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The Sacco-Vanzetti Case and the Grim Forces Behind It


old high school prodigy, stood behind a tree and saw the shotgun man running 145 feet away. He was one of those who "identified" Vanzetti. He admitted he never had more than a fleeting glimpse of the bandit's face.

"I could tell he was a foreigner by the way he ran," young Shaw testified at the trial.

"What sort of a foreigner?" asked the defense.

"Either Italian or Russian."

"Does an Italian or a Russian run differently from a Swede or a Norwegian?"


"What is the difference?"


Courtroom questions were impressed by the heroic recital of "Slip" Harding. He described modestly his own coolness under fire; how he stood in the open during the gun-play in the Bridgewater attack. Some onlookers assert that Harding was behind a tree, but he insists that he wasn't. Anyway, he testified that he took down the number of the bandits' automobile as it sped away. Then he gave the memorandum to Police Chief Stewart, he said, and failed to keep a copy of it.

When Stewart went on the witness stand he stated that he had mislaid that important memorandum. After spending a whole day searching for the automobile number, he had to confess that he had lost it. Later, however, he gave "from memory" a number which he asserted was that of the bandit car. That was six months after the crime. The number Stewart gave was that of a car stolen from Francis Murphy, a Natick shoe manufacturer, in November 1919.

Two days after the South Braintree holdup, an abandoned Buick automobile, identified as Murphy's was found in a woods several miles away. The prosecution contended that it was used in both crimes.

Where is the Rifle Shell?

Vanzetti was connected with that car by the thinnest of threads. Remember the three shotgun shells found in his pocket many days after the second holdup. The prosecutors tried to introduce as evidence a fourth shotgun shell, alleged to have been found alongside the automobile. Judge Thayer would not admit its introduction.

Whether that shell actually was found beside the car may be questioned in the light of a news story in the Boston Globe of April 19. That story told of State Detective Scott and Police Chief Jeremiah Gallivan, of Braintree, beating the bush for missing $18,000 payroll.

"Their search was fruitless," according to the Globe, "except for the finding of an empty RIFLE shell."

Failing to get the fourth shotgun shell into evidence, the commonwealth tried another way to link Vanzetti with the Buick car.

It proceeded to build its case upon the shoulders of two missing men -- a shaky scaffolding, but one which served the prosecution's purposes.

It put on the stand Mrs. Simon Johnson, wife of a garage keeper, who at the request of the police, telephoned them when Michael Boda called on the night of May 5 for his own automobile -- an Overland -- which was stored in the Johnson garage.

She asserted that Vanzetti and Sacco and another Italian were with Boda that night, and was quite certain about it, although her husband testified that Mrs. Johnson was in the light when she observed the four men, and that the visitors were in the shadow. Johnson knew Boda

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