Question of Trial. Not Innocence, is Vital-Confession Needs Rigid Cross-examination

The following article was written specially for the Crimson by Professor E. M. Morgan '02, of the Harvard Law School. It is a criticism of articles in the current issue of the "Outlook" which attempt to prove that Frank Silva, not Vanzetti was guilty in the Bridgewater holdup.

The Outlook story of Frank Silva's confession will have little or no influence upon those who have already made up their minds. To those who believe Vanzetti a martyr. It will give the comfort of corroboration to those who believe him guilty. It will be brushed aside as coming from a person wholly unworthy of credence, untested by hostile cross-examination and unsupported by anything that could be properly termed independent evidence. To one who examines the Bridgewater case for the first time, it raises the regret that it was not discovered in time for use at the trial. As it appears on paper nobody could reasonably censure a reader either for refusing to credit it or for concluding that it raises grave doubts of Vanzetti's guilt. No lawyer would be willing to accept it without the most rigid cross-examination; no lawyer would be willing to ignore it. It is the kind of stuff that must pass through the fire of a forensic adversary proceeding and be evaluated by the constituted trier of fact.

Was the Trial Fair?

The really important question is not whether Vanzetti was innocent but whether Vanzetti had a fair trial. If he received a fair trial, neither he nor his friends have, or ever had, any real complaint against the courts of Massachusetts. Under our system a lawsuit is not an independent, scientific investigation for the discovery of truth, but is an adversary proceeding. The court has no facilities for making impartial investigations. The machinery for the administration of justice does not, and from its very nature cannot, function perfectly. In criminal cases the de- Instead of blasting off 30 feet of matrix from above the bone layer, we went half way up the cliff and arched in a hole about seven by ten feet. Then we removed the matrix down to the bones and chopped a ditch around a slab which measured a few inches larger than five by eight feet. We were very fortunate in striking an unusually thick layer of bones, as our slab averaged about 16 inches in thickness. Every care had to be taken to prevent so large a piece from breaking. The slab was thoroughly shellacked, and the edge covered with burlap and plaster. We made a box for it of two-by-six lumber, bolted together. Our greatest difficulty came in turning the slab over, but this was accomplished without cracking it. When the slab was ready for shipment it weighed over 7000 pounds, and it took six men from 3 o'clock in the afternoon until 5.30 the following morning to load it on a truck and haul it 25 miles to the nearest railroad station at Harrison, Nebraska.

The slab has arrived at the Museum, and work on it will soon be started. The plan is to remove the matrix from the surface of the slab, thus exhibiting the bones as they were found in the quarry