To the surprise of many in Boston, John Adams was chosen to lead the defense team. Already a noted lawyer, having entered Harvard at age 16 and admitted to the bar eight years later, his sympathies lay strongly with the colonists rather than the Crown. Those who knew Adams said he was concerned defending the unpopular soldiers would hamper or kill his career.

Adams said, “If these poor fools should be prosecuted for any of their illegal conduct, they must be punished. If the soldiers (acted) in self-defense … they must be tried, and if the truth was respected and the law prevailed must be acquitted.”