Does the evidence found thus far against Enoch James Fargo rise to the level of proving him guilty in a criminal case? No, because the defendant must be found guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.” We’re so far removed from 1901, that such a threshold is impossible to attain.
But that’s really a red herring, because we’re not preparing for a courtroom trial, we’re talking about history. And the question is, what would be sufficient evidence for historians? As a general rule, historians consider many kinds of evidence that might not be admissible in court today. Among the things considered by historians are oral traditions, and much of what we accept as historical truth could not be proven in a court of law today.
However, it’s important to note that in federal court, assertions of fact contained in “ancient documents” are admissible in evidence despite the fact that they are “hearsay.” An “ancient document” is defined by the court as any document more than 20 years old. Citation: Federal Rules of Evidence 803 (16).
Thus, Mary Wilson’s statement in her book (The History of Lake Mills) that Enoch shot Addie may be considered admissible evidence. If a federal court would accept Mary Wilson’s “ancient document” as evidence, shouldn’t historians? And Mary Wilson was not just a local historian; she was Enoch’s own granddaughter.
From a historical reference point, the statement in Mary Wilson’s book, together with the report that her mother was the source, together with all the other evidence that’s been amassed provides an adequate foundation for the historical conclusion that, just as Mary Wilson told us, Enoch killed Addie.
(Many thanks to in-house counsel for providing legal terms and citations.)
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