The Case for the Defense

by Graham Greene
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How does Adams's lawyer shock everyone present in the court in "The Case for the Defense"?

Adams's lawyer shocks everyone present in the court in "The Case for the Defense" by asking the chief witness, Mrs. Salmon, to look at the defendant's twin brother and still swear that the prisoner is the man she saw dropping the murder weapon in the garden. She cannot, so Adams is acquitted for lack of evidence.

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At the beginning of the story, it seems almost certain that the defendant in this particular case, Adams, is going to be convicted of murder. If that happens, he'll almost certainly be sent to the gallows, where he will hang by the neck until dead.

As the narrator points out,...

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At the beginning of the story, it seems almost certain that the defendant in this particular case, Adams, is going to be convicted of murder. If that happens, he'll almost certainly be sent to the gallows, where he will hang by the neck until dead.

As the narrator points out, this isn't one of those murder cases where the prosecution only has circumstantial evidence. The defendant was all but found with the body; not only that, but four witnesses saw him running away from the scene of the crime.

One of those witnesses is Mrs. Salmon, who saw Adams on the night in question standing on the steps of the victim's house with a hammer in his hand. The hammer is believed to be the murder weapon, and Mrs. Salmon claims that she saw Adams drop it in the laurel bushes by the front gate.

The counsel for the defense knows that he doesn't stand a chance of securing an acquittal for his client unless he can undermine the credibility of the prosecution witnesses. He does this by pulling a rabbit out of the hat, so to speak, by getting the defendant's twin brother to stand up at the back of the court and asking Mrs. Salmon to say if she can still swear that the man she saw dropping the hammer in the victim's garden was really the prisoner at the bar and not his twin brother.

Not surprisingly, Mrs. Salmon is unable to do so, as the two men, being identical twins, look exactly the same. She simply cannot tell them apart. The defense counsel's neat trick works like a charm, and Adams is acquitted for lack of evidence.

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