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Bar News - February 22, 2013

Book Review: Book Unconvincing in Innocence Arguement


With Malice Aforethought: The Execution of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti By Theodore W. Grippo; 392 pages; iUniverse Publishing 2011; ISBN 978-1450280679

As the epilogue to With Malice Aforethought by Theodore W. Grippo discusses, this book is a recent addition to the vast treatment of the Sacco-Vanzetti case in literature, art, and culture.

With Malice Aforethought deals with the events leading up to the execution of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti. Tried and convicted of robbery and murder, Sacco and Vanzetti were executed in 1927 after a series of appeals and pleas for clemency. Many people, then and now, believe that both were innocent, and Grippo is among them.

At the end of the book, the author provides an arguement for the innocence of Sacco and Vanzetti, including what he considers the Rosetta stone to prove they were framed by the prosecutorís office.

Grippoís extensive research into the Sacco and Vanzetti affair and his ardent belief that there was a conspiracy to convict and execute them regardless of guilt or innocence, plainly comes through as the book unfolds. At times, Grippoís firm belief in their innocence left me wondering what the other side of the story was.

As frustratingly messy as real life, this book is not one you should expect to finish with a clear idea of who the "bad guy" is. There is blame to be shared by all the players, from judge and jury, prosecution and defense, media, and even the supporters of Sacco and Vanzetti.

Toward the end of the book, Grippo seems to be placing most of the blame with the prosecution and judge. The criticism is especially harsh when judged by modern day legal and ethical standards. While at times what was presented as misconduct may be a mere reflection of the 1920s criminal justice system, there are also accusations that the prosecutorís office deliberately tampered with and falsified evidence and testimony in order to convict Sacco and Vanzetti and that the presiding justice was prejudiced. This accusation is strongest toward the end of the book when Grippo discusses his Rosetta stone.

There is a great deal of evidence that Sacco and Vanzetti did not receive a fair trial, even by 1920 standards. Iím not sure Iím convinced the misconduct and bias rose to the level of conspiracy, but perhaps you will be.

Interested in reviewing a book for Bar News? See a list of books available for review.

Mary B. Cloutier

Mary Cloutier is an assistant Cheshire County attorney with the Regional Prosecutor Program in Keene, NH.

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