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 EVIDENCEPROSECUTION EVIDENCEDEFENSE 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 atall times certain of his or heridentification. Andrews and Pelser hadtold a defense investigator that theycould not make an identification. Splaineand Devlin only briefly saw a man leaningout of automobile from a distance ofover 70 feet. None of the witnessesidentified Sacco until well after hisarrest. The witnesses were not requiredto pick Sacco out a line-up. Several of theclosest witnesses to the crime were notable to identify Sacco.(1) Before the Lowell Committee,the police chief of South Braintreeexpressed surprise that theeyewitnesses seemed much morecertain of their indentifications inthe trial than they did at thepreliminary hearing a year earlier. (2) Years after the trial, an Italianworkman said he saw Sacco amongthe bandits, but he chose not tocome forward and testify.Ballistics EvidenceOne of the recovered bulletscould not have been fired fromSacco's Colt automatic. Itclearly was fired fromsomeone's Colt. Ballistics expertProctor testified that "Bullet 3"was "consistent with being firedthrough [Sacco's] pistol." ExpertVan Amburgh noted a scratch onBullet 3 likely made by a defectin the 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 trialthat they found the ballisticsevidence compelling. (2)Prosecution expert Proctor toldDistrict Attorney Katzmann prior totrial that he did not believe that"Bullet 3" was fired from Sacco'sgun. (3)In 1961, a ballistics testconducted at the Mass. Police Labsuggested that Sacco's Colt wasusedto fire "Bullet 3."Evidence Relating to CapA cap with a hole in it picked upat the crime scene resembledone owned by Sacco. The holemight have been produced by anail at Sacco's workplace onwhich he he was in the habit ofhanging his cap. A witness(Kelley) testified that the capresembled in color and style acap owned by Sacco.