Posted On: January 26, 2013 by Paul Mark Sandler

What we can still learn from Sacco and Vanzetti

Nearly 100 years ago, our country experienced one of the most tragic court cases in our judicial history: that of two Italian immigrants who received death sentences following a jury trial, marked by blatant judicial bias, attorney missteps, and heartbreaking circumstances.
Though I wrote about this case about five years ago, the lessons learned from studying the case, Sacco and Vanzetti, are as valuable to young trial lawyers today as they were in 1921, when a jury exclusively comprised of white males, after only five hours of deliberations, found these two men guilty of armed robbery and murder. They were sentenced to death, due to the unfortunate combination of a biased judge, mediocre defense attorneys, a vastly unfair trial and public fears of anarchy that dominated newspaper headlines in the days following World War I. 

The case provides plenty of fodder for a detailed analysis of how trial attorneys today – and their clients -- benefit from techniques in direct examination, cross examination, opening and closing statements that were absent in the case against Sacco and Vanzetti. We will study these components in detail at my Anatomy of a Trial: One-day Boot Camp for Young Trial Lawyers, which is being held at the Section of Litigation Annual Conference in Chicago on April 24, 2013, from 8:00 am until 5:30 pm, at the JW Marriott.

The Honorable Marvin J. Garbis, of the US District Court for the District of Maryland, will serve as presiding judge for the program. Click here for a full list of speakers. To register, go to and click on the Anatomy of a Trial tab.  

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