Wednesday April 15, 2020 marked 100 years since two criminals, described as Italian men by witnesses, robbed the Slater & Morrill Shoe Company in South Braintree. During their escape, they killed a paymaster and his guard, making off with $15,776.51 in payroll money.
Italian-born anarchists, Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were charged and eventually executed for the crime, but the case was highly controversial, with many believing the duo did not receive a fair trial.
Here is a look back at their landmark case.
Sacco and Vanzetti were arrested and charged after going to a garage to claim a car police say was connected to the crime in the wake of the robbery/murder. Neither man had an existing criminal record, but they were both carrying guns at the time of their arrest, and allegedly made false statements to the police.
The trial took place at the height of the "Red Scare" when anti-radical sentiment was running high. As a result, the judge and jury were unfairly prejudiced against the pair.
Authorities never found any evidence of the stolen money in Sacco or Vanzetti's possession and much of the other evidence against them was discredited in court. Despite these facts, they were convicted and sentenced to die on July 14, 1921.
Protests were held in Massachusetts and around the world over the next few years, especially in 1925 after Celestino Madeiros, a known member of the Morelli gang, confessed to participating in the crime.
However, the state Supreme Court refused to overturn the verdict, and denied the men clemency. In the days leading up to their execution, protests reached their peak with bombs set off in New York City and Philadelphia.
Sacco and Vanzetti died by electrocution on August 23, 1927.
In 1961, modern forensic techniques apparently proved it was Sacco's gun that killed the guard, but no evidence has ever been presented to substantiate Vanzetti’s guilt.
In 1977, Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis announced that Sacco and Vanzetti were indeed treated unfairly and deserved to have their names cleared.