Wednesday, November 26th, 2014

Timeline


1950

February 3 — Klaus Fuchs, German-born British scientist, confesses in England to having given atomic information to the Soviet Union.

February – David Greenglass, brother of Ethel Rosenberg and formerly a machinist employed at the Los Alamos Atomic Project while in the army during World War II, visited by the FBI and questioned about persons he might have known while stationed at Los Alamos and about some uranium missing from the project. (The FBI still refuses to make public its summary of those interviews.)

May 23 — Harry Gold, a Philadelphia chemist, states that he had been the American courier for Fuchs in 1944-45.

June 15 — David Greenglass signs a confession stating among other things that he was an accomplice of Gold in 1945.

June 16 — Julius Rosenberg, brother-inlaw and former business partner of David Greenglass, questioned by the FBI, but not arrested. Retains Emanuel Bloch as counsel.

June 25 — Korean War begins.

July 17 — Julius Rosenberg arrested on charges of having recruited David Greenglass into a Soviet spy ring in late 1944.

August 11 — Ethel Rosenberg arrested on the charge of conspiracy to commit espionage with her husband, Greenglass, and Gold.

August 16-18 — Morton Sobell, former classmate of Julius Rosenberg, kidnapped from his Mexico City apartment, allegedly deported to the United States, and arrested by the FBI on the charge of having been part of the same espionage ring as the Rosenbergs.

December 9 — Harry Gold sentenced to thirty years in prison.

1951

March 6-29 — Julius had been imprisoned for eight months, Ethel Rosenberg and Morton Sobell for seven, when their trial began before Judge Irving Kaufman. The jury heard two weeks of testimony before returning a guilty verdict.

April 5 — Morton Sobell sentenced to thirty years in prison. Julius and Ethel Rosenberg sentenced to death, executions set for May 21, 1951 (automatically stayed pending appeal).

April 6 — David Greenglass sentenced to fifteen years in prison.

April 11 — Ethel Rosenberg transferred to Sing Sing prison in Ossining, NY, and housed as the only woman prisoner in the Condemned Cells, thus preventing contact with Julius and family.

May 16 — Julius Rosenberg transferred to Sing Sing’s Death House. The National Guardian, a small left-wing news weekly, publishes a series of articles concluding that the Rosenbergs are innocent and demanding a new trial.

September-November — The National Committee to Secure Justice in the Rosenberg Case is formed.

1952

February 25 — Convictions of the Rosenbergs upheld by United States Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge Jerome Frank writing the unanimous opinion. Sobell conviction affirmed, Judge Frank dissenting.

October 13 — The Supreme Court denies certiorari, refuses to review the case or pass on the merits of the appeal. Justice Hugo Black dissents.

November 17 — Supreme Court refuses to reconsider its original ruling; Justice Black again dissents.

November 21 — Judge Irving Kaufman sets the second execution date for the week of January 12, 1953.

December 10 — Motion for hearing based on evidence of perjury and prejudicial publicity heard by Judge Sylvester Ryan. Motion denied stay of execution denied.

December 30 — Judge Kaufman hears motion to reduce sentence. The Court of Appeals upholds Ryan’s denial of a hearing.

1953

January 2 — Judge Kaufman refuses to reduce sentence.

January 5 — Court of Appeals denies stay of execution.

January 10 — Petition for executive clemency submitted to President Truman. He passes the buck to the incoming President Dwight Eisenhow; executions stayed five days after determination is made.

January 21 — Tessie Greenglass visits her daughter at Sing Sing in an effort to induce her to confess and back her brother David’s story.

February 11 — President Eisenhower denies clemency.

February 13 — The Vatican reveals that the Pope had pleaded for clemency for the Rosenbergs; says the US had not even acknowledged the plea.

February 16 — New execution date set for week of March 9.

February 17 — Court of Appeals stays executions so the Supreme Court can consider a new petition for a review.

March — Two new pieces of evidence, both pointing to perjury in David Greenglass’s testimony are discovered: The first is a memo to his attorney, saying he was willing to say whatever the FBI told him to, even if he had no knowledge of what he said. The second is regarding a console table owned by the Rosenbergs and said to have been modified so it could be used to coneal evidence. Evidence showed that the table had none of the espionage adaptions to it that David Greenglass and his wife Ruth said it had and was in fact an unmodified table exactly like others sold at Macys.

May 25 — Supreme Court again refuses certiorari, Justices Hugo Black and William Douglas dissenting.

May 29 — Judge Kaufman sets new execution date for week of June 15.

June 2 — John V. Bennett, Director of the Bureau of Prisons, visits Sing Sing and personally offers Julius and Ethel Rosenberg their lives if they will “fully cooperate.”

June 8 — Judge Kaufman hears arguments for new hearing charging that newly discovered evidence proves perjury and subornation of perjury. Kaufman immediately denies the motion and refuses to stay the executions.

June 9 — Appeals Court orders Rosenbergs’ lawyers to argue their appeal from Judge Kaufman’s ruling on the spot.

June 11 — Appeals Court affirms Judge Kaufman’s decision, denies stay.

June 15 — Supreme Court refuses stay of execution so a new petition for certiorari might be filed to appeal

Kaufman’s June 8 decision. Vote is 5 to 4, Justices Black, Douglas, Frankfurter, and Jackson dissenting. Application for stay made to Justice William Douglas.

June 16 — Aother application for a stay made to Justice Douglas via a “next friend” brief based on the view that the Atomic Energy Act of 1946 should have applied to the case.

Clemency petitions filed with the Pardon Attorney at the Justice Department

June 17 — Justice Douglas grants stays of execution until the lower courts can decide the new issue raised in the “next friend” brief.

Acting on the request of Attorney General Brownell, Chief Justice Fred Vinson recalls the court into special session to consider the point on which Douglas granted the stay.

June 18 — Oral arguments before the Supreme Court

June 19 — Supreme Court vacates Douglas’ stay, Justices Hugo Black, William Douglas, and Felix Frankfurter  dissenting. That afternoon, defense lawyers argue for a stay of execution with the Court of Appeals in New Haven, CT.

Eisenhower again denies clemency. Several hours after the Court adjourned, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg are executed.