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The Boston Massacre: Self-Defense or Murder? Introduction Five civilians died on March 5, 1770 when British soldiers fired on American civilians in Boston, Massachusetts. Depending on who you listen to, this event was either an act of self-defense or murder. In a trial that happened after the incident, the British soldiers involved were found not guilty of murder. John Adams, the man who would later become the second president of the United States, defended the British soldiers masterfully. He didn’t use the evidence to prove that the British soldiers were innocent. Instead, he used all of the various eyewitnesses to create a story so complex and confusing that no one really knew for sure what happened. In all that confusion, it couldn’t be proven that the British soldiers were murderers, so they went free. John Adams’ legal defense of the soldiers helped keep the Boston Massacre controversial. It happened 250 years ago, and historians still can’t agree if it was murder or self-defense. You are going to look through the testimony of eyewitnesses and participants which was presented at that trial to determine whether the incident should be considered an act of self-defense or whether it was an act of murder deserving the title of “The Boston Massacre.” What is “self defense”? Killing or causing bodily harm to someone is not considered a serious crime if you cause that harm through self-defense. If you are yourself threatened with bodily harm, it is acceptable to use force to defend yourself. Self-defense usually follows these criteria, as defined by USLegal.com: You are being threatened with extreme bodily harm, which usually means that the person you act against has something he could potentially kill you with. You don’t act first, but in response to this threat. You don’t have any realistic way to escape or flee from this threat. This means having your back against the wall, either literally or figuratively. What is “murder”? Murder is much more serious than self-defense, and has huge punishments attached to it. Murderers are usually imprisoned for life or can be executed for their crimes. A murder has been committed if it follows these criteria, according to USLegal.com: The person was unlawfully killed, meaning it was not in self-defense. This means that the person who is killed was never a serious threat to the killer. The killer deliberately and intentionally tried to cause extreme bodily harm to his victim. This could mean deliberately - not accidentally - driving his car towards the victim, or deliberately - not accidentally - pointing a gun at the victim. The killing was premeditated, meaning that the killer planned to kill his victim. The amount of planning varies depending on the person, and can range from minutes to years. So what do we have to do? Now that you know the difference between self-defense and murder, you’re going to examine the witness testimony from the trial of the British soldiers after the “Boston Massacre.” You’re going to look for clues as to whether what happened was self-defense or murder. Then you’re going to write a persuasive essay publishing your findings. You are going to choose three eyewitnesses who present evidence that will help prove that the event was an act of self-defense or an act of murder. You’re going to explain what part from their testimony agrees with your view of the event, and why. Important point: do NOT make up your mind before reading the witness statements. Read all the way through the witness statements before you make up your mind on whether it was self-defense or murder, then build your case accordingly. Before you start, know this: There is no right or wrong answer for this assignment. You are acting as a detective or a lawyer, using evidence to build you case for self-defense or murder. Therefore, you should not feel like you’re not doing the assignment right if your answer differs from the people around you. This event happened 250 years ago, and people have been disagreeing about it ever since. You can find all the eyewitness statements from the trial in the file labeled “Testimony from Boston Massacre Trial.” I’ve copied down the testimony from 27 different witnesses from the trial. You are to pick the three people whose testimony best proves your view of the event. You are going to follow these steps to complete this assignment: 1. Read through the entire set of instructions before proceeding on. 2. Read through the entire set of witness statements from the trial. 3. Decide in your mind whether you think it was an act of murder or an act of self-defense. You do not get to pick “Both” as your answer. A jury can’t decide whether an act was kind of murder and kind of self-defense, it picks one or the other, and so must you. 4. Read through the set of witness statements again, and find the three witnesses who you think best prove that the event was an example of self-defense or murder. 5. For each of the three witnesses, fill out a witness statement sheet. 6. Using those witness statement sheets, compose a 5-paragraph persuasive essay based on the instructions posted below. 7. Save your completed assignment with this format: first initial, last name, and “massacre.”So, for example, mine would be labeled dkeltnermassacre. 8. Email your completed assignment to my school address, which is firstname.lastname@example.org 9. You’ll do that by clicking on the “Share” button up and to the right. When the “Sharing settings” window pops up, add my email address into the space labeled “Add people.” Make sure that the option says “Can Edit” so that I’ll be able to comment on your essay. 10. Complete this assignment and email it to me by Monday, November 15th. This assignment will represent your final assignment of the chapter, both for 8th Social Studies and History Lab. So this will count for 30 points for each of your classes. Instructions for the 5-paragraph essay The first paragraph will be your introduction paragraph. In your first paragraph, you need to accomplish all of the following, using complete sentences. 1. First, state whether you think the “Boston Massacre” was an example of murder or an example of self-defense. 2. Second, explain briefly why you think the event was an example of self-defense or murder. Use the criteria for self-defense or murder to accomplish this. a. For example: The “Boston Massacre” was an example of self-defense because the British soldiers were threatened with extreme bodily harm, they acted in response to that threat, and they didn’t have chance to escape from this threat. b. For example: The “Boston Massacre” was an example of murder because the Americans were never a serious threat to the British soldiers, the British soldiers planned to kill or seriously wound the American victims, and the act was planned by British soldiers. Third, tell me which three witnesses you’re going to use to prove that this event was an act of murder or an act of self-defense. The second, third, and fourth paragraphs are the body paragraphs. Each paragraph will deal with a separate person, but each of the three paragraphs will follow the following format. 1. First, state the name of the person that you are going to use. a. For example: One witness whose testimony proves the event was an act of self- defense was Dustin Keltner. b. For example: One witness whose testimony proves the event was an act of murder was Dustin Keltner. Second, quote the part from that person’s testimony that provides proof that the act was self-defense or murder. . For example: Dustin Keltner said, in his testimony, “Blah blah blah.” Finally, explain which of the criteria for self-defense or murder this testimony fits in with. . For example: This testimony suggests it was self-defense because the soldier acted in response to a threat of extreme bodily harm. a. For example: This testimony suggest it was murder because the soldier intended to kill or seriously wound his victim. The fifth paragraph is your conclusion paragraph. In this paragraph, you’re going to wrap up your case. In this paragraph, you need to accomplish all of the following, using complete sentences. 1. First, give the definition of self-defense or murder. Briefly state the criteria that makes an act self-defense or murder. 2. Second, explain which of the criteria your witness statements fall under. There will be three sentences for this part, since you must write one for each of your witnesses. a. For example: Dustin Keltner’s testimony proves that the British soldiers acted in response to a serious threat. Finally, make the conclusion on whether the event was self-defense or murder. . For example: Based on all the witness testimony I have discussed above, I believe it is clear that the Boston Massacre was an example of murder. How will this be graded? This paper will be worth 30 points each for 8th Grade Social Studies and for History Lab. It will be graded according to the following rubric. 6 - Excellent 4 - Adequate 2 - Inadequate 0 - Non-existent Sources All three sources Two of three One of three None of the used for quotes sources used for sources used for sources was and facts are quotes and facts quotes and facts credible or used credible and are credible and are credible and correctly. used correctly. used correctly. used correctly. 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