Seventh-grade social studies teachers Katie Petitto and Katie Rodgers taught a lesson to their students recently, titled “You Be the Judge.”
The students played the roles of jurors while studying the Boston Massacre trial.
The teachers said the students looked at testimonies from the trial and photographs of the massacre that were printed in newspapers from the time.
The junior high students looked at bias in the photographs and had to decide — based on the testimonies — if the British soldiers should be charged with murder or acquitted of all charges.
According to history books, the Boston Massacre in 1770 resulted from British soldiers of the 14th and the 29th regiments occupying Boston as a police force for two years, where they were quartered in private homes and public buildings and even took extra jobs around the town.
Tension and hostilities grew between civilians and soldiers until it finally erupted on the night of the massacre.
The trials for Capt. Thomas Preston and eight enlisted men, two of the longest trials in colonial history, are a landmark in American legal history. It was the first time a judge used the phrase “reasonable doubt.”
Three weeks after the Boston Massacre, a grand jury indicted Preston and his men, as well as four civilians accused of having fired from the window of the Customs House. If found guilty, each would have faced the death penalty.
Preston and his soldiers could not find legal representation, approaching several lawyers without success until 35-year-old John Adams agreed to head their successful defense.