Sacco-Vanzetti: The Murder and the Myth

By Robert H. Montgomery | Go to book overview

4
VANZETTI DID NOT TAKE THE STAND AT PLYMOUTH

IN THE Plymouth trial, Vanzetti did not take the stand. This was his right, and the jury was told that they must not infer guilt from his failure to testify. This counsel of perfection the jury may have followed -- the Commonwealth's case was strong enough and the defense weak enough to justify the verdict without benefit of the inference -- but it is surely common sense for us to infer that a defendant who does not take the stand in his own behalf has no confidence in his innocence.

At the conclusion of the Commonwealth's case, several witnesses had identified Vanzetti as the man with the shotgun. It is inconceivable that an innocent defendant would not have gone on the stand and denied that testimony.

It also appeared that at the time of the arrest Vanzetti had in his possession four shotgun shells. An innocent defendant would have wanted to explain his possession of them. Frankfurter says that the innocent possession of them was accounted for at the Dedham trial. Why not at the Plymouth trial? Vanzetti knew then as well as later how they came into his possession.

Similarly, part of the case against the defendant was the consciousness of guilt to be inferred from Vanzetti's untruthful answers to Stewart during the questioning immediately after the arrest. The evidence clearly showed that some of the answers were untruthful. An innocent defendant would have wanted to explain why he had told these untruths.

-35-

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