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Browsing: Legal Papers of John Adams, Volume 1

This note contained in document ADMS-05-01-02-0002-0001-0002
26. In JA's hand. Pleadings Book, p. 16. The writ, dated 21 March 1771, returnable at the April Suffolk Inferior Court, was apparently drafted by JA, who entered the action. JA also was Needham's counsel at the July 1771 court, where judgment was given for Kingsbury on a demurrer to the plea, Needham having agreed that the trial of any appeal would be final. In the Superior Court, the case was continued term by term until Feb. 1779, when the suit was dropped. See Min. Bk., Inf. Ct. Suffolk, April 1771, No. 204; July 1771, No. 73; SCJ Rec. 1779, fol. 52; Min. Bk. 95, SCJ Suffolk, Aug. 1771, N–7; Min. Bk. 103, SCJ Suffolk, Feb. 1779, C–1; SF 102598. This suit for malicious prosecution arose out of an action brought by John Needham, Ezekiel's son, against Kingsbury at the July 1768 Suffolk Inferior Court for services performed and for a sawmill saw which Needham claimed that Kingsbury had agreed to buy, or at any rate had used and returned in damaged condition. Needham won a jury verdict for three pounds in the Inferior Court, which was reversed by a Superior Court jury at the Aug. 1768 term, and then on review in March 1769 was restored by a third verdict which included costs in the staggering amount of £79 3s. 7d. JA was Needham's counsel at both Superior Court trials. See Min. Bk. 86, SCJ Suffolk, Aug. 1768, N–26; Min. Bk. 89, SCJ Suffolk, March 1769, N–24; SF 101254, 101352.
At the Nov. adjournment of the Aug. 1769 Superior Court term, on Kingsbury's complaint, Ezekiel Needham was indicted on two separate indictments for perjury in his testimony at the Inferior Court trial and at the Superior Court trial in review. His wife, Dorothy Needham, was also indicted for perjury in the Inferior Court. In each indictment the charge was the same, that the witness had testified “that three or four Teeth were broken out of the Saw” in dispute, “and that the same Saw was bent and twisted and entirely spoiled.” See SF 102598, 101798, 101799, 101773. According to minutes taken by JA, probably at the trial in review, Ezekiel had testified that Kingsbury “brought the saw to my house and said it did not prove so well as he expected. The Saw was damnified, the Teeth were broke and the Saw was bent.” Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 185. At the March 1770 term two indictments were also brought against John Needham—one for forging the signatures of his witnesses to the accounts of their travel to the Superior Court, and one for subornation of perjury, charging that he had procured Samuel Frost to testify falsely as to the condition of the saw at the trial in review. See SF 101796, 101797. After several continuances, during which Ezekiel was free on bail, he was tried under the indictment covering his Inferior Court testimony at the Feb 1771 Superior Court. (On his other indictment no plea appears and the words “not compleated” are written. SF 101799.) JA's minutes of the trial show that various witnesses testified that the saw was not damaged when Kingsbury returned it, but the saw itself was introduced in evidence and apparently had at least two or three broken teeth. Although some witnesses stated that these were broken before Kingsbury got possession, he testified himself that “This is the Saw that I carryd home to Needhams Mill. Just as it was then. I cant so well tell that the Saw was exactly so at the Time I took it. When I carryd it home, I told him that it was something rusty. There was 2 or 3. Same as it is now.” Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 185. This testimony was apparently conclusive. The jury found Ezekiel not guilty and he was discharged. At the same term Dorothy and John Needham were likewise acquitted. Min. Bk. 89, SCJ Suffolk, Feb. 1771. This prosecution was the basis of Ezekiel's present suit.
At the Aug. 1773 term, Ezekiel was once again cited for perjury as a result of his testimony for John in a suit against the latter by Jeremiah Hall, in which Hall had finally prevailed on review. JA was again counsel for Needham in the civil suit. Min. Bk. 98, SCJ Suffolk, Feb. 1773, C–49; Aug. 1773, N–16; SF 102275, 102 2520. Needham gave his recognizance for prosecution at the next term, but no further record has been found. See note 2946 below. See also Ezekiel Needham v. Jeremiah Hall, Min. Bk., Inf. Ct. Suffolk, April 1772, No. 243, a default judgment for Needham with JA of counsel.
Cite web page as: Founding Families: Digital Editions of the Papers of the Winthrops and the Adamses, ed.C. James Taylor. Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 2018.