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(en) US, Media: 83rd Anniversary of Sacco and Vanzetti's Execution

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Mon, 25 Aug 2003 22:34:41 +0200 (CEST)

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this was taken from: http://newjersey.indymedia.org/front.php?article_id=7004&group=webcast
Charlestown State Prison, Mass., Tuesday, Aug. 23 -- Nicola
Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti died in the electric chair early
this morning, carrying out the sentence imposed on them for the
South Braintree murders of April 15, 1920.
Sacco marched to the death chair at 12:11 and was pronounced lifeless at 12:19.
Vanzetti entered the execution room at 12:20 and was declared dead at 12:26.
To the last they protested their innocence, and the efforts of
many who believed them guiltless proved futile, although they
fought a legal and extra legal battle unprecedented in the
history of American jurisprudence.

With them died Celestino f. Madeiros, the young Portuguese, who
won seven respites when he "confessed" that he was present at
the time of the South Braintree murder and that Sacco and
Vanzetti were not with him. He died for the murder of a bank

Defense Works as They Die

The six years of legal battle on behalf of the condemned men was
still on as they were walking to the chair and after the current
had been applied, for a lawyer was on the way by airplane to ask
Federal Judge George W. Anderson in Williamstown for a writ of
habeas corpus.

The men walked to the chair without company of clergy, father
Michael Murphy, prison chaplain, waited until a minute before
twelve and then left the prison.

Sacco cried, "Long live anarchy," as the prison guards strapped
him into the chair and applied the electrodes. He added a plea
that his family be cared for.

Vanzetti at the last made a short address, declaring his

Madeiros walked to the chair in a semi-stupor caused by
overeating. He shrugged his shoulders and made no farewell

Warden William Hendry was almost overcome by the execution of
the men, especially that of Vanzetti, who shook his hand warmly
and thanked him for all his kindness.

The Warden was barely able to pronounce above a whisper the
solemn formula required by law:

"Under the law I now pronounce you dead, the sentence of the
court having been legally carried out."

The words were not heard by the official witnesses.

After Governor Fuller had informed counsel for the two condemned
radicals that he could take no action, their attorney, Michael
A. Musmanno, made a dash to the prison in an automobile and
tried to make another call on Sacco and Vanzetti, but Warden
Hendry refused, as the legal witnesses were just about to pass
into the execution chamber.

The Witnesses Gather

The witnesses gathered in the Warden's office an hour before
midnight. They were instructed as to the part they would take.

W. E. Playfair of the Associated Press was the only reporter
permitted to attend the execution, as the State law designated
one representative of the press as a witness. The assignment was
handed to him six years ago after Sacco and Vanzetti had been
convicted in Dedham for the murder of William Parmenter and
Alexander Berardelli.

At 11:38 all but the official witnesses were asked to leave the
Warden's office. Led by Warden Hendry the official witnesses
walked toward the rotunda of the prison. He rapped three times
on the inner door. A key grated in the lock. Just then Mr.
Musmanno dashed in breathlessly.

"Please, Warden," he said, touching Mr. Hendry on the arm. "A
last request."

His voice was faint and broken.

"No, no," the Warden said, sternly, slightly unnerved at the
last-minute interruption. Mr. Musmanno turned away, weeping. He
had refused to accept as a farewell gift a book from Vanzetti
because he felt that the men would be saved.

"I only tried to see them the last time and he refused me," said
Musmanno through tears.

The Executions

The witnesses walked through the prison and entered the death
house with the Warden. They took their places and then Madeiros
was escorted into the chamber. He walked without support,
attended by two guards, one at each side. He was strapped in the
chair at 12:03 and at 12:09 he was pronounced dead.

He was officially pronounced dead by Dr. George Burgess
MacGrath, Medical Examiner of Norfolk County, and Dr. Howard A.
Lothrop, Surgeon-in-Chief of the Boston City Hospital.
Stethoscopes were also applied to Madeiros's chest by Dr. Joseph
J. MacLaughlin, the prison physician, and Colonel Frank P.
Williams, Surgeon-General of the Massachusetts National Guard.
The same procedure was followed in the case of Sacco and

Sacco, whose cell was next to that of Madeiros, was the next. A
guard opened his door. Sacco was ready. His face was pale from
his long confinement. Without a word he took his place between
the guards. Walking slowly but steadily, he traversed the
seventeen steps into the death chamber. He required no support
and sat down in the chair. As the guards were finishing their
work Sacco cried out in Italian:

"Long live anarchy."

In English he shouted: "Farewell, my wife and child, and all my

He has two children, Dante, 14, and Inez, 6, but his difficulty
in speaking English and the excitement of the occasion were
responsible for the slip.

"Good evening, gentlemen," he said, jerkily. Then came his last
words: "Farewell, mother."

Warden Hendry waited until Sacco apparently was satisfied that
there was no more to say. Then he gave the signal. Sacco was
pronounced dead at 12:19:02.

Vanzetti's cell door was opened. He, too, was calm. He shook
hands with the two guards and kept step with them. He had four
more steps to the death chair than Sacco. On entering the
chamber he spoke to the Warden, shaking his hand and saying:

"I want to thank you for everything you have done for me,

Vanzetti spoke in English. His voice was calm throughout. There
was not the slightest tremor or quaver.

Then, addressing the witnesses, he said:

"I wish to tell you that I am innocent, and that I never
committed any crime but sometimes some sin."

They were almost the same words he addressed to Judge Webster
Thayer in the Dedham courtroom last April when he was sentenced
to die during the week of April 10, the sentence having been
deferred because the Governor's advisory committee was working
in the case.

"I thank you for everything you have done for me," he went on
calmly and slowly. "I am innocent of all crime, not only of
this, but all. I am an innocent man."

Then he spoke his last words:

"I wish to forgive some people for what they are now doing to

Vanzetti stepped into the chamber at 12:20:30. At 12:26:55 he
was declared dead.

Warden Broke News to Them

Before midnight Warden Hendry told reporters how he broke the
news to Sacco and Vanzetti.

"I simply told them that it was my painful duty to convey to
them the information that they were to die shortly after
midnight," he said. "I told them that their lawyers had informed
me that they had done all they could and failed."

Father Michael J. Murphy, Prison Chaplain, again offered the men
his services, but they refused his offer of the last rites.
Earlier in the day, the Chaplain visited the men, and on coming
from the death house said:

"I offered them consolation of religion, but all three preferred
to die as they had lived, outside the pale. They can call on me
at any time before the execution, and I will hear their
confessions and give them communion."

Warden Hendry received two telegrams, one addressed to himself,
which he did not make public, and another addressed to Sacco.
After reading the Sacco telegram, the Warden refused to make
known its contents to the prisoner, explaining that he did not
know the writer.

The telegram read:

"Take heart, men. It is justice that dies. Sacco and Vanzetti
will live in history." It was signed Epstein and sent from New

The police, despite their elaborate precautions, had a surprise
about an hour before midnight, when it was discovered that some
one had penetrated the lines thrown around the prison for blocks
and made his way to the very entrance of the Warden's office,
where he had passed an envelope to one of the regular guards and
strolled off.

The envelope contained a two-page letter, the contents of which
the Warden withheld. An investigation was begun at once to learn
how the mysterious messenger had gained entrance to the guarded

The first of the legal witnesses to arrive at the prison were
Dr. Joseph I. McLaughlin, the prison physician, and Dr. Edward
A. Lathrop, a surgeon of the Boston City Hospital. They reached
the prison at 9:40 P.M.

Electricians Test Chair

Warden Hendry at 9 P. M. made his second visit to the death
house. He informed newspaper men on his return to his office
that he had found the trio resigned to their fate. Sacco
requested him to have his body sent to his home in Italy. The
Warden declared that they showed no change regarding their
religious viewpoint and entertained the belief that they would
go to the chair without spiritual aid.

At 10 P.M. Granville Greenough, chief electrician, and John
Mullaney, assistant electrician made a final test of the
electric chair and found it to be in good working order.

Police Break Up Crowds

Superintendent Crowley's men broke up a meeting of nearly 500
Italians in Salem Street, in the North End, as midnight
approached. They threatened to hold a demonstration in front of
the Bunker Hill Monument, and also threatened to hold a protest
meeting before the State House and on the Common.

Mounted policemen charged a crowd of several thousand that
gathered just outside the roped-off area surrounding the jail at
the hour of execution. Two hundred Sacco and Vanzetti
sympathizers had congregated in Thompson Square to join a parade
out to Bunker Hill. Police men afoot were unable to control the
excited crowd. The charge of the mounted police drove men, women
and children back in a wave. Several persons were crushed. Two
women were arrested, charge with sauntering and loitering.

More than 1,000 cars were blocked in a traffic jam along Main
Street, obstructing the passage of pedestrians and police. The
street became a tangled mass of automobiles and other vehicles.
There was a terrific din as policemen shouted orders, the
iron-shod hoofs of their mounts clattered over pavements and
hundreds of automobilists sounded their sirens continuously.

Charlestown prison was armed and garrisoned as if to withstand a
siege. Machine guns, gas and tear bombs, not to mention pistols
and riot guns, constituted the armament and to man it were 500
patrolmen, detectives and State constables besides the usual
prison guard.

They took their posts at 7 o'clock, cutting off Rutheford Avenue
and other streets approaching the long, gloomy brick walls of
the prison. No one was allowed to pass either on foot or in
vehicles unless on official business.

A truck filled with State police jangled and clanged along the
cobblestones and into the glare of light, about the entrance to
the prison. Forty mounted policemen clamped over the Prison
Point Bridge. All reported to Captain Goff, then deployed down
streets and alleys.

Barricade Prison Entrance

The south and west walls of the death house and cell blocks
facing on the Boston & Maine Railroad yards were lined with
machine guns and searchlights in clusters of three at
twenty-yard intervals. The powerful lights flooded the railroad
yards in a brilliant glare that accentuated the pitchy blackness
of shadows. Across the tracks marine patrol boats could be seen
moving slowly up and down the river in the region of the prison.
Each of the police vessels was equipped with flares and
searchlights that played along the gloomy prison walls.

>From the comparative gloom of the cement walk along the siding
came the click, click of horses hoofs as mounted patrolmen rode
up and down. A prison entrance facing on the railroad yards was
heavily barricaded with ladders, doors and other lumber. At 11
P. M. searchlights installed by the police on the roof of the
State House were turned on. Their brilliant rays were kept
sweeping up and down the adjacent streets. Twenty policemen
armed with riot guns were stationed at intervals between the
searchlights. It was the first time in Massachusetts's history
that such a scene had been enacted.

Chapman Street, Austin Street, Miller Street, as well as
Rutherford Avenue were completely cut off as far as automobile
or pedestrian traffic was concerned, but those living in houses
in the district, warned by the police not to leave them, leaned
out of windows. On other houses occasional sweeps of
searchlights revealed entire families, including babies in arms,
perched on roof tops.

In Main Street, the street nearest the prison on which traffic
was permitted, a throng circulated. At a late hour adherents of
Sacco and Vanzetti were not in evidence. Most of the men and
women chattered excitedly, but without attempting to make any
sort of demonstration. Rather, they were merely curious and
interested in the display of martial power. Passengers of
elevated trains crowded to windows on the side near the prison.
Some who tried to alight were urged not to by the police.

All Streets Are Cut Off

All streets leading toward the sprawling collection of steel
barred brick and cement buildings were closed off at 8 P. M. and
no one could get within blocks of the entrance. Police stood in
little knots. Inside the area of restriction was an entire
platoon of mounted policemen, their horses stamping restlessly
in the yellow glare of street, lights. For the first time in the
records of the police department, roll call was taken on post
instead of in station houses.

Persons living within the restricted area were kept as closely
to their houses as during an air raid. When they ventured to
their doors they were told to stay inside unless their business
was extremely urgent and were warned that they might have
difficulty getting back. Gasoline filling stations and small
shops were ordered to close and stay closed until tomorrow.

Captain N. J. Goff of the Charlsestown Station was in charge of
police arrangements at the prison. All Boston police, State
Constabulary and special detectives assigned to duty there
reported to him for instructions. Despite the elaborate police
precautions, windows of the officers room of the prison, which
was given over to newspaper men, were nailed down and blinds
drawn as a precaution in case some one should "try to throw
something in," according to Captain Goss.

A weird and martial picture was presented when motion picture
photographers held aloft flaming calcium torches, lighting up a
passing detail of mounted State police with a ghastly flicker
and silhouetting their silent figures against the grim gray of
the prison walls.

Last Visit to the Men

Mrs. Rose Sacco and Miss Luigia Vanzetti called three times at
the death house during the day. Their last visit was at 7
o'clock in the evening, when they remained five minutes and
departed weeping. Gardiner Jackson and Aldini Felicani of the
Defense Committee, who accompanied the women, arranged with
Warden Hendry for the transfer of the bodies to the relatives.

Mrs. Consuelo Aruda of New Bedford, sister of Madeiros, was the
first of the relations of the condemned men to go to the prison.
Madeiros was worried because his mother did not visit him
Sunday. His sister told him that his mother had had a breakdown
and could not come to Boston. Madeiros was much affected by the
news of his mother's condition. The two spoke for an hour in
Portuguese and the young woman left in tears with a last message
for her mother.

Mrs. Sacco and Miss Vanzetti arrived at the prison for the first
time in the day at 11 A. M. Dr. Joseph I. McLaughlin, the prison
physician was in the death house at the time and Vanzetti
introduced his sister to him. The two women were downcast. They
pressed their faces close to the heavily barred cell doors under
the eyes of the guards.

An hour passed and the interview ended with tearful farewells.
Farewell embraces were not permitted. There were handclasps and
faces were pressed to the cell doors. The bars are an inch thick
and an inch apart and heavily meshed.

Madeiros at noon seemed quite and smoked many cigarettes.
Vanzetti worked on a letter to his father. Sacco paced up and
down his cell. But when Michael A. Musmanno of defense counsel
called on Sacco and Vanzetti at 2:30 P. M. he found them
depressed and ready for death. They depressed and ready for
death. They told him they were convinced that no power on earth
would save them. Sacco begged to see his wife again. Vanzetti
regretted that his sister had come from Italy to be with him in
his last moments of agony. He was sorry that her last memories
of him would be clouded with knowledge of the gray prison, the
death cell and the electric chair.

At 3:10 P. M. the two women returned to the death house in an
automobile driven by Miss Edith Jackson of New Haven. Mrs.
Sacco, who has always presented a tearless and composed face to
the public, wept for the first time as she approached the gate.
Miss Vanzetti's arm supported her as the two passed into the
death house for the second time in the day. They greeted the men
again through the wire mesh and remained an hour. Sacco spoke of
his children and Vanzetti of his old home in Italy. The women
remained an hour and they were weeping when they stepped into
the automobile.

Joseph F. Linharen, a lawyer, of Somerville, called at the
prison on behalf of Madeiros and asked permission to see him.
The warden refused, after calling up the State House on the

Thompson Calls on Men

William G. Thompson, former counsel for Sacco and Vanzetti,
called on them late in the day. Mr. Thompson had returned from
the Summer home at South Tamworth, N. H., at the request of
Vanzetti and visited both men at the death house. He spent
nearly an hour there. Then he left he said that Sacco and
Vanzetti had reasserted that they were absolutely innocent of
the South Braintree murders. He declared also that there was no
truth in the report that he had been offered an opportunity to
inspect the files of the Department of Justice and had refused.

The conversation with Vanzetti, said Mr. Thompson, was partly on
the man's political and philosophical beliefs. He declined to
discuss the report of Governor Fuller or that of the Advisory
Committee other than to say that, having read both documents
with care, he found nothing in them which altered his opinion
"that these two men are innocent and that their trial was in a
very real sense unfair."

Mr. Thompson left, and half and hour later Mrs. Sacco and Miss
Vanzetti arrived for their third and final visit to the
condemned men. They were in an automobile with Gardner Jackson
and Felicani asked Warden Hendry for permission to have the
women to see their unfortunate relatives for the last time. The
request was granted. During the final visit, which lasted five
minutes, Mr. Jackson and Mr. Felicani arranged for the bodies of
the two men to be turned over to Mrs. Sacco and Miss Vanzetti.

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