Sacco, Vanzetti deaths recalled

As it has done every Aug. 23 for the past 15 years, a Western Massachusetts organization opposed to the death penalty remembered yesterday the 1927 executions of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, a case that remains controversial to this day.

The Hampden County Chapter of the Massachusetts Citizens Against the Death Penalty and the Catholic Charities Agency co-sponsored a gathering at the Bishop John Marshall Center that featured two speakers: Robert P. Nave, executive director of the Connecticut Network to Abolish the Death Penalty, and Easthampton resident Robert Meeropol.

Meeropol is the youngest son of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who were executed in 1953 for conspiring to give the secret of the atomic bomb to the Soviet Union.

Both men voiced opposition to Gov. W. Mitt Romney's attempt to have the death penalty reinstituted using some system that would ensure an innocent person is not put to death. Capital punishment was outlawed in the state in 1984.

"It is ludicrous that he could, while pandering for greater office, say he has discovered a perfect penalty," Nave said. "It's ridiculous."

Romney has said he is exploring a run for president in 2008.

Meeropol, who lives in Easthampton, is executive director of the Rosenberg Fund for Children and author of "An Execution in the Family." More than a half century later, his parents' case is still vigorously debated.

Nave, who is vice chairman of Amnesty International's steering committee to abolish capital punishment, spent much of his time before an audience of about 100 people speaking about the Michael Ross case.

The 45-year-old Ross, a serial killer who strangled 6 teenage girls and 2 young women in the 1980s, waived his final appeals and died by lethal injection May 13 at Osborn Correctional Institution in Somers, Conn..

It was the 1st time a death sentence had been carried out in New England since 1960.

"What we saw was a colossal waste of time and money," said Nave, adding that the case afforded celebrity status to someone "who craved it so much."

Sacco and Vanzetti were Italian immigrants executed for murder and robbery after a shoe company paymaster and his guard were shot to death in south Braintree in 1920.

Defenders of the pair believe the two were condemned because they were immigrants and anarchists. In 1977, Gov. Michael S. Dukakis took the unprecedented step of proclaiming the pair had not received a fair trial.

(source: The Republican)