History of the Federal Judiciary

History of the Federal Judiciary

  The Rosenberg Trial
Learn about the case -- historical background and documents

Historical Documents

President Dwight Eisenhower, statement regarding executive clemency, February 11, 1953

In his statement denying executive clemency, the recently inaugurated President Eisenhower stressed the seriousness of the Rosenbergs’ crime and expressed confidence that the legal system had treated them fairly. Eisenhower limited his remarks to the Rosenbergs’ convictions for conspiracy (and implied that the Supreme Court had reviewed the case on its merits, which it had declined to do), making no explicit mention of the appropriateness of the death penalty.

[Document Source: “Eisenhower Statement on Spies,” New York Times, Feb. 12, 1953.]

I have given earnest consideration to the records in the case of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg and to the appeals for clemency made on their behalf.

These two individuals have been tried and convicted of a most serious crime against the people of the United States. They have been found guilty of conspiring with intent and reason to believe that it would be to the advantage of a foreign power, to deliver to the agent of that foreign power certain highly secret atomic information relating to the national defense of the United States.

The nature of the crime for which they have been found guilty and sentenced far exceeds that of the taking of the life of another citizen; it involves the deliberate betrayal of the entire nation and could very well result in the death of many, many thousands of innocent citizens. By their act these two individuals have in fact betrayed the cause of freedom for which free men are fighting and dying at this very hour.

We are a nation under law and our affairs are governed by the just exercise of these laws. The courts have provided every opportunity for the submission of evidence bearing on this case. In the time-honored tradition of American justice, a freely selected jury of their fellow-citizens considered the evidence in this case and rendered its judgment. All rights of appeal were exercised and the conviction of the trial court was upheld after four judicial reviews, including that of the highest court in the land.

I have made a careful examination into this case and am satisfied that the two individuals have been accorded their full measure of justice.

There has been neither new evidence nor have there been mitigating circumstances which would justify altering this decision, and I am determined that it is my duty, in the interest of the people of the United States, not to set aside the verdict of their representatives.


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