fpb: (Athena of Pireus)
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For me, personally, the final evidence of the guilt of British criminal Hanratty, of anarchist Nicola Sacco. and of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg - however different the circumstances - have been a personal shock. They are the undeniable proof that people can lie even in the face of death and eternity, that claims of innocence from the scaffold are no more reliable than from any other point. The case of Sacco's fellow-accused Bartolomeo Vanzetti seems even darker: he was probably himself innocent, but he knew that Sacco was guilty as Hell, and he deliberately died with a lie on his lips, for the sake of his imagined revolution. (And to add a further taste of futility to his false sacrifice, the historical fact is that the only party who benefited from his and Sacco's executions were the Communists, who had organized all the protests against their executions, and who were sworn enemies of Vanzetti's Anarchists and would have murdered him a good deal more nastily if he had ever fallen into their hands.) But perhaps the most significant of these is the lie of Hanratty, because that had nothing of the ideological justifications of Vanzetti and the Rosenbergs. Hanratty was not fighting for any "cause", however bad: he was a rapist and murderer with no ulterior motives. And he declared his innocence right to the point of death with a passionate intensity that deceived generations of activists including myself.

Date: 2014-10-03 11:33 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ravenclaw-eric.livejournal.com
Another example of that is Carlyle "Carl" Harris. In the 1890s, he murdered the girl to whom he'd secretly been married by giving her some pills that included one poisonous one (Harris was studying medicine, and standards about who may prescribe drugs were less strict than they became later). Even though a web of circumstantial evidence was woven around him that pointed straight to guilt, he was still saying that he was innocent as they strapped him into the chair.

And Bruno Richard Hauptmann never confessed, either, even though there can be no real doubt that he and no other kidnapped and murdered Charles Lindbergh, Jr. The only reason that his guilt was ever questioned was because his widow never, never gave up on trying to get him exonerated.

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