After 90 Years, History Still Unbalanced

Why is the town of Braintree still wrestling with a ninety year old murder and robbery case? Readers of Christine Legere’s April 14 Boston Globe article on today’s ceremony in Braintree were left guessing.

The crime itself was an unremarkable case of banditry. But as Moshik Temkin explains in his recent book, “The Sacco-Vanzetti Affair” the accused were doomed by a climate of Red Scare hysteria and xenophobia that had prejudiced both the courts and the political establishment. The case became an international obsession not just among the left, but also post-WWI American allies disillusioned by the miscarriage of justice.

The fact that the trial was so unfair yet everything failed to save them – the court, the governor, Harvard’s President, the liberal intellectuals, and international protest – is a black mark on the entire system. That’s why every year on the anniversary of their executions, August 23, the Sacco and Vanzetti Commemoration Society parades down Hanover Street in Boston’s North End past a plaque marking the building where the Sacco and Vanzetti Defense Committee once worked. The deaths of Parmenter and Berardelli simply does not carry the same political significance. If the town of Braintree doesn’t realize this, then they still haven’t come to terms with the case.

Christine Legere erred when she said, “History has not determined definitively whether the two were convicted and executed based on hard evidence or bias.” While their guilt is debatable, the gross prosecutorial favoritism at their trial is not. If the real bandits got away, then the persecution of Sacco and Vanzetti wronged the Parmenter and Berardelli as well.

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