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Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations. 1989.

AUTHOR: Benjamin Franklin (1706–90)
QUOTATION: That it is better 100 guilty Persons should escape than that one innocent Person should suffer, is a Maxim that has been long and generally approved.
ATTRIBUTION: BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, letter to Benjamin Vaughan, March 14, 1785.—The Writings of Benjamin Franklin, ed. Albert H. Smyth, vol. 9, p. 293 (1906).

He was echoing Voltaire, “that generous Maxim, that ’tis much more Prudence to acquit two Persons, tho’ actually guilty, than to pass Sentence of Condemnation on one that is virtuous and innocent.—Zadig, chapter 6, p. 53 (1749, reprinted 1974).

Sir William Blackstone, in his Commentaries on the Laws of England, 9th ed., book 4, chapter 27, p. 358 (1783, reprinted 1978), says, “For the law holds, that it is better that ten guilty persons escape, than that one innocent suffer.”