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Today in Legal History: Library of Congress, War Prisoner Code, Forensic Evidence Misused


On this day in 1800, President John Adams approved a then-hefty $5,000 appropriation to establish the Library of Congress, 20 percent of which went for law books (mainly on British and international subjects). Today the largest library in the world, with a collection of well over 100 million items, the institution is also a significant resource for attorneys. See this Library of Congress Web page and this law library link for more information.

On this day in 1863, the Union army issued General Orders No. 100, which created a code of conduct for federal soldiers to follow concerning Confederate prisoners captured during the Civil War. It served as as model for similar codes later adopted by many European nations, and also had an influence on the Geneva conventions in effect today. For details, see this history.com Web page.

On this day in 1922, a Australian man was hanged for the rape and murder of a 12-year-old Melbourne girl. He had been convicted based in part on hairs found within walking distance of the body site, in what reportedly was one of the first criminal cases in the country to rely on forensic evidence. Unfortunately, it later appeared that the evidence had been either misinterpreted or falsified. For details, see this ABC Web page.

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