Volume 31, Issue 2 (April 1986)
Once More Unto the Breech: The Firearms Evidence in the Sacco and Vanzetti Case Revisited: Part I
The Sacco and Vanzetti case has a timeless appeal. It raises trenchant issues of the fairness of a criminal trial in the face of the public's hue and cry. It is a sorry reminder that physical evidence must be closeted with care and punctiliously marked for later courtroom uses. Claims of unfairness at the trial of Sacco and Vanzetti have evoked doubts of their guilt. On this issue, a Select Committee of firearms experts in 1983 reevaluated the existing firearms evidence from the Sacco and Vanzetti trial. Its conclusions, a number of which point unerringly to the guilt of Sacco and none of which add a scintilla to the case against Vanzetti, are analyzed in this paper, which is in two parts. Part I sets the stage by focussing on the facts of the crime in South Braintree, MA and the prosecutorial strategies in the use of the firearms evidence at the trial in Dedham, MA. The firearms evidence against Vanzetti is analyzed separately from that marshalled against Sacco. Part II will address the rampant charges of governmental misconduct in the handling of the firearms evidence. A concluding section of Part II reveals startling new evidence relevant to the guilt of Nicola Sacco.