Magazine article Humanities

Excerpts from the New American National Biography

Magazine article Humanities

Excerpts from the New American National Biography

Article excerpt

The trial of Sacco and Vanzetti for the South Braintree murders was held in Dedham from 13 May to 14 July 1921. The atmosphere in court was transfused with the nativist and reactionary sentiments still pervading American society in the wake of the Red Scare. District Attorney Katzmann was able, therefore, to try Sacco and Vanzetti not only for murder but, in effect, for being anarchists, atheists, foreigners, and draft dodgers. Judge Thayer. . . had no objections to Katzmann's interjecting such extraneous and inflammatory information, despite its prejudicial effect on the jury. Nor did he interfere with Katzmann's coaching and cajoling of prosecution witnesses to obtain descriptions of the shooting and of the perpetrators that were remarkably more detailed and incriminating than those they had provided to Pinkerton investigators more than a year earlier. With defense witnesses, especially Italians, Katzmann was patronizing and disdainful, implying that they were lying to defend their compatriots. Several witnesses whose testimony would have helped the defendants were never called to testify or brought to the attention of the defense ....

Outmatched by Katzmann in the courtroom, defense attorney Fred Moore, a radical lawyer previously involved with Industrial Workers of the World cases, sought to demonstrate that the proceedings against Sacco and Vanzetti were politically motivated, the result of collusion between local and federal authorities seeking to suppress Italian anarchists. …

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