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The Sacco-Vanzetti Case and the Grim Forces Behind It


Chief Stewart stepped aside at this point and let Captain Proctor, the "gun expert" take charge. Obtaining an automobile supposed to be roughly similar to the bandit-cars Proctor drove Sacco and Ociani plus a state police guard, melodramatically through the shoe-towns. The prisoners were stoutly manacled. Word of their coming sped to the several towns -- Bridgewater, South Braintree, Dedham, Needham, Milford. In each town they were set up on exhibition in police headquarters as they have been at Brockton.

At South Braintree the whole murder scene of April 15 was re-staged. The tragedy occurred on Pearl street, a short distance east of a wide railroad crossing, and immediately in front of the Rice and Hutchins shoe factory. Some rods farther east is the plant of the Slater and Morrill Shoe Company, whose payroll was taken.

Frederick A. Parmenter, the paymaster, and Alexander Berardelli, the guard, were walking eastward towards the Slater and Morrill plant with $18,000. They were suddenly fired upon from an automobile approaching from ahead. Two men then jumped out of the car and ran toward them, continuing to fire. Grabbing the money as Parmenter and Berrardelli fell, the bandits jumped back into the car, and it sped westward across the railroad tracks and away.

Workers See Crime Re-enacted

On the west side of the tracks stands a two-story frame building housing the offices of Slater and Morrill Company. Two women bookkeepers, standing in second-story windows of that building, had a fleeting view of the escaping bandits, that view being cut off quickly by a cobbler shop which stands between the offices and Pearl street.

Workers in the two factories were called outside or to the windows to see the re-enactment of the bandit-car ride. By this means a couple more witnesses were obtained, making a total of three witnesses against Sacco for the South Braintree crime, and four against Vanzetti for the Bridgewater attack. No testimony had been procured to connect Vanzetti with the South Braintree murder.

Ociani, meanwhile, had been headlined by various newspapers as one of the actual bandits. But after six days, his employers came forward and produced records that he had been at work on the days of both holdups, so he was released.

Each of the witnesses who was led by artifice into identifying Sacco as a South Braintree bandit lost assurance two weeks later in the undramatic atmosphere of the East Norfolk justice court, where Sacco was brought before Judge Avery, the committing magistrate, on May 18.

Witness Are Uncertain

These three witnesses were Louis L. Wade, a shoe worker at Slater and Morrill's; and Miss Frances Devlin and Miss Mary Splaine of the same firm's office staff. Seeing Sacco in normal position, without ruffled hair or crouch, they admitted in rapid succession:

"I might be mistaken." -- Wade. (Page 26, preliminary record.)

"I do not say positively." -- Miss Devlin. (Page 47.)

"I do not think my opportunity afforded me the right to say he is the man." -- Miss Splaine. (Page 56.)

There was no other witnesses against Sacco at this time. Each of the three was far from the scene of the shooting. None of the two score persons whose heads popped out of the Rich and Hutchins factory windows directly over the crime-scene could identify the prisoner. Most of

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