Postmortem: New Evidence in the Case of Sacco and Vanzetti

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

10

How the Frame Occurred

New documentation provides substantial confirmation for the theory that bullet III and shell w were not genuine exhibits but were substituted by the prosecution. Available evidence indicates that the four bullets originally taken from Berardelli's body—as well as the two taken from Parmenter's—were actually fired from the same weapon and that only three rather than four shells were originally found on the ground near Berardelli's body. The minutes of the trial show how District Attorney Williams took careful precautions to make sure that the substitution of a new bullet III was not discovered. There is no exact proof, and there almost certainly never can be, of exactly how, when, and by whom a switch was made, but there is enough evidence to allow for reasonable answers to these questions.

The problem of determining whether the original bullets were indeed fired from the same gun and did not include a bullet fired from a Colt automatic is somewhat simpler than a layman might think. While the six rifling marks on bullet III all slant to the left, the rifling marks on the other bullets—oval gouges extending more than halfway up the bullet —slant to the right. As figure 12 shows, the difference in the markings on bullet III could be noticed by anyone who looked at the bullets closely and would certainly be noticed immediately by anyone with any knowledge of firearms evidence. It was the left twist that immediately marked bullet III as having come from a Colt automatic such as Sacco's. 1 In fact, evidence that has long been in the public record tends to support the theory that the four bullets originally taken from Berardelli's body were similar in appearance. "There were two bullets that entered the body of Parmenter and four entered the body of Berardelli," Dr. Jones said at the inquest on 17 April. "I have seen all those bullets and they are all identical, all 32 calibre, short automatic, jacketed.... If one were to deduce from the wounds and from the bullets they were all fired by the same type of pistol and easily carried in a pocket automatic pistol." However, Dr. Jones quickly added that he was "no expert" regarding bullets and that he had not examined the Berardelli bullets very carefully. 2 The grand jury proceeding—unknown until now—provides more definite information.

Dr. George Magrath, who removed the bullets from Berardelli's body, testified before the grand jury at some length on 10 September 1920. His

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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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