(WOODY GUTHRIE) (1945-'46)

Sacco's family picture, which he used to try to apply for a passport at the Italian consulate in Boston on Apr 15, 1920 (as witnessed and sworn in an affidavit by consulate employee Giuseppe Andrower).


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The character of the testimony of the five witnesses who definitely identified Sacco as in the car or on the spot at the time of the murders demands critical attention. These witnesses were Mary Splaine, Frances Devlin, Lola Andrews, Louis Pelzer, Carlos E. Goodridge....

Splaine's identification of Sacco... was one of the chief reliances of the prosecution. Viewing the scene from a distance of from sixty to eighty feet, she saw a man previously unknown to her in a car traveling at the rate of from fifteen to eighteen miles per hour, and she saw him only for a distance of about thirty feet -- that is to say, for from one and a half to three seconds. Yet after more than a year she testified:

"The man that appeared between the back of the front seat and the back seat was a man slightly taller than the witness. He weighed possibly from 140 to 145 pounds. He was muscular, an active-looking man. His left hand was a goodsized hand, a hand that denoted strength."

Q. So that the hand you said you saw where?

A. The left hand, that was placed on the back of the front seat. He had a gray, what I thought was a shirt--had a grayish, like navy color, and the face was what we would call clear-cut, clean-cut face. Through here [indicating] was a little narrow, just a little narrow. The forehead was high. The hair was brushed back and it was between, I should think, two inches and two and one-half inches in length and had dark eyebrows, but the complexion was a white, peculiar white that looked greenish.

Q. Is that the same man you saw at Brockton?

A. It is.

Q. Are you sure?

A. Positive.

The startling acuity of Splaine's vision was, as a matter of fact, the product of a year's reflection. Immediately after Sacco's arrest the police, in violation of approved police methods for the identification of suspects, brought Sacco alone into Splaine's presence. Then followed in about three weeks the preliminary hearing at which Sacco and Vanzetti were bound over for the grand jury. At this hearing -- only forty days after the crime --Splaine was unable to identify Sacco.
Q. You don't feel certain enough in your position to say he is the man?

A. I don't think my opportunity afforded me the right to say he is the man.

When confronted with this contradiction between her uncertainty a month after her observation and her certainty more than a year after her observation; she first took refuge in a claim of inaccuracy in the transcript of the stenographer's minutes. This charge she later withdrew and finally maintained:
"From the observation I had of him in the Quincy court and the comparison of the man I saw in the machine, on reflection I was sure he was the same man."
Then followed this cross-examination:
Q. Your answer in the lower court was you didn't have opportunity to observe him. What did you mean when you said you didn't have opportunity sufficient, kindly tell us, you didn't have sufficient opportunity to observe him?

A. Well, he was passing on the street.

Q. He was passing on the street and you didn't have sufficient opportunity to observe him to enable you to identify him?

A. That is what I meant.

Q. That is the only opportunity you had?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. You have had no other opportunity but that one meeting glance?

A. The remembrance of that.

Let Dr. Morton Prince, professor of dynamic psychology at Harvard University, comment on this testimony:
"I do not hesitate to say that the star witness for the government testified, honestly enough, no doubt, to what was psychologically impossible. Miss Splaine testified, though she had only seen Sacco at the time of the shooting from a distance of about sixty feet for from one and one-half to three seconds in a motor car going at an increasing rate of speed at about fifteen to eighteen miles an hour; that she saw and at the end of a year she remembered and described sixteen different details of his person, even to the size of his hand, the length of his hair as being between two and two and one-half inches long, and the shade of his eyebrows! Such perception and memory under such conditions can be easily proved to be psychologically impossible. Every psychologist knows that -- so does Houdini. And what shall we think of the animus and honesty of the state that introduces such testimony to convict, knowing that the jury is too ignorant to disbelieve?"

Felix Frankfurter, The Case of Sacco and Vanzetti, Atlantic Monthly, March 1927.

Lyrics as reprinted in liner notes for "Ballades de Sacco & Vanzetti" (French edition of "Ballads of Sacco & Vanzetti", Folkways/Le Chant du Monde, LDX 74467, 1960s); minor corrections by Manfred Helfert.

You souls of Boston, bow your heads,
Our two most noble sons are dead.
Sacco and Vanzetti both have died,
And drifted out with the Boston tide.

'Twas on the outskirts of this town,
Some bandits shot two pay clerks down,
On old Pearl Street in South Braintree,
And they grabbed that money and rolled away.

Sacco and Vanzetti got arrested then,
On a trolley car by the plain clothed men,
Carried down to Brockton jail,
And laid away in a lonesome cell.

The folks in Plymouth town did say
Vanzetti sold fish in Suassos Lane.
His fish cart was thirty-two miles away
From old Pearl Street this fatal day.

Sacco's family hugged and kissed their dad,
Said, "Take this family picture to the passport man."
He was in that office, forty odd miles away
From old Pearl Street this fatal day.

One lady by the name of Eva Splaine
Saw the robbers jump in their car and drive away.
For a second and a half she seen this speeding car,
She swore Sacco was the bandit man.

It was twenty, or thirty, or fifty more,
Said Sacco was not in the robber's car.
Judge Webster Thayer stuck by Eva Splaine,
Said Sacco was the guilty man.

Mrs. Sacco was heavy then with child,
She walked to Sacco's cell and cried.
The Morelli gang just down the corridor
signed confessions they killed the payroll guards.

"We seen Mrs. Sacco pregnant there,
We heard her cry and tear her hair.
We had to ease our guilty hearts
And admit we killed the payroll guards."

Judge Webster Thayer could not allow
The Morelli gang's confession to stop him now.
Sacco and Vanzetti are union men,
And that verdict, guilty, must come in.

The bullet expert took the stand,
Said the bullets from the bodies of the two dead men
Could not have been fired from Sacco's gun

Nor from Vanzetti's gun have come.

It was sixty-three days this trial did last;
Seven dark years come a-cripplin' past,
Locked down in that mean old Charlestown jail,
Then by an electric spark were killed.

Old Boston City was a dark old town,
That summer's night in August the switch went down,
People they cried and marched and sung,
Every tongue this world around.

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