IT WAS A CLEAR AND MOONLIT NIGHT, claimed the witness, and shortly before midnight he saw the defendant load a rock into his slingshot, take aim, and strike his victim right above the eye, killing him.
An excited buzz went up from the courtroom at this testimony; now it was up to the accused man’s lawyer, a tall, gangly man dressed all in black, as lawyers often did in the mid-1800s, to refute this testimony. A look of puzzlement settled over the gaunt attorney’s face as he approached the jury box, holding up a book with which they were all familiar.
The witness for the prosecution, he reminded the jury, had just sworn under oath that he could see everything in detail that night, since the moon was overhead, illuminating the fields below. Yet according to the book he held in his hand, explained the lawyer, that couldn’t have happened; the woods would have been pitch black all night, as the moon was in its first quarter, and had set shortly before midnight, more precisely, at 11:57 p.m. Continue Reading →