Steven N. Peskind recently attended a day-long seminar in Metamora, Illinois discussing the law practice of Abraham Lincoln.
In 1857, Abraham Lincoln was the defense attorney for Melissa Goings, who was charged with the murder of her husband, Roswell Goings—a 77-year-old man with a reputation for heavy drinking and spousal abuse. The abuse led to a tragic ending when, according to Melissa, Roswell tried to strangle her and she defended herself by striking him with a piece of firewood. Roswell died of the resulting skull fracture four days later. On the first day of trial, Lincoln conferred with Melissa during a break, but when court resumed, Melissa was nowhere to be found—and was never seen again in Metamora. When asked if he knew anything about her absence, Lincoln allegedly quipped that “she wanted to know where she could get a good drink of water and I told her there was mighty good water in Tennessee!”
The seminar examined Lincoln’s participation in the Melissa Goings case in the very courthouse where Lincoln was present. Other topics included Lincoln’s family law practice (he hated family law!), managing domestic violence cases and an overview of his circuit riding practice in the 8th Judicial Circuit.
The program was presented by the Illinois State Bar Association and co-sponsored by the Abraham Lincoln Association.