January 9 - 1781: SJC Chief Lemuel Shaw of Barnstable born

1961: JFK leaves Bay State for White House. The Blizzard of 1996
Lemuel Shaw, photo credit, www.metmuseum.org.

1781: Chief Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court born this day

His explanation of the principle of reasonable doubt still used today

On this day in 1781, Lemuel Shaw, one of the most prominent legal figures in the early history of the United States, was born in West Barnstable.

Educated at Harvard, Shaw was admitted to the bar in 1804 and served in the Legislature as a representative and state senator. After helping draft the first city charter for Boston in 1822, he was appointed chief justice of the Supreme Judicial Court in 1830, a position he held for 30 years.

In that time, Shaw handed down more than 2,000 opinions, many of which are still cited in courts.  Arguably the most important of these opinions was Shaw's explanation of the principle of reasonable doubt, which came out of Commonwealth v. Webster, the trial of Harvard professor John White Webster accused of killing Dr. George Parkman.  

As defined by Shaw in his decision on the case, reasonable doubt is the mental state in which jurors "cannot say they feel an abiding conviction, to a moral certainty, of the truth of the charge."

Shaw's definition of reasonable doubt forms the basis of instructions to juries to this day.

1961: John F. Kennedy bade farewell to the people of Massachusetts

He referred to the "enduring qualities of Massachusetts"

Today in 1961, John F. Kennedy bade farewell to the people of Massachusetts and reminded them of the state's unique legacy. In a speech at the State House, the youngest man and first Catholic elected to the presidency quoted the words of John Winthrop in 1630, "We must always consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill—the eyes of all people are upon us."

"No man about to enter high office in this country," Kennedy said, "can ever be unmindful of the contribution this state has made to our national greatness." He referred to the "enduring qualities of Massachusetts" — "they are," he explained, "an indelible part of my life, my convictions, my view of the past, and my hopes for the future." (Photo of JFK sailing off Hyannisport courtesy of the Kennedy Library.)

1996: The Blizzard of 1996

50 mph winds on Cape Cod

Today in 1996, three feet of snow fell in the hills of southern West Virginia, while parts of Virginia and eastern Tennessee were blanketed by 30 inches.

Moving up the coast into New England, the storm brought near blizzard conditions to the coast with winds of more than 50 miles an hour over Cape Cod. State officials warned local residents of possible coastal flooding... New York Times.

Read about "Everything Else Which Happened Today" including in 1894 -when the New England Telephone and Telegraph installed the first battery-operated telephone switchboard in Lexington, Massachusetts and in 1982 when a Bay State hockey player scored 3 goals in 12 seconds.


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