Editorial Notes

Evidence Made to Order

(January 1932)

Written: January 1932.
Source: The Militant, Vol. V No. 1 (Whole No. 97), 2 January 1932, p. 4.
Transcription/HTML Markup: Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
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The trial of the gangsters, Coll and Giordano, on murder charges, which resulted in the acquittal of the defendants, throws a glaring searchlight on “justice” as it is administered in New York. The men were “positively identified” as the men who fired the shots in the baby killing last Summer by a witness who had been on the police payroll for months and kept secluded in a hotel under guard. Brecht, the police witness, did not merely think they might be the killers, he knew it. He was an “eye witness” to the shooting, and he swore that Coll and Giordano were the men he saw spraying bullets from the auto. And then, all of a sudden, the prosecution’s case went to pieces. Brecht was exposed by the defense counsel as a professional “identifier” and perjurer, a thief, ex-convict and all-around scoundrel – a sort of a Hoyle. It was even disclosed that he had “identified’’ the defendants some years ago in a similar case in St. Louis and that on that occasion, also, his testimony had been discredited. Following this bomb-shell the case collapsed and the court ordered an acquittal.

Victims of the frame-up system of American justice are not always so fortunate. The police in this case made the mistake of picking on real gangsters with money and influence. They were able to employ competent legal counsel. They had the means to finance investigations. They owe their acquittal to these circumstances. If they had been small fry, if they had been friendless men, without money or connections, they would be on the way to the electric chair already without a doubt.

The police frame up their victims all the time as a matter of routine, as a habit. We have seen the revelations of the Seabury investigation regarding women framed as prostitutes. During the Greco-Carillo case a few years ago a veteran newspaper man covering the trial remarked: “Half of the fellows who go out of this court room to prison are convicted on fake evidence. Everybody knows that. If these two men don’t go up, it will be because they have good lawyers and influential friends.” This is the record and the reputation of the New York police and prosecution system among all informed people. If the use of perjured evidence and third degree intimidation are used systematically in ordinary criminal cases day by day, what man in his right senses would trust them to deal justly and fairly with defendants in a labor case?

The stage was all set for a speedy railroading by the time-honored methods in the case of the indicated marine workers, Soderberg, Bunker, and Trajer. The formation of a defense committee and the employment of qualified attorneys have introduced a few “complications” into the game. It is already obvious that there is going to be a fight and not a one-sided victimization of helpless prisoners who have no means of defending themselves. They will have to be more careful with their cooked-up perjury out of fear of another annihilating exposure. The whole question of whether they will have the nerve to go through with their brazen frame-up will depend on the public interest in the case, and particularly the interest of the labor movement.

This interest is growing and is being organized. But not fast enough. If we work harder, if we extend our tight on a broader front, if a real movement of the working class comes to the support of the prisoners, they will be liberated. And that will not be a victory for them alone. It will be a form of protection to the labor movement as a whole against attempts to disrupt it by frame-ups and dynamite plants. To that end we must work with all our strength in the time that is left before the trial.

Last updated on: 23.3.2013