Tragedy in Dedham: The Story of the Sacco-Vanzetti Case

By Francis Russell | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER SEVENTEEN
1927

The state prison's new electric plant went into use five days after New Year's, when three young men known as the Carbarn Bandits were executed. Following executions the warden customarily served a buffet supper to the witnesses and the press, so when on January 4 Vanzetti noticed three hams being cooked in the kitchen for the warden's house, he knew it was the bandits' turn.

The three-- Edward Heinlein, John Devereaux, and John McLaughlin--had held up the night cashier at the Waltham carbarn on October 4, 1925; while escaping, Devereaux had shot and killed an elderly night watchman who tried to stop them. They were caught the same night, and by next day the press had already labeled them the Carbarn Bandits. At their trial Devereaux admitted that he had fired the fatal shot but said he had meant to fire at the ground. He told the court that he did not see why his two friends should suffer for what he had done. Nevertheless, all three were found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to death. As faithful if erring Catholics they walked to the chair accompanied by a priest, and their last look was at a crucifix held before their eyes.

In the six months between their conviction and their execution, their fate caused more of a stir locally than did the postponed fate of Sacco and Vanzetti. All three had served in the Army during the war, and Devereaux had been wounded. They were Irish by descent, and whatever their faults, they had remained true to their church. The mothers of the three organized a Massachusetts Clemency Committee and presented the governor, Alvan Fuller, a petition of 120,000 names that included those of three ex-governors. Protest meetings were held all summer and autumn. In a desperate last appeal the

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