So I received a fascinating note from author James D. Livingston (who, when not professoring at MIT, writes true crime stories and soon-to-be published Arsenic and Clam Chowder: Murder in Gilded A ge New York, which comes out in July) who writes of Sacco and Vanzetti and Amy Bishop.
(By James Livingston)
It is my luck to live in South Braintree, less than three miles from the site of the 1920 robbery/murder for which Sacco and Vanzetti were executed in 1927. Considering the historical importance of this case, I had always been a bit surprised there was no historical marker at the site, but Braintree officials had apparently felt this was not something the town should be proud of.
One local historian had been arguing with them for over 20 years, and yesterday, on the 90th anniversary of the crime, he finally got his way. A small monument was erected, not to Sacco and Vanzetti, but in memory of the two murder victims. There was also a panel discussion of the case at the town hall last night, and an exhibit has been assembled. It includes, among many other things, the steel cage in which S & V sat during their trial and their death masks. In the panel discussion and the long Q&A following, all the experts seemed to agree that S&V did not receive a fair trial, and were probably convicted more for being gun-toting anarchists than for any clear evidence linking them to the Braintree crime.
In 1977, on the 50th anniversary of the executions, Governor Mike Dukakis issued a formal proclamation that they were unjustly convicted (but was criticized for not reaching out to the families of the victims, which Braintree has now done). The issue of whodunit still remains unclear, as it often does in cases of true crime.
Since this case of historical true crime is as least as famous as those of Lizzie Borden and Jack the Ripper, I thought you might be interested that Braintree is finally coming to grips with some of the darker aspects of its history. Today it is in the news again as the town in which Amy Bishop, the professor who recently shot and killed several of her colleagues at the University of Alabama, shot and killed her brother back in 1986. It was ruled accidental at the time, but the case is now being re-examined as a result of the Alabama shootings.