The Official Story
Chapter 15

The verdict of the Supreme Judicial Court

The Supreme Judicial Court justices heard the case of Joseph North vs. the Commonwealth of Massachusetts on July 10, 1790. The all-male jury's verdict two days later was "not guilty." (The cases against the other two men were continued to the next session and then dropped.)

(Why was there an all-male jury? According to 18th century American law, only male property owners could vote, and only those who voted could serve on juries.)

The official record tells us nothing about what was said in court.

Most probably it came down to a case of his word versus her word. Since Judge North was a prominent member of the community and Rebecca Foster was the wife of a discredited minister, one could argue that the verdict was predictable, no matter what evidence was presented.

What was Martha's reaction to the verdict?

The Supreme Judicial Court hears the case in Pownalboro
How did this case get recorded in the official town history?

Table of Contents

The Perpetual Laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Massachusetts General Court
May 1789
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Page 116

  Courts and Forms of Process  

116 Choice and Services of Petit Jurors. PART III.

Constables to notify the persons chosen.

Grand Jury to have the same oath administered to them, as those serving at teh Supreme Judicial Court.

to appear at the Court of General Sessions of the Peace, to be hold within the said county, next after the first day of March, and there to serve on teh Grand Jury at every Court of General Sessions of the Peace, throughout the whole year, until another Grand Jury shall be chosen, empannelled, and sworn in their room, and the constables shall notify the persons so chosen, four days before the sitting of the Court. And it shall be the business of such Grand Jury to present all crimes, offences and breaches of law cognizable by the said Court, and they shall have the same oath administered to them, as is in and by this act provided for the Grand Jury serving at the Supreme Judicial Court.
Penalties for neglect in constables, towns, or persons chosen to serve as Grand Jurors. And if any constable shall neglect to assemble the inhabitants of his town, when he shall have received such warrant, or shall neglect to summon such person as shall be chosen in pusuance of such warrant, or shall not make a timely return of the same, with his doings therein, he shall pay such fine as the Court shall order, not exceeding the sum of ten pounds. And if any town shall after being duly notified, neglect to choose such Grand Juror or Grand Jurors, such town shall be emercied to the use of the county, in a sum not exceeding twenty pounds, at the discretion of the Court. And if any person chosen and summoned to attend as aforesaid, shall unnecessarily fail of attending at the time and place appointed therefor, he shall (if he is an inhabitant of Boston, Salem, or Newbury-Port) pay a fine of five pounds, otherwise a fine of forty shillings, to be divided amongst the Grand Jurors who shall attend their duty.
  [This act passed June 21, 1784]
An Act for regulating the Choice and Services of Petit Jurors


Towns to proceed in the appointment of Jurors, as heretofore practiced.

Clerks of therespective Courts to issue venire facias.


BE it enacted by the Senate and the House of Representatives, in General Court assembled, and by the authority of the same, That the towns in this Commonwealth shall, until the first day of January, seventeen hundred and eighty five, proceed in the appointment of Jurors, as hath been heretofore practiced in this government, and that forever thereafter the Clerks of the respective Courts in this Commonwealth, shall issue their venire facias for Jurors to serve at their respective Courts, from their offices thirty days at the least before the return day of the same, directed to the constables of each town in the county, or so many of them as the Court shall order, and the respective constables upon receipt thereof, shall notify the freeholders and inhabitatns in their towns, qualified to vote in the election of Representatives, to assemble and be present at the appointment of the Jurors called for, and to be appointed in manner by this act provided.

  II. And it is further enacted, That the Selectmen of each town in this Commonwealth shall provide, and from time to time cause to be kept in their respective towns, two boxes, and shall once at least, in every three years, lay before their town a lift of such per-