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The Sentencing Of Julius And Ethel Rosenberg

2325 words - 10 pages

On June 19, 1953, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were put to death by electrocution at Sing Sing Prison in Ossining, New York. The Rosenbergs were tried and convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage (Fariello 178). The Rosenbergs were accused of selling atomic secrets to the Soviet Union as a part of a large spy ring. The presiding judge over the trial, Judge Irving R. Kaufman, handed down the sentence on April 5, 1951 (Wexley 597). There has been much controversy surrounding the guilt or innocence of Julius Rosenberg and his wife, Ethel. As more documents have been released concerning the Rosenberg case, Julius Rosenberg's guilt as a spy has been established. Ethel Rosenberg was almost ...view middle of the document...

Although a jury decided the guilt of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, the judge decided their fate. Judge Irving R. Kaufman declared the death sentence for the Rosenbergs on April 5, 1951 (Wexley 597). The atmosphere of the courtroom was hostile towards the Rosenbergs and their only chance for a fair trial was if the judge presumed their innocence and conducted the trial appropriately. This was not the case. As the jury was selected, Judge Kaufman dismissed any perspective juror who had a prejudice against the atomic bomb or its use, believed that atomic information should be released to Russia, were members of a left wing party, read leftist publications, or opposed capital punishment. The resulting jury was made of eleven men, one woman, and no Jewish people (Phillipson 277). By early 1943, the Rosenbergs were passionate believers in Communism and full-fledged members of the Communist party (Radosh 53). By late 1943, they had stopped participating in the activities of the party (Radosh 54). Nevertheless, the Rosenbergs faced a jury of anti-Communists who would not be sympathetic to their past Communist affiliations. The judge also would not be sympathetic to the Rosenberg's Communist past (Caute 140). The judge's opinion of the Rosenbergs is clear in his questioning of the witnesses during the trial during which Ethel and Julius were forced to endure the "one-two combination of judge and prosecutor, working in tandem (Phillipson 292)." As Kaufman began his sentencing speech, his true feelings about the Rosenbergs were revealed. He told the Rosenbergs that he considered their "crime as worse than murder" because they put "into the hands of the Russians the A-bomb years before" American scientists predicted (Phillipson 306). His speech continued by blaming the soviet aggression in Korea that caused over 50,000 deaths on the actions of the Rosenbergs which "altered the course of history to the disadvantage" of the United States (Phillipson 306). This comment revealed that Judge Kaufman was not dealing with the crime at issue because no evidence had been presented linking the Rosenbergs to Soviet activity in Korea (Radosh 284). The judge continued in his speech with an accusation of treachery (Phillipson 306). The Rosenbergs were on trial for conspiracy, but the judge sentenced them with the thought of treason in his mind. Judge Kaufman continued his speech with accusations that Julius and Ethel Rosenberg believed in Soviet atheism, collectivism, and actions against the freedom of man (Neville 49). None of these accusations were addressed during the trial or found in the trial record (Wexley 594). The judge made these accusations based on his own opinion of the Rosenbergs as opposed to the facts that were brought forth during the trial. Judge Kaufman revealed in his sentencing speech his disapproval for the actions of the Rosenbergs. He exaggerated their transgressions with additional accusations that were not supported by trial testimony. The...

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