"William E. Thompson Esq. A Loyal Advocate"
New York World, 16 May 1927
Sacco-Vanzetti Trial Newspaper Clippings, April-Nov. 1927
Box 1, Folder 3
On July 14, 1921, Bartolomeo Vanzetti and Nicola Sacco were convicted of first-degree murder for killing two employees of the Slater & Morrill shoe company in South Braintree, Massachusetts during an armed robbery. Their trial and lengthy appeals process were a highly controversial and contentious series of events, and viewed by many at the time as an egregious miscarriage of justice. Their trial was characterized by mishandled evidence, unreliable eyewitness testimony, and anti-socialist and anti-anarchist bias. Protests and riots in several major cities preceded their execution, and many leading legal scholars, including Harvard Law School professor Felix Frankfurter, argued publicly for their innocence.
Few were as devoted to the Sacco-Vanzetti case as William G. Thompson (LL.B. 1891), Sacco and Vanzetti’s second Defense Lawyer. Despite only nominal compensation, and the loss of clients due to the controversy surrounding Sacco and Vanzetti, Thompson stuck with the case. He was uninterested in his clients’ anarchist politics but also unhappy with Judge Thayer’s anti-Communist bias, and wholly convinced of their innocence. He visited Vanzetti and Sacco on the night of their executions, trying in vain to get Vanzetti to issue a statement against violent retaliation and asking for a confession of innocence one last time.