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Sacco & Vanzetti: The Madeiros confession & Felix Frankfurter

Learn about the Madeiros confession and Felix Frankfurter in the Sacco & Vanzetti trial.

Table of Contents

The Madeiros confession


Celestino F. Madeiros

I hear by [sic] confess to being in the South Braintree shoe company crime and Sacco and Vanzetti was not in said crime.

Celestino F. Madeiros, who sent this note to Sacco on November 18, 1925, was in custody in the same prison as Sacco. Madeiros had been convicted of the murder of a bank cashier and his appeal was pending.

Defense counsel investigated Madeiros's claim, and learned that he was associated with a gang of  Italians engaged in robbing freight cars. When interviewed by defense counsel, Madeiros refused to identify his associates or the location of the money stolen in the South Braintree robbery.  However, the defense determined that Madeiros's descriptions fit the Morelli gang, whose  members were well known to police in Providence and New Bedford.

Felix Frankfurter

Felix Frankfurter

Felix Frankfurter

In the March 1927 issue of the Atlantic Monthly, Harvard Law School professor and future United States Supreme Court Associate Justice Felix Frankfurter bitterly criticized the conduct of Judge Thayer. Of his response to the Proctor affidavit, Frankfurter wrote: "[T]he Court tortures the Proctor material out of shape."

Frankfurter was convinced that the Morelli gang had perpetrated the robbery and murders at the Slater and Morrill shoe factory. In his words:

Every reasonable probability points away from Sacco and Vanzetti; every reasonable probability points toward the Morelli gang.

Denial of new trial

Wiretap authorization

Of Judge Thayer's decision denying a new trial on the basis of the Madeiros affidavit, Frankfurter wrote:

Judge Thayer's opinion stands unmatched . . . for discrepancies between what the record discloses and what the opinion conveys. His 25,000 word document cannot accurately be described otherwise than as a farrago of misquotations, misrepresentations, suppressions, and mutilations.

Several months later, Massachusetts Attorney General Arthur Reading authorized the state's Commission of Public Safety to wiretap Frankfurter's telephone at his home in Duxbury.


Demonstrations held in Boston:

March 1, 1925 demonstration

March 1, 1925 demonstration

October 31, 1926 demonstration

October 31, 1926 demonstration

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