Stokes is stunned. He is led from the courtroom in a daze and delivered back to the Tombs. The other prisoners avoid him, as though his hopeless condition might be contagious. With the city abuzz at the thought of a hanging, his lawyers’ appeals for writs of error meet one rebuff after another. The corridors of his prison grow darker than ever; the specter of the gallows rises before him. Convinced that the forces of Erie and Tammany still determine justice in New York, Ned Stokes surrenders to his fate.

And then, with the hangman almost readying the noose, the New York Supreme Court finds in Stokes’s favor. The court rules that the jury in the second trial was incorrectly charged. Judge Boardman failed to make clear that murder, under New York statute, requires an explicit intent to kill. Stokes certainly meant to harm Fisk, but whether he sought to kill him remains unproved, the court says. The conviction is voided; Stokes shall have a third trial.

Stokes’s brother carries the glad tidings to the Tombs, wanting to witness and share the emotions of the eleventh-hour rescue. But the jailhouse grapevine relays messages faster than any human courier. A guard tells Stokes he isn’t going to hang. Stokes takes a moment to absorb the guard’s words and nearly faints as the welcome meaning sinks in. He can’t speak, he can’t breathe, he can barely hear or see.

Gradually he recomposes himself. By the time his brother arrives, expecting a joyous reaction, Stokes presents the calm, unconcerned persona he has long preferred to show the world.

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