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The Sacco-Vanzetti Case and the Grim Forces Behind It


Globe that the four bandits wanted were smooth-shaven. One "wop" would pass for another anyway.

Identifications were obtained by the police in this case much as they were engineered in the Mooney and Billings case. Quite as a sleight-of-hand artist makes the right card come out of the pack, so does the police juggler mislead witnesses into identifying persons they have never seen before. It is a matter of suggestion. And always a certain percentage of people accept the doctrine of police infallibility.

"Identifications" Are a Farce

Fifty men and women and a boy who had seen the crimes were gathered in a large room in the Brockton station. The prisoners had not been permitted to shave. They were brought in as unkempt as possible, and were paraded around the room closely flanked by stern-faced policemen in uniform. These policemen had the aspect of men guarding wild beasts.

"Look at those Italian yeggs!" it was whispered.

But this first suggestion didn't work. Most of the witnesses uttered a positive "No!" Others were confused and uncertain. None could give a positive identification. Something more effective had to be devised. So some rough and ready theatrical make-up work was performed.

If a witness said that a bandit he had seen had tousled hair, then the hair of the prisoners was promptly tousled by the police. If a bandit's cap had been pulled over his eyes, then caps were pulled over their eyes. If a bandit had been crouching with revolver extended, the prisoners were compelled to pose in like manner, with right arm extended and fist closed.

Knowing their innocence and thinking that compliance would result in swift vindication, Sacco, Vanzetti, and Ociani consented to participate in this trickery. All of this of course was in violation of their rights. They had no legal counsel.

Four or five witnesses began to feel their uncertainty changing to a probability that these must be the men they had seen. But more criminal coloring must be given the prisoners, the police realized, in order to get identifications that would stand up at least half-way in court. So two of the captives were given the murder tour. Vanzetti for some reason was not taken along.

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