The Results of the Trial
The Massacre trials ended quietly. Samuel Adams wrote several articles in the Boston Gazette during December, 1770, under the pseudonym "Vindex," that accused the soldiers of escaping with blood on their hands. But the mood had changed in Boston since the Massacre. He turned his attentions to keeping the memory of the Massacre alive, organizing annual commemorations on March 5, a tradition that lasted until 1783.
Kilroy and Montgomery faced the death penalty at the sentencing on December 14, 1770. To escape execution they "prayed the benefit of clergy," a Medieval remnant of the time when clergymen were excepted from the secular courts. To receive the benefit they had only to prove they could read Psalm 51, verse 1, the "neck verse," at a time when most people were illiterate. Although illiterate himself, Kilroy was able to obtain the benefit because the reading requirement was abolished in 1705.
Suffolk County Sheriff Stephen Greenleaf branded Kilroy and Montgomery on the right thumb with an "M" for murder. The brand was to prevent them from ever being able to invoke the benefit of clergy again.
After his acquittal, Captain Preston removed himself from Boston to Castle William in Boston Harbor, and eventually returned to England. The soldiers returned to the Twenty-ninth Regiment, which had left Boston following the Massacre.
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