The Case of Sacco and Vanzetti

In 1921, Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, both Italian-Americans, were convicted of robbery and murder. Although the arguments brought against them were mostly disproven in court, the fact that the two men were known radicals (and that their trial took place during the height of the Red Scare) prejudiced the judge and jury against them. On April 9, 1927, Sacco and Vanzetti's final appeal was rejected, and the two were sentenced to death. Felix Frankfurter, then a professor at Harvard Law School, was considered to be the most prominent and respectable critic of the trial. He was appointed to the Supreme Court by Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1939

Naturally the Court's interpretation became the jury's. By their silence the District Attorney and the counsel for the defense acquiesced in the Court's interpretation, showing that counsel for both sides apparently attached the same meaning to this testimony. After the conviction Proctor in an affidavit swore to the following account of his true views and the manner in which they were phrased for purposes of the trial. After giving his experience and the fact that he had had the custody of the bullets, cartridges, shells, and pistols in the case, he swore that one of the bullets

was, as I then testified and still believe, fired from a Colt automatic pistol of 32 calibre. During the preparation for the trial, my attention was repeatedly called by the District Attorney and his assistants to the question: whether I could find any evidence which would justify the opinion that the particular bullet taken from the body of Berardelli, which came from a Colt automatic pistol, came from the particular Colt automatic pistol taken from Sacco. I used every means available to me for forming an opinion on this subject. I conducted, with Captain Van Amburgh, certain tests at Lowell, about which I testified, consisting in firing certain cartridges through Sacco's pistol. At no time was I able to find any evidence whatever which tended to convince me that the particular model bullet found in Berardelli's body, which came from a Colt automatic pistol, which I think was numbered 3 and had some other exhibit number, came from Sacco's pistol and I so informed the District Attorney and his assistant before the trial. This bullet was what is commonly called a full metal-patch bullet and although I repeatedly talked over with Captain Van Amburgh the scratch or scratches which he claimed tended to identify this bullet as one that must have gone through Sacco's pistol, his statements concerning the identifying marks seemed to me entirely unconvincing.

At the trial, the District Attorney did not ask me whether I had found any evidence that the so-called mortal bullet which I have referred to as Number 3 passed through Sacco's pistol, nor was I asked that question on cross-examination. The District Attorney desired to ask me that question, but I had repeatedly told him that if he did I should be obliged to answer in the negative; consequently, he put to me this question: Q. Have you an opinion as to whether bullet Number 3 was fired from the Colt automatic which is in evidence? To which I answered, "I have." He then proceeded. Q. And what is your opinion? A. My opinion is that it is consistent with being fired by that pistol.

He proceeded to state that he is still of the same opinion:—

But I do not intend by that answer to imply that I had found any evidence that the so-called mortal bullet had passed through this particular Colt automatic pistol and the District Attorney well knew that I did not so intend and framed his question accordingly. Had I been asked the direct question: Whether I had found any affirmative evidence whatever that this so-called mortal bullet had passed through this particular Sacco's pistol, I should have answered then, as I do now without hesitation, in the negative.

This affidavit of Proctor was made the basis of Mr. Thompson's motion for a new trial before Judge Thayer. Here was a charge going to the vitals of the case, made by a high official of the police agencies of the state. How did the District Attorney meet it? Mr. Katzmann and his assistant, Mr. Williams, filed affidavits in reply. Did they contradict Proctor? They could not deny his testimony or the weight that the prosecution and the Court had attached to it. These were matters of record. Did they deny the prearrangement which he charged? Did they deny that he told them he was unable to identify the mortal bullet as Sacco's bullet?

Katzmann's affidavit stated that

prior to his testifying, Captain Proctor told me that he was prepared to testify that the mortal bullet was consistent with having been fired from the Sacco pistol; that I did not repeatedly ask him whether he had found any evidence that the mortal bullet had passed through the Sacco pistol, nor did he repeatedly tell me that if I did ask him that question he would be obliged to reply in the negative. [Italics ours].

Williams's affidavit, after setting forth that Captain Proctor told him before the trial that comparisons of the mortal bullet with bullets "pushed by him through various types of pistols" showed that "the mortal bullet had been fired in a Colt automatic pistol," proceeded:—

He said that all he could do was to determine the width of the landmarks upon the bullet. His attention was not repeatedly called to the question, whether he could find any evidence which would justify the opinion that this bullet came from the Sacco pistol. I conducted the direct examination of Captain Proctor at the trial and asked him the question quoted in his affidavit, "Have you an opinion as to whether bullet Number 3 was fired from the Colt automatic which is in evidence?

This question was suggested by Captain Proctor himself as best calculated to give him an opportunity to tell what opinion he had respecting the mortal bullet and its connection with the Sacco pistol. His answer in court was the same answer he had given me personally before.

Proctor's disclosures remain uncontradicted: he was unable to identify the murder bullet as Sacco's bullet; he told Katzmann and Williams that he was unable to do it; he told them if he were asked the question on the witness stand he would have to testify that he could not make the identification; a form of words was therefore found by which, without committing perjury, he could convey the impression that he had testified to the identification. The only contradiction by Katzmann and Williams of Proctor's account affects the number of times that he told them that he was unable to make the identification, he having sworn that he told them "repeatedly" and they denying that he told them "repeatedly." Yet Judge Thayer found no warrant in the Proctor incident for directing a new trial. And why?

The Judge quotes the Proctor questions and answers and argues that the questions were clear and must have been perfectly understood by Captain Proctor. Of course the questions were clear and clearly understood by Proctor. The whole meaning of Captain Proctor's affidavit was that the questions and answers were prearranged and that by this prearrangement court and jury were misled with terrible harm to the defendants.

The Judge is extraordinarily versatile in misinterpreting the true purport of the Proctor affidavit. Thus he seriously asks why, if Captain Proctor at the trial was "desirous of expressing his true opinion," he used the phrase "consistent with," language selected by himself. The crux of the matter is that Captain Proctor at the trial was not "desirous of expressing his true opinion," that the District Attorney was very desirous that he should not do so, and that between them they agreed on a form of words to avoid it.

The Judge next attempts to belittle the weight of Proctor's testimony two years after he was offered by the Commonwealth with elaborate reliance as a most important expert. We must dwell on one amazing statement of the Court. "With his limited knowledge," says Judge Thayer, "Captain Proctor did not testify that the mortal bullet did pass through Sacco's pistol, but that from his examination of the facts it was simply consistent with it." Why did not Judge Thayer say this to the jury when he charged them with determining the guilt or innocence of Sacco? Why did the Judge charge the jury that Captain Proctor did testify that the mortal bullet passed through Sacco's pistol? And why, having in October 1924, for the purpose of denying the Proctor motion, minimized the Proctor testimony by saying that Proctor testified that the passing of the mortal bullet through Sacco's pistol was "simply consistent with" the facts, does he two years later, in order to show how strong the case was at the original trial, state that the "experts testified in their judgment it [the mortal bullet] was perfectly consistent with" having been fired through the Sacco pistol? In charging the jury Judge Thayer misled them by maximizing the Proctor testimony as the prearrangement intended that it should be maximized. When the prearrangement was discovered and made the basis of a motion for a new trial, Judge Thayer depreciated Proctor's qualifications as an expert and minimized Proctor's actual testimony. Finally, when confronted with new evidence pointing seriously to guilt for the Berardelli murder, not only away from Sacco and Vanzetti, but positively in another direction, in order to give the appearance of impressiveness to the facts before the jury Judge Thayer again relies upon the weightiness of Proctor's expert testimony and maximizes Proctor's evidence at the trial, but not to the extent that he did in charging the jury because Proctor's affidavit now prevents him from doing so!

This is the attitude of mind which has guided the conduct of this case from the beginning; this is the judge who has for all practical purposes sat in judgment upon his own conduct.

English criminal justice is constantly held up to us, and rightly so, as an example. One ventures confidently to say that conduct like that revealed by the Proctor incident is inconceivable in an English prosecution. But if it did take place, there is no possible doubt that the corrective resources of the English courts would not allow a verdict secured by such means to stand. Such behavior surely violates the standards which the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has laid down for district attorneys:—

The power of a district attorney under our laws are very extensive. They affect to a high degree the liberty of the individual, the good order of society, and the safety of the community. His natural influence with the grand jury, and the confidence commonly reposed in his recommendations by judges, afford to the unscrupulous, the weak or the wicked incumbent of the office vast opportunity to oppress the innocent and to shield the guilty, to trouble his enemies and to protect his friends, and to make the interest of the public subservient to his personal desires, his individual ambitions, and his private advantage....Powers so great impose responsibilities correspondingly grave. They demand character incorruptible, reputation unsullied, a high standard of professional ethics, and sound judgment of no mean order.

If the Proctor situation does not come within the condemnation of these requirements, language certainly has strange meaning. Yet the Massachusetts Supreme Court held that Judge Thayer's decision could not "as a matter of law" be reversed.


On May 12, 1926, the Supreme Court of Massachusetts found 'no error' in any of the rulings of Judge Thayer. The guilt or innocence of the defendants was not retried in the Supreme Court. That court could not inquire whether the facts as set forth in the printed record justified the verdict. Such would have been the scope of judicial review had the case come before the New York Court of Appeals or the English Court of Criminal Appeal. In those jurisdictions a judgment upon the facts as well as upon the law is open, and their courts decide whether convictions should stand in view of the whole record. A much more limited scope in reviewing connections prevails in Massachusetts. What is reviewed in effect is the conduct of the trial judge; only so called questions of law are open.

The merits of the legal questions raised by the exceptions cannot be discussed here. Suffice it to say, with deference, that some of the Supreme Court rulings are puzzling in the extreme. One question of law, however, can be explained within small compass, and that is the question which is the crux of the case: Did Judge Thayer observe the standards of Anglo-American justice? In legal parlance, was there abuse of "judicial discretion" by Judge Thayer? What, then, is "judicial discretion"? Is it a legal abracadabra, or does it imply standards of conduct within the comprehension of the laity in whose interests they are enforced? The present Chief Justice of Massachusetts has given an authoritative definition:—

Discretion in this connection means a sound judicial discretion, enlighted by intelligence and learning, controlled by sound principles of law. Of firm courage combined with the calmness of a cool mind, free from partiality, not swayed by sympathy nor warped by prejudice nor moved by any kind of influence save alone the overwhelming passion to do that which is just. It may be assumed that conduct manifesting abuse of judicial discretion will be reviewed and some relief afforded.

This is the test by which Judge Thayer's conduct must be measured. The Supreme Court found no abuse of judicial discretion on the record presented at the first hearing before it. In other words, the Court was satisfied that throughout the conduct of the trial and the proceedings that followed it Judge Thayer was governed by "the calmness of a cool mind, free from partiality, not swayed by sympathy nor warped by prejudice nor moved by any kind of influence save alone the overwhelming passion to do that which is just."

The reader has now had placed before him fairly, it is hoped, however briefly, the means of forming a judgment. Let him judge for himself !


Hitherto the defense has maintained that the circumstances of the case all pointed away from Sacco and Vanzetti. But the deaths of Parmenter and Berardelli have remained unexplained. Now the defense has adduced new proof, not only that Sacco and Vanzetti did not commit the murders, but also, positively, that a well-known gang of professional criminals did commit them. Hitherto a new trial has been pressed because of the character of the original trial. Now a new trial has been demanded because an impressive body of evidence tends to establish the guilt of others.

Celestino F. Madeiros, a young Portuguese with a bad criminal record, was in 1925 confined in the same prison with Sacco. On November 18, while his appeal from a conviction of murder committed in an attempt at bank robbery was pending in the Supreme Court, he sent to Sacco through a jail messenger the following note:—

I hear by confess to being in the South Braintree shoe company crime and Sacco and Vanzetti was not in said crime.


The confession of a criminal assuming guilt for a crime laid at another's door is always suspect and rightly so. But, as we cannot too strongly insist, the new evidence is not contained in the Madeiros confession. His note to Sacco was only the starting point which enabled the defense to weave the network of independent evidence implicating the Morelli gang of Providence.

As soon as Sacco's counsel was apprized of this note he began a searching investigation of Madeiros's claim. It then appeared that Madeiros had tried several times previously to tell Sacco that he knew the real perpetrators of the Braintree job, but Sacco, fearing he was a spy, had disregarded what he said. An interview with Madeiros revealed such circumstantiality of detail that an examination of Madeiros, both by the defense and by the Commonwealth, was plainly called for. The various affidavits given by Madeiros and the deposition of one hundred pages, in which he was cross-examined by the District Attorney, tell the following story.

In 1920 Madeiros, then eighteen years old, was living in Providence. He already had a criminal record and was associated with a gang of Italians engaged in robbing freight cars. One evening, when they were talking together in a saloon in Providence, some members of the gang invited him to join them in a pay-roll robbery at South Braintree. A holdup was a new form of criminal enterprise for him, but they told him "they had done lots of jobs of this kind" and persuaded him to come along. As an eighteen-year-old novice he was to be given only a subordinate part. He was to sit in the back of a car with a revolver and "help hold back the crowd in case they made a rush." Accordingly a few days later, on April 15, 1920, the plan was carried into execution. In the party, besides Madeiros, were three Italians and a "kind of a slim fellow with light hair," who drove the car. In order to prevent identification they adopted the familiar device of using two cars. They started out in a Hudson, driving to some woods near Randolph. They then exchanged the Hudson for a Buick brought them by another member of the gang. In the Buick they proceeded to South Braintree, arriving there about noon. When the time came the actual shooting was done by the oldest of the Italians, a man about forty, and one other. The rest of the party remained near by in the automobile. As the crime was being committed they drove up, took aboard the murderers and the money, and made off. They drove back to the Randolph woods, exchanged the Buick again for the Hudson, and returned to Providence. The arrangement was that Madeiros should meet the others in a saloon at Providence the following night to divide the spoils. Whether this arrangement was kept and whether he got any of the Braintree loot Madeiros persistently refused to say. This refusal was in pursuance of Madeiros's avowed policy. From the outset he announced his determination not to reveal the identity of his associates in the Braintree job, while holding back nothing which seemed to implicate himself alone. To shield them he obstinately declined to answer questions and, if necessary, frankly resorted to lies. Thus, examination could not extort from him the surnames of the gang, and he further sought to cover up their identity by giving some of them false Christian names. Madeiros showed considerable astuteness in evading what he wanted to conceal. But in undertaking to tell the story of the crime without revealing the criminals he set himself an impossible task. In spite of his efforts, a lawyer as resourceful as Mr. Thompson was able to elicit facts which, when followed up, established the identity of the gang and also strongly corroborated the story of Madeiros.

Madeiros said that the gang "had been engaged in robbing freight cars in Providence." Was there such a gang? There was the Morelli gang, well known to the police of Providence and New Bedford as professional criminals, several of whom at the time of the Braintree murders were actually under indictment in the United States District Court for Rhode Island for stealing from freight cars. Five out of nine indictments charging shoe thefts were for stealing consignments from Slater and Morrill at South Braintree and from Rice and Hutchins, the factory next door. In view of their method of operations, the gang must have had a confederate at South Braintree to spot shipments for them. The Slater and Morrill factory was about one hundred yards from the South Braintree railroad station and an accomplice spotting shipments would be passed by the paymaster on his weekly trip. It will be recalled that the pay roll was that of the Slater and Morrill factory and that the murder and the robbery occurred in front of these two factories. The Morellis under indictment were out of jail awaiting trial. They needed money for their defense; their only source of income was crime. They were at large until May 25, when they were convicted and sent to Atlanta.

Madeiros did not name the gang, but described the men who were with him at South Braintree. How did his descriptions fit the Morelli gang? The leader of the gang was Joe, aged thirty-nine. His brothers were Mike, Patsy, Butsy, and Fred. Other members were Bibba Barone, Gyp the Blood, Mancini, and Steve the Pole. Bibba Barone and Fred Morelli were in jail on April 15, 1920. According to Madeiros there were five, including himself, in the murder car, three of whom were Italians, and the driver "Polish or Finland or something northern Europe." The shooting was done by the oldest of the Italians, a man of about forty, and another called Bill. A fourth Italian brought up the Buick car for exchange at Randolph. As far as his descriptions carry, Madeiros's party fits the members of the Morelli Gang. But the testimony of independent witnesses corroborates Madeiros and makes the identification decisive. One of the gravest difficulties of the prosecution's case against Sacco and Vanzetti was the collapse of the Government's attempt to identify the driver of the murder car as Vanzetti. The District Attorney told the jury that "they must be overwhelmed with the testimony that when the car started it was driven by a light-haired man, who gave every appearance of being sickly." Steve the Pole satisfies Madeiros's description of the driver as well as the testimony at the trial. To set the matter beyond a doubt, two women who were working in the Slater and Morrill factory identified Steve the Pole as the man they saw standing for half an hour by a car outside their window on that day. Two witnesses who testified at the trial identified Joe Morelli as one of the men who did the shooting and another identified Mancini. The Morellis were American-born, which will explain the testimony at the trial that one of the bandits spoke clear and unmistakable English, a thing impossible to Sacco and Vanzetti.

Plainly the personnel of the Morelli gang fits the Braintree crime. What of other details? The mortal bullet came out of a 32 Colt; Joe Morelli had a 32 Colt at this time. Mancini's pistol was of a type and calibre to account for the other five bullets found in the victims. The "murder car" at the trial was a Buick. Madeiros said a Buick was used; and Mike Morelli, according to the New Bedford police, at this time was driving a Buick, which disappeared immediately after April 15, 1920. In fact, the police of New Bedford, where the Morelli gang had been operating, suspected them of the Braintree crime, but dropped the matter after the arrest of Sacco and Vanzetti. Shortly after the Braintree job, Madeiros was imprisoned for five months for larceny of an amount less than $100. But immediately after his release he had about $2800 in bank, which enabled him to go on a pleasure trip to the West and Mexico. The $2800 is unaccounted for otherwise than as his share of the Braintree booty. Joe Morelli, as we know, was sent to Atlanta for his share in the robbery of the Slater and Morrill shoes. While confined he made an arrangement with a fellow prisoner whereby the latter was to furnish him with an alibi, in case of need, for April 15, 1920, placing Morelli in New York.

Even so compressed a precis of the evidence of many witnesses will have made it clear that the defense has built up a powerful case, without the resources at the command of the State in criminal investigations. The witnesses other than Madeiros of themselves afford strong probability of the guilt of the Morellis. What of the intrinsic credibility of Madeiros's confession, which, if believed, settles the matter? A criminal's confession, as we have noted, must be scrutinized with the utmost skepticism. A man who assumes guilt for one crime while about to undergo the penalty of death for another does not carry the least conviction. The circumstances of Madeiros's confession, however, free it from suspicion and furnish assurances of its trustworthiness. Far from having nothing to lose by making the confession, Madeiros stood to jeopardize his life. For while, to be sure, at the time of his confession he was under sentence for another murder, an appeal from this conviction was pending, which was in fact successful in getting him a new trial. Could anything be more prejudicial to an effort to reverse conviction for one crime than to admit guilt for another? So clearly prejudicial, in fact, was his confession that by arrangement with the District Attorney it was kept secret until after the outcome of his appeal and the new trial which followed it. Moreover, the note of confession sent by Madeiros to Sacco on November 18 was not, as we have seen, his first communication to Sacco. Nor was it his first explicit confession. The murder for which he had been convicted, together with a man named Weeks,—the Wrentham bank crime,—was a holdup like the Braintree job. Weeks, under life sentence in another jail, when questioned revealed that in planning the Wrentham job Madeiros drew on his experience at South Braintree. During their partnership Madeiros had frequently referred to the Braintree job, saying it was arranged by the Morelli gang (whom Weeks knew), and at one time identifying a speak-easy in which they found themselves as the one the gang visited before the Braintree holdup. In planning the Wrentham job Madeiros further told Weeks that he "had had enough of the Buick in the South Braintree job." Before the Wrentham crime he had talked to the couple who kept the roadhouse where for a time he was a "bouncer" of his part in the Braintree crime and said "that he would like to save Sacco and Vanzetti because he knew they were perfectly innocent."

These earlier disclosures by Madeiros completely refute the theory that he was led to make his latest confession in 1925 by the hope of getting money. It is suggested that in November 1925 he had seen the financial statement of the Sacco-Vanzetti Defense Committee. But, in the first place there is no proof that Madeiros saw this statement before he made the confession. Secondly, he could not have had knowledge of this statement before he talked to Weeks and the others and when he attempted the prior communications to Sacco, because it was not then in existence. It is incredible that a man fighting for his life on a charge for one murder would, in the hope of getting money, falsely accuse himself of another murder. Madeiros knew the danger of a confession, for his conviction in the Wrentham case largely rested upon confessions made by him. Why should he be believed and suffer death when he confesses one crime and not be believed when he confesses another of the same character? Is not his own statement in accordance with the motives even of murderer?

I seen Sacco's wife come up here with the kids and I felt sorry for the kids.

Let us compare the two hypotheses. The Morelli theory accounts for all members of the Braintree murder gang; the Sacco-Vanzetti theory for only two, for it is conceded that, if Madeiros was there, Sacco and Vanzetti were not. The Morelli theory accounts for all the bullets found in the dead men; the Sacco-Vanzetti theory for only one out of six. The Morelli explanation settles the motive, for the Morelli gang were criminals desperately in need of money for legal expenses pending their trial for felonies, whereas the Sacco-Vanzetti theory is unsupported by any motive. Moreover, Madeiros's possession of $2800 accounts for his share of the booty, whereas not a penny has ever been traced to anybody or accounted for on the Sacco-Vanzetti theory. The Morelli story is not subject to the absurd premise that professional holdup men who stole automobiles at will and who had recently made a haul of nearly $16,000 would devote an evening, as did Sacco and Vanzetti the night of their arrest, to riding around on suburban street cars to borrow a friend's six-year-old Overland. The character of the Morelli gang fits the opinion of police investigators and the inherent facts of the situation, which tended to prove that the crime was the work of professionals, whereas the past character and record of Sacco and Vanzetti have always made it inherently incredible that they should spontaneously become perpetrators of a bold murder, executed with the utmost expertness. A good mechanic, regularly employed at his trade, but away from work on a particular day which is clearly accounted for, and a dreamy fish peddler, openly engaged in political propaganda, neither do nor can suddenly commit an isolated job of highly professional banditry.

Can the situation be put more conservatively than this? Every reasonable probability points away from Sacco and Vanzetti; every reasonable probability points toward the Morelli gang.

How did these facts appear to Judge Thayer?


At the outset the scope of Judge Thayer's duty toward the motion for a new trial based upon this new evidence must be kept in mind. It was not for him to determine the guilt of the Morellis or the innocence of Sacco and Vanzetti; it was not for him to weigh the new evidence as though he were a jury, determining what is true and what is false. Judge Thayer's duty was the very narrow one of ascertaining whether here was new material fit for a new jury's judgment. May honest minds, capable of dealing with evidence, reach a different conclusion, because of the new evidence, from that of the first jury? Do the new facts raise debatable issues? Could another jury, conscious of its oath and conscientiously obedient to it, be sufficiently impressed with the new evidence to reach a verdict contrary to the one that was reached on a record wholly different from the present, in view of evidence recently discovered and not adduceable by the defense at the time of the original trial? To all these questions Judge Thayer says, "No." This amazing conclusion he reached after studying the motion "for several weeks without interruption" and set forth in an opinion of 25,000 words! We wish for nothing more than that every reader who has proceeded thus far should study the full text of this latest Thayer opinion. Space precludes its detailed treatment here. To quote it, to analyze it, adequately to comment upon it would require a book. Having now put the materials for detailed judgment at the disposal of readers, we are compelled to confine ourselves to a few brief observations. By what is left out and by what is put in, the uninformed reader of Judge Thayer's opinion would be wholly misled as to the real facts of the case. Speaking from a considerable experience as a prosecuting officer, whose special task for a time it was to sustain on appeal convictions for the Government, and whose scientific duties since have led to the examination of a great number of records and the opinions based thereon, I assert with deep regret, but without the slightest fear of disproof, that certainly in modern times Judge Thayer's opinion stands unmatched for discrepancies between what the record discloses and what the opinion conveys. His 25,000-word document cannot accurately be described otherwise than as a farrago of misquotations, misrepresentations, suppressions, and mutilations. The disinterested inquirer could not possibly derive from it a true knowledge of the new evidence that was submitted to him as the basis for a new trial. The opinion is literally honeycombed with demonstrable errors, and a spirit alien to judicial utterance permeates the whole. A study of the opinion in the light of the record led the conservative Boston Herald, which long held the view that the sentence against these men should be carried out, to a frank reversal of its position.

Dr. Morton Prince writes that any expert psychologist reading the Thayer opinion "could not fail to find evidences that portray strong personal feeling, poorly concealed, that should have no place in a judicial document." One or two illustrations must suffice. William G. Thompson is one of the leaders of the Boston bar. Yet Judge Thayer thus characterized Mr. Thompson's activities in behalf of these two Italians:—

Since the trial before the jury of these cases a new type of disease would seem to have developed. It might be called 'lego-psychic neurosis' or hysteria, which means: 'A belief in the existence of something which in fact and truth has no such existence.

And this from a judge who gives meretricious authority to his self-justification by speaking of the verdict which convicted these men as "approved by the Supreme Judicial Court of this Commonwealth." The Supreme Court never approved the verdict; nor did it pretend to do so. The Supreme Court passed on technical claims of error, and, "finding no error, the verdicts are to stand." Judge Thayer knows this, but laymen may not. Yet Judge Thayer refers to the verdict as "approved by the Supreme Judicial Court."

No wonder that Judge Thayer's opinion has confirmed old doubts as to the guilt of these two Italians and aroused new anxieties concerning the resources of our law to avoid grave miscarriage of justice. The courageous stand taken by the Boston Herald has enlisted the support of some of the most distinguished citizens of Massachusetts. The Independent has thus epitomized this demand:—

"Because of the increasing doubt that surrounds the question of the guilt of these men, springing from the intrinsic character of Judge Thayer's decision, and instanced by the judgment of the herald editorial writer and other observers whose impartiality is unquestioned, we strongly hope that a new trial will be granted. It is important to note that the appeal is being made on the basis of new evidence never passed on before the Supreme Court."

No narrow, merely technical, question is thus presented. The Supreme Court of Massachusetts will be called upon to search the whole record in order to determine whether Judge Thayer duly observed the traditional standards of fairness and reason which govern the conduct of an Anglo-American judge, particularly in a capital case. This court has given us the requirements by which Judge Thayer's decision is to be measured and the tests which it will use in determining whether a new trial shall be granted:—

The various statements of the extent of the power and of limitations upon the right to grant new trials...must yield to the fundamental test, in aid of which most rules have been formulated, that such motions ought not to be granted unless on a survey of the whole case it appears to the judicial conscience and judgment that otherwise a miscarriage of justice will result.

Nor must a new trial be withheld where in justice it is called for because thereby encouragement will be given to improper demands for a new trial. For, as the Chief Justice of Massachusetts has announced, courts cannot close "their eyes to injustice on account of facility of abuse."

With these legal canons as a guide, the outcome ought not to be in doubt.

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