Stratford Jury Convicts Redcoats, Acquits Preston

On the charge of murder, we the jury of Stratford Academy find the Redcoats not guilty.

On the charge of manslaughter, we find the defendants guilty.

We the jury find Captain Thomas Preston not guilty of all charges.

More than 200 years after the original Boston Massacre, Stratford students have reached a verdict on what really happened on the night of March 5, 1770. Retrying the British soldiers involved in the Boston Massacre – which resulted in the deaths of five colonists and was one of the key events leading to the American Revolution – was part of a project in Mr. Chris Loomis’ U.S. and AP U.S. History classes, with students serving as lawyers, witnesses, and finally, jurors.

“Unlike the seven civilians, Captain Preston dodged a bullet,” said junior Sean Grossnickle, who voted the Redcoats guilty of manslaughter and Captain Preston guilty of negligent homicide.

The verdicts are similar to those at the original trial, at which future President John Adams defended the British soldiers. Two of the soldiers were convicted of manslaughter, while Preston and the other soldiers were acquitted.

Based on the total votes from all classes, Captain Thomas Preston – who commanded the soldiers involved in the massacre, but whose actions during the incident were the subject of conflicting accounts among witnesses  – was found not guilty with a majority of 49 out of 78 votes.

The Redcoats were found guilty of manslaughter with a majority of 46 votes – including 14 jurors who voted for murder convictions.

Majorities in both AP and U.S. History reached the same verdicts.

During the project, students in each class were divided into four different groups: the Prosecution, the Defense, the King’s Men, and the Mob.

Students in each group read “The Trial of Captain Thomas Preston,” which included testimony from Preston and other witnesses at the original trial.

But students weren’t bound by the original trial results, and were left determine their own account of what happened at the massacre.

The Prosecution’s job was to argue to a jury that the soldiers were guilty of murder (including premeditation) and that Captain Preston did order his men to fire, while the Defense needed to prove that Preston and his men were not guilty – or at least that there was reasonable doubt as to their actions.

During the trial, the Prosecution and Defense called witnesses from The King’s Men and the Mob to the stand and give their accounts of what happened on that wintry night.

After both sides argued for the guilt or innocence of Captain Preston and his men and each witness gave their testimony, all of the students were asked to serve as jurors, delivering their verdict in a final paper.

Students seemed to enjoy reenacting the trial.

“It was an interesting and fun way to learn the Boston Massacre Trial, rather than just taking notes on it. I felt like I got a lot more out of it by doing the trial.” junior Missy Fuller said.