John J. Downey

John J. Downey, a private with the Pennsylvania State Police, was shot and killed on August 22, 1927, during a demonstration of over 1,000 Italian coal miners in “Guido Grove,” near Cheswick, protesting the Sacco-Vanzetti case. Downey had ordered a group of men to disperse when one of the men shot him.

Salvatore Accorsi was arrested in New York almost two years later, on June 12, 1929.

In a case that became a cause celebre, Accorsi was acquitted at trial on December 13, 1929. Famed author Sinclair Lewis, who had come to Pittsburgh to cover the trial, spoke at a post-trial rally and celebration, where he decried the state of civil liberties and workers’ rights in Pittsburgh.

Sacco and Vanzetti, anarchists and convicted murderers whose convictions were widely criticized and whose innocence was widely proclaimed, were executed in Massachusetts on August 23, 1927.

Author: Bill Lofquist

I am a sociologist and death penalty scholar at the State University of New York at Geneseo. I am also a Pittsburgh native. My present research focuses on the history of the death penalty in Allegheny County (Pittsburgh), Pa. This website is dedicated to collecting, analyzing, and sharing information about all Allegheny County cases in which a death sentence was imposed. Please share any questions or comments, errors or omissions, or other matters of interest related to these cases or to the broader history of the death penalty in Allegheny County.

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