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Sacco and Vanzetti were executed in the electric chair just after midnight on August 23, 1927.Subsequent riots destroyed property in Paris, London, and other cities.
Additional ballistics tests and incriminating statements by the men's acquaintances have clouded the case.
The men were believed to be followers of Luigi Galleani, an Italian anarchist who advocated revolutionary violence, including bombing and assassination. At the time, Italian anarchists – in particular the Galleanist group – ranked at the top of the United States government's list of dangerous enemies. For three years, perhaps 60 Galleanists waged an intermittent campaign of violence against US politicians, judges, and other federal and local officials, especially those who had supported deportation of alien radicals.
Two days after the robbery, police located the robbers' Buick; several 12-gauge shotgun shells were found on the ground nearby.
An earlier attempted robbery of another shoe factory occurred on December 24, 1919, in Bridgewater, Massachusetts, by people identified as Italian who used a car that was seen escaping to Cochesett in West Bridgewater.
A series of appeals followed, funded largely by the private Sacco and Vanzetti Defense Committee.
The appeals were based on recanted testimony, conflicting ballistics evidence, a prejudicial pre-trial statement by the jury foreman, and a confession by an alleged participant in the robbery.
All appeals were denied by trial judge Webster Thayer and also later denied by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. As details of the trial and the men's suspected innocence became known, Sacco and Vanzetti became the center of one of the largest causes célèbres in modern history.
In 1927, protests on their behalf were held in every major city in North America and Europe, as well as in Tokyo, Sydney, São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, Montevideo, Johannesburg, and Auckland.
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Nicola Sacco (April 22, 1891 – August 23, 1927) and Bartolomeo Vanzetti (June 11, 1888 – August 23, 1927) were Italian-born American anarchists who were controversially convicted of murdering a guard and a paymaster during the April 15, 1920, armed robbery of the Slater and Morrill Shoe Company in Braintree, Massachusetts.