Postmortem: New Evidence in the Case of Sacco and Vanzetti

By William Young; David E. Kaiser | Go to book overview
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7

The Alibis

Both Sacco and Vanzetti presented substantial alibis for 15 April when the defense put on its case. Alibi evidence is of course extremely difficult to evaluate. If a defendant has a documented alibi, like Orciani's work records at the foundry he worked in, he will not be charged with the crime in question. Otherwise his alibi is bound to depend on his own and others' recollections, and the other witnesses are likely to be friends and acquaintances whose testimony the prosecution can easily impugn. Sacco and Vanzetti's alibis were about as strong as they could possibly be, given the circumstances of their lives, although a notable proportion of Sacco's alibi witnesses were fellow anarchists whose motives are inevitably suspect. 1

At the trial Vanzetti stuck by his statement to Katzmann on 5 May that he had been peddling fish on 15 April. He added that he had met one Joseph Rosen, a salesman who had offered him a piece of cloth, at about II:30; that he had brought the cloth over to the home of Alfonsina Brini, with whom he had formerly boarded, to ask her opinion of it; that he later sold fish to a factory worker, Angel Guidobone; and that he spent over an hour between 2:00 and 3:30 talking to a fisherman, Melvin Corl, and that they spoke to a boatbuilder, Frank Jesse, during that time as well. All these witnesses corroborated what Vanzetti had said. As Katzmann naturally stressed, the issue of whether these incidents had actually taken place on 15 April was cloudier. The witnesses fixed the date in various ways. The most effective was Rosen, who testified that he had gone to Whitman, near South Braintree, late that afternoon and rented a room at a rooming house there for the night. A rooming house clerk confirmed that she had rented a room for that night. 2 Most of Vanzetti's alibi witnesses, then, were neither anarchists nor Italians.

Sacco's alibi was much more detailed. Having told Katzmann on 6 May that he might have been in Boston to check on his passport on I5 April, he confirmed this at the trial. Nine defense witnesses corroborated his account of his movements on that day. Dominic Ricci, a carpenter, saw Sacco at the railroad station in Stoughton and testified that Sacco said he was going to Boston. A contractor, Angelo Monello, testified to meeting Sacco at II:00 A. M. on Hanover Street in the North End of Boston. Albert Bosco, editor of the Italian daily La Notizia, re

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