At the Kalamazoo Valley Museum hangs a painting that depicts a legal milestone in Michigan history: it is a scene from the first criminal trial ever conducted in Kalamazoo, Michigan, one of the oldest cities in the state. The trial took place 175 years ago. The crimes that called for such an assemblage were the acts of Hannah Carpenter, depicted at the far left on trial. She was found guilty and fined $25. Her crime, according to the only readily available record: "the crime of the woman whom Jesus of Nazareth bade 'go and sin no more.'"
Well, I had to get out my Bible, I'm sorry to say, to understand the reference. From the Book of John, Chapter 8:
1Jesus went unto the mount of Olives. ... 3And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, 4They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. 5Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou? 6This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him.
But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not. 7So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. 8And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground.
9And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.
10When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?
11She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.
An article in a recent Michigan Bar Journal talks about the painting and its origins in detail. It says the two men at the center of the painting, the pair who face away from the judges, are "parties to the criminal suit." One is Mr. Carpenter, we can assume, and the other, ahem.
So it was that in the wilds on the territorial frontier as three Potawatomi sit in the corner listening to the proceedings, all the learned men for who knows how many miles assembled themselves and swore one another to solemn oaths and went about their duties creating a memorable scene as they publicly shamed Hannah Carpenter for adultery.