Lecture 10The Trial of John Peter ZengerThe trial of a German printer named John PeterZengerin August 1735helped establish one of our most cherished constitutionalrights:freedom of the press. On August 5, 1735, twelve New York jurors acquitted Zenger of seditious libel. He had been arrestedand charged with seditious libel for printing statements in the New York Weekly Journal that were critical of colonial Governor William Cosby’s arbitrary rule. Zenger’s defenselawyer arguedthat Zenger was not guilty of libel because the statements against Cosby weretrue. However, under English law, the mere factthat a printer published statements that were critical of the government constituted seditiouslibel, regardless of their veracity. Therefore, thetrial judge, who had been handpickedby Governor Cosby in the first place, instructed the jury to return a verdict of “guilty” because Zenger had admitted to printing thestatements. However, Zenger’sbrilliant defenselawyer,
This is the end of the preview.
access the rest of the document.