Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Rosenbergs (1951)

The Trial of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg began in 1950, when Ethel Rosenberg’s brother identified her and her husband as participants in the Soviet spy ring. Not long after 8 a.m. on June 16th, FBI agents arrived at the apartment of Julius Rosenberg and requested that he return with them for questioning. Mr. Rosenberg called his accuser a liar, and hired Emanuel Bloch as his lawyer later that evening. One month and one day later, after receiving more complete statements from the Rosenberg’s accusers (David and Ruth Greenglass), two FBI agents arrested Julius Rosenberg while others searched his apartment for evidence. Initially, Ethel was only an interest of the FBI as a means of convincing her husband to confess and assist the government in arresting others. She was arrested in August regardless of extremely minimal evidence against her as a threat to her husband, who showed no intention of reconsidering his refusal to cooperate. Even though the government had only arrested his wife as a lever for cooperation, they now had no choice but to commit to her prosecution under the pretenses that she was a partner in the spy ring. Soon after this, friends of the Rosenbergs began suspiciously vanishing to foreign countries such as Mexico and France. Other friends were called to testify against the couple, and either ended up being indicted themselves or rewarded for immediate cooperation and released on the basis of insufficient evidence against them. On March 6th, 1951, the case of the United States vs. Julius Rosenberg, Ethel Rosenberg and Morton Sobell (an alleged accomplice) was taken to court. Six prosecuting witnesses were called, while the defense called only Julius and Ethel Rosenberg to the stand, both pleading the Fifth Amendment for most questions pertaining to communist party involvement and denying all accusations made by the prosecution’s witnesses. After hours of jury deliberation, all three of the accused were found guilty as charged. The presiding judge Irving Kaufman called their crimes “worse than murder”, and blamed the couple for 50,000 American deaths in Korea. While Sobell was given a thirty-year prison sentence, the Rosenberg couple was sentenced to death by means of the electric chair. The next two years were spent fighting for the lives of Ethel and Julius, with Emanuel Bloch at the front of the movement. Bloch took care of the defendants’ children, drafter their appeals, and pleaded at the White house gate in their final hours for a meeting with the then-President Eisenhower. While the Rosenbergs’ songs, Robert and Michael, marched with signs that read “Don’t Kill My Mommy and Daddy”, thousands of other supporters on two continents paraded, and letters asking for a pardon poured in. Unfortunately, their efforts were futile, and Ethel and Julius Rosenberg were executed shortly after 8 p.m. on June 19, 1953. This trial is often used as an example of McCarthyism and Communist hysteria, regardless of the defendants’ guilt in the situation.

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