The Fair Trial
The Boston Massacre
1770

Rex v. Wemms, et al.
November 27-December 5, 1770

     "Preston's acquittal only made the soldiers' defense more difficult. *[T]he crown had failed to prove that he ordered his men to shoot. That being so, the soldiers must have fired without orders.
     [S]electing a jury took a long time * Not one of the twelve * came from Boston. Adams now stepped into the senior counsel's role, while Josiah Quincy assumed the task of cross-examining the crown's witnesses and presenting the defense's case. 'The eyes of all are upon you', Quincy told the jurors. 'You are to think, judge, and act as Jurymen and not as Statesmen'. The testimony now began to unfold a picture of direct threats to the party. The testimony was cumulating into a picture of riot and threat. The speech which John Adams now rose to give has never received its true measure of fame * But never has it been praised for what it really was, a masterpiece of political tightroping and partisan

invective, wrapped inextricably in a skillful, effective jury argument. * at 1:30 p.m. the case was finally delivered to the jury. By 4:00 p.m. the jury was back. * William Wemms * Hartigan, McCanley, Warren, Caroll, White * Not Guilty. * Kilroy, Montgomery 'Not Guilty of Murder, but Guilty of Manslaughter'. * [T]he Boston Massacre, legally speaking, passed into history.
     Popular feeling very clearly did not rejoice in that triumph of justice over prejudice. Adams himself always considered his participation in the defense 'one of the most gallant, generous, manly and disinterested Actions of my whole life, and one of the best Pieces of Service I ever rendered my Country. ' * years later when Preston and Adams met on a London Street, they passed without speaking. "

- The Boston Massacre by
Hiller B. Zobel

 

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