The Fair Trial
The Boston Massacre


Rex v. Preston
October 24-30, 1770

     "The day after the killings * a message from Preston, 'Who wishes for Council and can get none'. 'Council', Adams said 'ought to be the very last thing that an accused person should want (i.e. lack) in a free country'. A problem concerned Adams * since * he would be appearing and arguing in both trials.
Captain Preston's best defense would consist simply of a denial that he had ordered the shooting. Conversely, the men would want to show * they had merely followed their officer's orders, * as indeed on pain of death they were bound to do.

     The Massachusetts courts which allowed for twenty peremptory challenges in a murder case * of the first twenty-two called, Preston challenged fifteen, seven of them from Boston. Of the seven jurors who had been seated, only two were Bostonians.

     It is an axiom of litigation that a case should open with a strong witness, and also close with one. In Rex v. Preston, the crown lawyers put all their good witnesses in the middle. Though neither Preston nor his men testified, * the witnesses who did take the stand * sealed his acquittal. The defense evidence create/de a picture of confusion, noise, and verbal threats.

     Adams's argument * brilliantly capped the case. Without calling anyone a liar, without over painting the scene, Adams brought the jurors into Preston's situation and subtly reminded them that the unleashed 'passions' in Iong Street might well have forced the soldiers response. The jury reported its verdict: Not Guilty. "

- The Boston Massacre by Hiller B. Zobel


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