Postmortem: New Evidence in the Case of Sacco and Vanzetti

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

8

Vanzetti's Gun

he most serious evidence and the only physical evidence produced by the prosecution to connect Vanzetti to the South Braintree crime was the .38 caliber Harrington and Richardson revolver found upon him at the time of his arrest. 1 Harold Williams did not attempt to tie this gun to the crime in his opening statement, but during the trial the prosecution elaborated a claim that this revolver had formerly belonged to the slain guard Alessandro Berardelli and that it had been taken from him in the course of the robbery. In support of this claim they produced evidence showing that Berardelli had owned and habitually carried a Harrington and Richardson revolver, that it had recently been repaired, and that Vanzetti's gun showed evidence of one of the repairs that had been made upon it. In response the defense called Luigi Falzini, who claimed to have bought the revolver from Ricardo Orciani in October 1919 and sold it to Vanzetti in January or February 1920; Rexford Slater, who testified that he had received the gun from his mother-in-law roughly in 1918, when she came to Massachusetts from Maine, and sold it to Orciani, with whom he had worked, in the fall of 1919; and Eldridge Atwater, Slater's brother-in-law, who testified that the gun had belonged to his father-in-law and that his mother-in-law had taken it to Massachusetts some years earlier. 2 Falzini, Slater, and Atwater all identified the gun, and Slater and Atwater also identified the case that went with it. The defense did not call Orciani. Despite some holes and contradictions in the prosecution's argument, the juryman John Dever was persuaded that Vanzetti's gun had been taken from Berardelli, 3 which suggests that the rest of the jury was similarly convinced. But documents newly released from the state police files show that Vanzetti's revolver was very definitely not Berardelli's. What is equally significant is that they show that the prosecution sent Vanzetti to the electric chair on evidence they knew to be false.

The prosecution's argument that Vanzetti's gun had been taken from Berardelli during the shooting was always shaky because no eyewitness saw anything like that take place. Lewis Wade thought he saw Berardelli reaching for his revolver but did not claim to see the gun itself. Witnesses described the bandits shooting and picking up the payroll boxes but not taking anything from either of the bodies. 4

Indeed, the prosecution could not definitely show that Berardelli had

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Postmortem: New Evidence in the Case of Sacco and Vanzetti
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Postmortem - New Evidence in the Case of Sacco and Vanzetti *
  • Contents *
  • Illustrations *
  • Preface *
  • 1 - Introduction *
  • 2 - Anarchism and the Arrests *
  • 3 - Vanzetti's Plymouth Trial *
  • 4 - The Prosecution *
  • 5 - The Identification Testimony *
  • 6 - The Defendants *
  • 7 - The Alibis *
  • 8 - Vanzetti's Gun *
  • 9 - Bullet III *
  • 10 - How the Frame Occurred *
  • 11 - The Feds *
  • 12 - Alternative Theories *
  • 13 - Conclusion *
  • Notes *
  • Index *
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