence Relating to CapA cap with a hole in it picked up atthe crime scene resembled oneowned by Sacco. The hole mighthave been produced by a nail atSacco's workplace on which he hewas in the habit of hanging his cap.