Webster Thayer


Webster Thayer

Webster Thayer (1857-1933) was an 1879 graduate of Worcester Academy and Dartmouth College and a former newspaper man. He was appointed a judge of the Superior Court of Massachusetts in 1917. He is best known as the trial judge for the Sacco and Vanzetti trial.

acco and Vanzetti

In 1920, Sacco and Vanzetti, followers of Luigi Galleani and avowed anarchists, were arrested and charged with payroll robberies and murder for the killing of two employees during a payroll robbery.

Thayer had previously tried anarchists accused of violent acts, and did not attempt to disguise his loathing for violent revolutionaries from abroad. In 1920, he rebuked a jury for acquitting anarchist Sergie Zuboff of violating a criminal anarchy statute. At trial, both Sacco and Vanzetti were found guilty by a jury and sentenced to death. After the trial, Thayer allegedly told a friend during the trial, "Did you see what I did with those anarchist bastards the other day?" Fact|cite|date=October 2008

Thayer denied a post-trial motion for a new trial, an act for which he was condemned by various left-wing and civil liberties groups, along with some legal critics, such as Felix Frankfurter. In 1920 he rebuked a jury for acquitting anarchist Sergie Zuboff of violating a criminal anarchy statute.

Personal accounts

Boston Globe reporter said of Judge Thayer’s behavior at the trial that " [He] was conducting himself in an undignified way, in a way I had never seen in thirty-six years." The reporter continued by saying that, "I have seen the judge sit in his gown and spit on the floor."

Jurors in the Sacco-Vanzetti trial, however, were almost unanimous in praising Thayer for the way he conducted the trial. Reading the transcript, one sees few signs of obvious bias. What is most striking, perhaps, is Thayer's oratory, as in his charge to the jury: "Let your eyes be blinded to every ray of sympathy or prejudice, but let them ever be willing to receive the bountiful sunshine of truth...."

For their part, both Sacco and Vanzetti expressed their feelings towards Judge Thayer in unmistakable terms. In a signed article written in support of their defense committee, Vanzetti stated "I will try to see Thayer death [sic] before his pronunciation of our sentence" and asked fellow anarchists for "revenge, revenge in our names and the names of our living and dead." [Watson, Bruce, "Sacco and Vanzetti: The Men, the Murders, and the Judgment of Mankind", Viking Press (2007), ISBN 0670063533, 9780670063536, p. 264] Both men made a pointed reference to Luigi Galleani's explicit bomb-making manual covertly titled "La Salute è in voi!" (Health is in You!) in response to those who had arrested, prosecuted, or convicted them.

Aftermath

Fellow Galleanists did not wait for retaliation, instituting a deadly campaign of bombing and attempted assassinations that lasted a full five years after Sacco and Vanzetti's execution. Court officials, a juror who had served in the Dedham trial, a police witness, and even Thayer himself were all targeted for assassination by bombs planted at their residences. On September 27, 1932, a dynamite-filled package bomb destroyed Thayer's home in Worcester, Massachusetts. [New York Times, "Bomb Menaces Life of Sacco Case Judge", 27 September 1932] Thayer was unhurt, but his wife and a housekeeper were both injured in the blast. [New York Times, "Bomb Menaces Life of Sacco Case Judge", 27 September 1932] Afterwards, Thayer lived for the remainder of his life at his club in Boston, guarded 24 hours a day by his personal bodyguard as well as by police sentries. He died in 1933 of a cerebral embolism, aged 75.

ee also

*Anarchy
*Capital punishment
*Luigi Galleani
*Woodie Guthrie
*Sacco and Vanzetti

Notes

References

*Avrich, Paul, "Sacco and Vanzetti: The Anarchist Background", Princeton University Press, 1991
*Obituary, "Time Magazine", May 1, 1933 issue


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