History of Law: Great Trials of History

Figure 1.-- Suddenly in Salem there was a unprecedented with hunt--a real witch hunt. Hundreds of people, mostly women, were accused of practicing withcraft. Along with the trial of Socretes, the Salem Witch Trials, have to be the most famous trials of history. And both involved youth. In this case girls were the accusers. The witch trials are famous because of the tales of withcraft. But n terms of law they are also notable because of the rules of evidence--in this case the drawing of cnclusions before the collection of evidence. Here procedural rules were dispensed with in a rush to judgement. Least we be too quick to condemn the Salem Puritans, we should note that terrible miscairrages of justice and virtual ysteri have taken place in modern America. The Obama Administration's campus star chambers and willingness to abandon the most basic constitutional rights to pursue unsubstantiated reports of a massive wave of college rapes is a modern reoccurance of the Salem witch hunts. The painting here is 'The Trial of George Jacobs, August 5, 1692' by T. H. Matteson, 1855.

Trials are an important part of any modern legal system. There are two key elements to a trial, first law and second a siposedly impartial jury of some sort. They were not practical in primitive society where clan and family were the governing social unit and the wre few actual laws. Only when ivilization developed along with agriculture do we see actul law systems like Hamurabi's Code. But as a wy of administering the law you have what wre essentilly dministrative hearings by magistrates and not trials by theoretically impartial juries. The topic of truials attracts our interest for several rasons. First trials are an importnt of any legal system. Second trials often beings into question important issues of freedom, economic, political, and religious freedom. Third, children and youth are often involved to a surprising degree. Fourth, trials are an institution primarily associated with Western civilization. A useful exercise is to assess some the great trials of history. Note the absence of trials outside the Western tradition. The modern idea of a trial, especually a trial by jury is a merger of Roman and Germanic traditions and slowly developed in England. The outcome of many of these trials are today seen as a miscarriage of justice, but as with most human institutions, the institution was perfected and improved over time. But even in the 21st century, the trial continues to be an imperfect instrument in which to pursue justice. Inperfect because people are involved and people by their very nature are inperfect. Inperfect does not mean bad. Humanity has created not better way to pursue jutice.

Western Phenomenon

As far as we know, the trial, especially the jury trial, is a Western phenomenon. Of course our knowledge of history is largely Western centered. Perhaps we are just not familiar enough with non-Western history. Does China, India, Islam, or other non-Western societies have a history of trials comparable to the Western trials we have listed here. Perhaps are non-Western readers can provide some insight here.

Trial of Socrates (Greece, 399 BC)

The first important trial we know of took place very early in the history of Western Civilization--the trial of Socretes. It took place in Athens during the Golden Age (399 BC). Socretes was a Gadfly and notable Athenians did not like him. He was put on trial for corupting the youth of the City and dusrecpting the Gods. Socretes reversed the process and put the juros on trial. He lectured them as his students about the omprtance, actually the duty to seek the truth. He paid for it with his life. While an early trial, the formalities of what we now call a trial by bjury were observed, in fact better observed than would generally be the case for nearly to mellennia. Even the most well developed jury system can lead to the wrong result when the jury itself has biases.

Trial of Galus Verres (Rome, 70-69 BC)

Another giant of the classical age, Cicero, was involved in a noted trial. Cicero was obsessed with above all saving the Roman Republic in its final years. And ome of his greatest convern was greed and corruption. For this reason he prosecuted Galu Verres, the former provincial governor of Sicily. The 'Lex Calpurnia'allowed the provincials to bring an action de Repetundis against officials for extortion (149 BC). And Cicero proecuted him, the jury in this case becing the Senate. Verres was accused of crimes agaunst the people. Cicero presented his case in the Acto Secunda, five famous orations. Cicero was not only trying to convict the vnal Verres, but expose the rol and corruption in Roman public life.

Medieval Trials

Trials continued after the fall of Rome for centuries during the Medieval era, but the nature of the trials declined with the overall decline in civilization. A dead pope was famously put on trial. There were both trial by combat and trial by ordeal. Both were considered a judicium Dei (Latin: "judgement of God"). This meant a judicial procedure based on the premise that God would help the innocent and punish the guilty by performing a miracle on his behalf. The accused were subjected to trialn by orderal. The ordeals varied, such as dunking or fire. An accused adulterer might have to walk on glowing metal plougshares. There were also trial by combat in which victory would vindicate the innocent. Certain trials by ordeal would continue to be used into the 17th century, especially for witch-hunts.

Trial of Sir Thomas More (England, 1535)

The first trial which was conducted under circumstances approaching modern terms wasthat of Sir Thomas More (1535). More was allowed to argue his case. And both the court and More grappeled with rules of evidence. The King's men were allowed to torture, but More was not tortured, althogh his confimmnt in the Tower was purposefully uncomfortable. He dared to defy King Henry VIII who wanted to divorce his wife, Catherine of Aragon. The trial was conducted in Westminster Hall. More was acused of refusing to acknowledge Henry as the head of the Church of England anf Henry's new wife as Queen. More lost his head for his defiance. But it was important that Henry was forced to conduct a trial in the full glare of history and not just have More killed as was often the case. More is generally considerd a martyr. Often ignored is More's previous role as the king's Chncellor in which he used torture to obtain confessions. More would have his postumous revenge. It was the new Queen, Anne Boleyn, who had demanded is execution. We would soon be arrested and tried herself. And many of the same issues would surface during her trial (1536).

Trials of Girordano Bruno (Italy, 1593-1600) and Galileo Galilei (Italy, 1633)

The trial of Sir Thomas More was the first trial of the Reformation more followed. Two of the most important were those of Giordano Bruno and Galileo Galilei. The beseiged Roman Catholic Church saw it necessary to defend its view of cosmology and what at the time was called natural philophy, meaning science. In doing so the Church which had been a major vessel of Wetern Civilization took on a central product of that tradition which it had nurtyred -- modern science. The Roman Inquisition was not as brutalm as the Spanish Inquisition, but both eventually went beyond its mission to admonish and proceeded to punish. Bruno paid for his bliefs with his life. Galileo narrowly escped execution. Actually Europe was changing. He probanly could have ecped persecution by the Inquesition had he not rediculed the Pope nd the Church in his book. The Church put Galileo on trial, but the force of scince was transforming Europe and by supressing Galileo, the Church was putting itself in trial. And notably power in Europe was shifting from the Catholic south which supressed scoence to the Protestnt north which promoted science.

Trial of King Charles I (England, 1649)

This is arguably the nost consequential trial of all time. Following the victory of the Parlimentarians in the Englisg Civil War, the Rump Parliament passed an ordinance authiruzing the trial of King Charles I (January 1, 1649). Parlimentarian leaders charged the King with subverting the fundamental laws and liberties of the nation and with maliciously making war on the parliament and people of England. Parliament reversed the traditional definition, outlawing the right of the people to defy or make war on the monarchy. Parliament declared that it was treason for a king to wage war upon his own subjects. The House of Lords refused to give its assent to the ordinance. The House of Commons then declared itself to be the supreme authority in the land with powers to pass laws without the consent of either the King or the Lords. Parliament appointed a High Court of Justice to conduct the trial, which was held in the Painted Chamber of the Palace of Westminster. King Charles was guilty as charged. Historians would generally agree with this. But the larger issue involved with the trial was wheter the subjects of a king had the right to make war or try a divinely appointed monarch--the central thesis of divine right monarchy was he was placed on the thrine by God himself. Or stated another way, was the King above the Law. As King Louis XIV was to say, "I am the state." The verdict against Charles was largely preordanined givn his conduct and who was trying him, but confirmed the principle first stated by Magna Carta that the King was not above the law. Now throughout recorded history, monarchs had been ovethrown and defeated. As far as we know, however, this is the first time an overthrown monarch was legally removed and executed as a result of a public trial.

Salem Witch Trials (Colonial America, 1692-93)

Suddenly in Salem and adjacent towns of colonial Massachusettes there was a unprecedented witch hunt--a real witch hunt. Hundreds of people, mostly women, were accused of practicing withcraft. The Salem witch trials were a series of hearings and prosecutions of people accused of witchcraft (February 1692 - May 1693). As aesult of the trials, 20 people were executed including 14 women. All but one were hangd. Five more (including two infant children) died in prison. Another 12 women had previously been executed in Massachusetts and Connecticut but ober a longer period in the 17th century. Along with the trial of Socretes, the Salem Witch Trials, have to be the most famous trials of history. And both involved youth. In this case girls were the accusers. The witch trials are famous because of the tales of withcraft. But n terms of law they are also notable because of the rules of evidence--in this case the drawing of cnclusions before the collection of evidence. Here pricedural rules were dispned with in a rush to judgement.

Boston Massacre Trials (Colonial America, 1770)

As the Amerixan colonies moved toward Revolution, violence spiraled. The first victim was a patriot boy, Christopher Seider, shot by a Loyalist when a mob attacked his home (February 1770). This heightened the tensions that led to the Boston Nassacre (March 1770). British soldiers shot at a mob pelting them. They killed five Americans. Massacre is not the best word for what occurred, but was chosen by the Patriots to demonize the British. The soldiers were put on trial. The trials and public reaction reflected the growing partisan tension of the time. The British were determined to try the soldiers to exonerate them and show the danger of mob rule. The Patriot press turned it into a major opprtunity to demonize the British. Notably, future Patriot leader and president John Adams was a young attorney who defended the British soldiers and was sharply criticized for doing so.

Aaron Burr Conspiracy Trial (United States, 1806)

What is notable in many of the trials considered here is the degree to which politics can infect the political system. Itvis veryvdifficult vto separate them. This is the first time that party politics is at play in the early American Republic. Aaron Burr had run as the Democratic-Republican vice-presidential candidate in 1800. Due to a flaw in the Constitution. Burr was able to lay claim to the presidency. This would be a factor in his duel with Hamilton and combined to ruin his political career. Burr's focus shifted West and he became involved in a military effort there. President Jefferson accused him of trason by conspiring to establish another country. The case was presided over by Chief Justice John Marshall who had his own problems with Jefferson. The trial set the precedent that had previously been established in English law by Magna Carta and the English Civil War, that neither king or president is above the law.

Amistad Trial (United States, 1839-41)

The cative Africans on a Spanish slave ship revolted and then was seixed by the U.S. Navy. In the trials that followed, the Abolistionist Movement began to make the transition from an isolated fringe group into a powerful movement seriously challenging the evil of slavery. The trials raised some thorny legal questions. Were the African mutineers who killed some of the slavers criminals? As they were slaves, were they property? And ifneither criminals or property, what should be dome with them? Southners had no doubtvabout the answers. Northerners reading about the trials began to ask themselves basic questions about slavery.

Dred Scott Case (United States, 1847-57)

Dr. John Emerson owned a slave named Dred Scott. Emerson was a U.S. Army captain and surgeoon and he took Scott with him on his various army assignments in bth free and slave states. After Emerson died (1843), his widow hired Scott out to another Army captain. Scott attempted to arrange freedom for himself and his wife. The couple and Mrs. Emerson were living in Missori, a slave state. Scott offered her $300 for their manumission. She refused as she could make more hiring Sott and his wife out, possibly separatingvthem. Both Scotts took the matter to court, filing separately. They claimed that since they lived for lengthy periods in a free territory and state they were no longer slaves. They sited a 1824 Missouri Supreme Court decision Winny v. Whitesides which established the legal principle, 'once free, always free'. During the first first trial (1847), the Scott suit was dismissed on a technicality — Scott couldn’t prove that he and his wife Harriet were owned by Mrs. Emerson. Scott persisted. Than as now, legal fees and lawyers were expensive. Few slaves had the resources. Interestingly, Scott's legal fees were paid by the sons of his original owner, Peter Blow. In a retrial, he and his wife were granted their freedom (1850). The Missouri Supreme Court overule the decision (1852). Up until this time the case had attracted little attention. Both litigants acepted the fact tht the ruling on Dred Scott wiuld also affect Hariet's sttus. Cases like this were not uncommon in Missouri, but in the increasingly bitter politivl climate, people began to see politicans, including state supreme court justices, attempting to gain political capital by seking out any opportunity to take pro-slavery positions. Thus the State Supreme Court decision denying the Scotts’ freedom appears had political implications. And this was further heightened when Mrs. Emerson’s lawyer introduced a new argument, questioning the authority of the U.S. Congress to prohibit slavery in the territories. This challenged the constitutionality of the Missouri Compromise that had defused the slavery issue in 1820. Given the national attention, it was inevitable hat the case would reach the U.S. Supreme Court.

Dakota Conflict Trials (United States, 1862)

Treaty violations by American settlers as well as late or unfair annuity payments by Indian agents fueled anger among the Dakota (Eastern Sioux people). Traders refused credit until the annuity payments were made. This was causing hunger and other hardship among the Dakota (late-1850s). This resulted during the Civil War in the Dakota War of 1862, also known as the Sioux or Dakota Uprising in western Minnesota and the eastern Dakotas. Several bands of Dakota rose up along the Minnesota River. They launched raids on hundreds of settlers, many new immigrants. Settler families were masacered. Many fled to secure areas. After 6 weeks, Federal forces rushed to Minnesota put down the rising. There was a demand for revenge. A hasty military tribunal convicted over 300 Dakota of murder. President Lincoln intervened to spare the lives of most of gthe Dakota convinced--some 265 condemned men. [Berg] This episode, however, ended the mass execution of 38 Dakota men at Mankato, Minnesota. It was the largest mass execution in American history. One legal historian writes, it ended a legal process 'unlike any seen before or since in the nation.'

Lincoln Assasination Trial (United States, 1865)

The assaination of President Abraham Lincoln at the end of the Civil War shocked the nation. There was a widespread public to kill the President and other Federal officials. There was a huge public outcry for retribution. The act resulted in transforming the President from the savior of the nation to near sainthood. The assasin was tracked down and shot by the pursing calvalry troopers. Booth had organized a larger conspiracy. The Government arrested several hundred people. Most were quickly released because of evidence. The Government finally charge eight people with conspiracy. President Andrew Johnson ordered the formation of a Military Commission to try the accuseds. Judge Advocate General Joseph Holt of the United States Army presided. The defendants were allowed defense counsul and to call witnesses. They were not allowed to testify themselves. Eight were tried and four hanged, including a woman.

Impeachment Trial of President Andrew Johnson (1866)

The U.S. Constitution inpowers the House of Representatives as the sole body that has the authority to impeach an officer of the U.S. Federal Government. Thisincludesthe president. Since 1789, the House hasonly exercized this power twice: President Andrew Johnson (1968) and President William Cinton (1998). The president can be impeached if charged with committing high crimes andmisdomenors or failing to perform constitutional duties. President Johnson was a Democrat who ran on the Union ticket with Lincoln (1864). When Lincoln was assasinated, Johnsin bedcameoresident (1865). Thisset in motion a conflict between tthe Republican controlled Congress wgich wantedto punish the South and the Democraticprtesident who wanyed to being the South basck into the Union as quickly as posible. Congress passed the Tenure of Office Act to restrict the president'spower (1867). Andthen impeached Jphnson for violating the Act. Johnson had fired Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton. The Act required the president to get Senate approval before dismissing a member of the Cabinet. Stanton was a leading Republican and the Republican controlledHouse immediately commenced impeachment proceedings. President Johnson fired Stanton because of the constant clashes with the Republicans concerning the treatment of the South during post-Civil WarReconsdtruction. The Republicans considered the president far too sympathetic to the former Confederates, still defending slave holder interests. Impeachment in the House only required amazjiority vote. Convictgion in the Senste, however, required a two-thirds vote. The Republicans had more than the votesneeded. Afew Republicans, however, disented. The President ultimasttely survived conviction by a single vote.

Trial of Louis Riel (Canada, 1885)

The trial of Louis Riel was the most important in Canasian history. It revealed the still existing tensions netween native and non-native Canadians and French and English speaking Canadians. Louis David Riel was a prominent Canadian politician. He founded Manitoba, one of the prarie provinces, and was a leader of the Métis people of the Canadian Prairies. He organized two rebellions against the Canadian government and its first post-Confederation prime minister, John A. Macdonald. Riel wanted to protect Métis rights and culture as their northwestern lands were entered by settlers and came under the influence of the Canadian Goverment. His revolts were suppresed, but in modern Canada he has become a folk hero, revered by Francophones, the Catholic nationalists, the native rights movement, and the New Left student movement. As a result, Riel has been the subject of more academic attention than practically any other figure in Canadian history. We do not know of a country which so admires a figure who fought against the country.

Trial of Cpt. Alfred Drefus (France, 1894)

One of the most notable spy trials took place in France. It was also one of the most fmous anti-Semeyic trials. It reflects the intense ntisemitism in French society. One of thevgreat quirks ig history was that theHolocaust took place in Germany which was one of the least abto-Semric countries in Europe. The Drefus trial became perhps the most famous trial in French legal history. The intensly patriotic Cpt. Alfred Dreyfus, a graduate of the Ecole Polytechnique was arrested for espionag. Drefus was a Jew of Alsatian origin. Alsace was seized by the Germans in the Franco-Prussian War. It was an area btween France and Germany and muxh of the population spoke a Germn dialect and thus somewhat suspect in France. Cpt. Drefus was charged with passing secret documents to the Imperial German Army. In a closed military tribunal, he was found guilty of treason and sentenced to prison for life. It gradually became known that it was a Catholic officer who as guilty, but the army thought this reflected bady on the Army anf Catholic France. The tide began to turn with famed French author Émile Zola published his denunciation--'J’accuse!'.

Trials of Oscar Wilde (England, 1895)

While the French were trying Cpt. Drefus, one of th most important sex trials in history took place in England. Interesting that it was in bytton-down Britain rather than France. Oscar Wilde was an Irish born British author. He wrote a novel and melodic poems, but was especially known foe his witty drawing room plays which for a time made him the tost of London. His sardonic humor in his writings is still much quoted today. He delivered lectures on aesthetics dressed in velvet knickers for which he was rediculed in the press . He and his wife Constance had two sons. His life was ruined by charges of imorality and one of the great scandal trials of Victorian England. Wilde became acquainted with Lord Alfred 'Bosie' Douglas (1891). He was the third son of the Marquis of Queensberry. Bosie was at the time an undergraduate. He had read 'Dorian Gray' with its thinly veiled erotic plot. Bosie and Oscar became intimate. The two were constantly together until Wilde was arrested (1895). Bosie's father was outraged with the affair and called Wilde a homosexual--a daming charge in Vuictorian England. A series of three trials were held in the Old Baily which captivated Britain. There were all the sensational attributes except murder--celeberty, sex, and political intrugue. The literary world was outrged. Important legal issues of art, morality, ans sexuality were addressed in the court. Wilde unwisely sued the Marquis for libel. Wilde was forced to withdraw his suit, but was arrested and tried for gross indecency in a sensational trial. Wilde once wrote about the press, "In the old days men had the rack. Now they have the Press." [Wilde, Fortnightly Review] He was found guilty and sentenced to 2 years hard labor. He was confined in Wandsworth Prison (November, 1895) and later transferred to Reading Gaol.

Trial of Sheriff Joseph Shipp (United States, 1909)

The Supreme Court listened to closing arguments in a criminl case. It had never done his before and would never do again. It was the trial Tennessee Sheriff Joseph Shipp. It was at the height of Jim Crow in the south. And with the Ku Klux Klan on the rise, lynching had become a ritual, especially when black me were acused of rape. Lynching became a major issue. The Tennessee General Assembly passed a resolution (2016). They commended the valor of Johnson's legal defense and President Theodore Roosevelt's and the supreme Court's intervention. They condemned the actions of Sheriff Shipp and the lynch mob which he helped incite and lynch an innocent man.

Trial of George Archer-Shee (England, 1910-11)

George Archer-Shee was a young Royal Navy cadet who was accused of stealing a five shilling postal order. He was dismissed from the Osborbe Royal Naval College, but maintained his inonsence to school officils and his father. It all might have ended there, but his father thought his son's honor of importance and wanted to tke the Crown to court, although there were legal obstcles. George was defended against the charges by the notable barrister and politician, Sir Edward Carson. Carson used an archaic legal device called a petition of right against the Crown to bring the matter before the courts. The case eventually rose to the London's High Court (1910). George was acquitted, and his family paid compensation (July 1911). The trial had become a British cause célèbre and embarasment to the Government. George's case cam to signifying the right of even a young boy to challenge the Crown. George's case was the inspiration for the play 'The Winslow Boy' by Terence Rattigan. Archer-Shee was commissioned in the British Army (1913) and killed aged 19, at the First Battle of Ypres (1914).

Trial of Richard Loeb and Nathan Leopold (United States, 1924)

The murder trial of Richard Loeb and Nathan Leopold shocked America. Two teenagers from wealthy Chicago murdered 14-year old Bobby Franks for the pure thrill of it. Both were very intelligent and sure they could get away with it. They were , however, caught and the trial proved to be a sensational trial, primarily because of their motives. There was no doubt about their guilt. What the trial would determine is wether or not they would hang. The trial is best remembered today for the 12-hour long plea of famed defense attorney Clarence Darrow to save hist two young clients. It was a daunting undertaking. The young murderers were without doubt the two most hated individuls in America.

Scoppes Monkey Trial (United States, 1925)

Clarence Darrow appears again in our list of great trials. The Scoppes Monky Trial is another of the trials with which most people are familiar. The Tennesse Legislature passed a law making it a misdemeanor punishable by fine to 'teach any theory that denies the story of the Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible, and to teach instead that man has descended from a lower order of animals'. A young biology teacher, John Thomas Scopes, in Dayton, Tennessee, openly violated the new law and was arrested. He was supported by local businessman George Rappalyea. They appealed to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to organize a defense. These were the days when the ACLU was really interested in civil liberties. They arranged for famed defense asttorney Clarence Darrow to lead the defense. The court case was dubbed by the press as the 'Monkey Trial'. The trial had already begun to attract national attention when, William Jennings Bryan, the three-time failed Democratic presidential candidate and a Christian fundamentalist hero, volunteered to assist the prosecution. The trial pitted two of the most famous people in America on perhapsthe most controversial question of the day. The result was a media frenzy and one of the most celebrated trials in U.S. history. Hordes of fired up spectators and reporters descended on Dayton. Fundmentalist preachers set up revival tents along the city’s main street to keep the faithful stirred up. The trial opened (July 10) in the middle of the southern summer in the days before air conditioning. While there was no air conditioning, there was radio, And the trial was not only covered by the print media, but the public followsed it all on natiional radio brodcast-- the first suych national sensation to be coveredby radio. As it played out, evolution or more correctly religious attemptsto querstion science rather than John Scopes went on trial.

Trials of the Scottsboro Boys (United States, 1931- )

One of the most well publicized incidents of how flimsy or false testimony and evidence was used against blacks was, even boys and youths, was Scottsboro Boys in Alabama. The Scottsboro Boys were nine African American teenagers, ages 13 to 19, accused in Alabama of raping two White American women on a train. The landmark set of legal cases from this incident dealt with racism and the right to a fair trial. It was a cause celevre for the American Left. Their dedicated lawyer was renounded defense counsel Samuel Lebowitz. This legal nightmare continued for decades. More thn the Sheriff Joseph Shipp trial, it eduvated Americans on the injustice to which the African Americans in the South were subjected. In many ways it can be seen as the launch pad for the Civul Rights movement.

Soviet Show Trials (Soviet Union, 1930s)

Stalin ordered a series of spectacular show as the center pices of the Great Terror--a term historians have appropriated from the French Revolution. At the show trial, prominent officials and military officers including many Old Bolshevicks who made the Revolution were forced to admit to ludicrous accounts of treason. The Great Terror included a series of three elaborately staged and publicized show trials. The first Show Trial (July-August 1936) which shocked the world included high-ranking Communists who had dared to question Stalin. The defendents included Lev Kamenev, Grigorii Zinoviev, and fourteen others. They were accused of organizing a Trotskyite-Zinovievite terrorist center in 1932. Thus was in keeping with Stalin's first tactic of attacking left-wing critics allied with Trotsky within the Party. Trotsky was the former commander of the Red Army and Stalin's rival in his rise to power. They were accused of assassinating of popular Lenningrad boss Sergei Kirov in December 1934. (Most historians believe Stalin was actually responsible.) Stalin was reportedly dissatisfied with Yagoda's handling of the investigation and number of executions. Other historians believe he wanted to eliminate all knowledge of his involvement in the Kirov assasination. Stalin thus replaced Yagoda with Yezhov as head of the NKVD following the first trials.. The Second Show Trial (September 1936) quickly followed Yezhov's promotion. The defendents with the Old Bolshevicks now eliminated included Iurii Piatakov and other leading figures in the industrialization drive. The Third Show Trials were launched at the plenary session of the Party's Central Committee (February-March 1937). The defebdents jncluded Nikolai Bukharin and Aleksei Rykov They were the leading Party members associated with what Stalin described as the the so-called Rightist deviation (late-1920s and early-1930s) who had questioned Stalin;s leadership. They were accused of having collaborated with the Trotskyite-Zinovievite terrorists as well as with foreign intelligence agencies. They along with Yagoda and others were in due course tried, convicted, and sentenced to death (March 1938).

Nuremberg IMT Trials (International, 1945-46)

The Allies decided to try NAZI war criminals in Nuremberg. This was in part a symbolic gesture because Nuremberg was the heart of NAZI Germany, but the palace of justice in Nureberg was on of the few facilities left standing in Germany large enough to accomodate the proceedings. Nuremberg was location of the annual NAZI Party Congresses. The chilling film, Triumph of the Will depicted one of these congresses. There were other reasons for holding the trials in Nuremberg, one in particular was that it wa in the Western zone. The first trial of the NAZI leadership was held from November 20, 1945 to October 1, 1946. The International Military Tribunal (IMT) convened in the principal courtroom for criminal cases (room No. 600) in the Nuremberg Palace of Justice. It was the scene of many NAZI show trials. Allied leaders during the War had agreed to prosecute those responsible for war-crimes. After World War II, the International Military Tribunal at Nurenberg (composed of a judge from Britain, France, the Soviet Union, and the United States) tried NAZI leaders. President Harry S. Truman designated Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson as the U.S. representative and chief counsel. He planned and organized the trial procedure and served as Chief Prosecutor for the United States. It was Jackson who recommended Nuremberg as the site for the trials. The Soviets wanted the trials held in Berlin. A compromise was reached. Berlin was to be the permanent seat of the IMT and that furture IMT trials could be held in Berlin. There were no further IMT trials, however, because of the Cold War. There were further trials, but none cinducted by the Soviets and Western Allies jointly. Each of the four Great Powers (England, France, the Soviet Ynion, and the United States)provided one judge and an alternate as well as the prosecutors. The first session of the International Military Tribunal was opened on October 18, 1945, in the Supreme Court Building in Berlin, which had become the seat of the Allied Control Council. Soviet judge, Iola T. Nikitschenko presided over the opening session. The prosecution presented indictments against 24 "major war criminals" and against six "criminal organizations": Hitler's Cabinet, the leadership corps of the Nazi party, the SS, SD (security police), the Gestapo, the SA and the General Staff and High Command of the Wehrmacht (OKW).

Alger Hiss Trial (United States, 1949-50)

We here constant refferences to McCarthism in modern discourse. The Wisconsin senator was a political fraud and violated the civil rights of many Americans. But lost in the condemnation is the fact that the Soviet Union organized a vast espionage operation in America and this was adversely affecting American national security. Alger Hiss was a State Departnent official and part of ghat conspiracy. The Americam Left, however, came to his defenswe. Hiss became another cause celebre. The most immediate result was that it propelled the political career of Richard Nixon onto the national stage. A similar trial was the Goldberg trial, but they were obviously guilty. The Hiss trial was not so clear cut, although we know today that he was guilty. The irony of the Left's complaint that Hiss and the Goldbergs did not receive fair trials is that in the Soviet Ynion which they idealized, millions condemned to summary execution or the Gulag receiv no real trial at all and the trials that were held were highly publicized show trials to feed Stalin's Great Terror.

Rivonia Trial (South Africa, 1964)

Rivonia was a suburb of Johannesburg. It was here here that leaders of the African National Council (ANC) were arrested and incriminating documents found (1963). It all took place at Liliesleaf Farm owned by Arthur Goldreich. The farm was being used as a safehouse hideout for the AMC and ther abti-Apartaid activits. The most priment AND leader arrested was Nelso Mandela. He and his colleagues who had been denied legl ways of opposing apartaid had launched a guerilla war. The Rivonia Trial has become known as 'the trial tht changed South Africa'. Mandella and his colleages were imprisoned for years but the Apartaid leaders could not extingish Mandella's 1964 testimony and the ANC message. He would become the country's first black president.

Mississippi Burning Trial (United States, 1967)

White supremists had for years been imposing their ideology on African-Americans in the Soyh by terrorism--most commonly lynching. It was not random violence, it was often done with the collusion of county sheriffs and other officils. This time the victims wre three civil rights workers (Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman, and James Chaney). This tome they shot in the dark of night on a lonely road in Neshoba County, Mississippi. Actual public lynchings were no longr possibke. The Civil Rughts wirkers were part of the Mississippi Summer Project. Hundreds of Northern college volunteers came siuth. The FBI launched a 3-year all-out search for the conspirators. They found them and they were tried in the courtroom of one of America's most die-hard segregationist judges. The trial exposed the Ku Klux Klan. There were frequent crisis in the court. Seven defendants were convicted in a land-mark verduct. It was the first ever convictions in Mississippi for the killing of a civil rights worker. It was a beginning of a virtualy revolution insouthern courtrooms.

Trial of the Chicago Eight (United States, 1969)

The Government put eight anti-Vietnam War activists on trial for the violent demonstrations at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago (August 1968)). The Goverment charged that the defendants wee part of a conspiracy to cross state lines with intent to incite a riot. The principa attorneys were William Kunstler and Leonard Weinglass. The trial, judge was Julius Hoffman. The attorneys and defendents turned the trial into a circus to attack President Nixon, the Vietnam War, racisim, and reputed oppression. Hoffman found the defendants and their attorneys guilty of 175 counts of contempt of court and sentenced them to terms between 2-4 years, but exonerated them of conspiracy. The jury found six guilty of intent to riot. In the end, none served prison time. ACourt of Appeal overturned the criminal convictions (1972). Eventually most of the contempt charges were dropped. Opinions vart dramatically, but the trail illustrated the conlicting values being fought out during thec1969s.

Red Army Trials (West Germany, 1970s)

Violent left-wing terror groups were active in the Western democracies 1970s many established connections with groups in other countries as well as radical Palestinian groups. They engaged in bank robberies and kidnapping to raise money. As as members were arrested, kidnappings were staged for hostages to exchange. The resulting trialls were security night mares because of the violence of these groups. It represents how a democratic country can afford fair trials to violent terror gangs. These appear to have self-radicalized young people, but received support from East Geramny-DDR, Bulgaria, and perhaps other Eastern European satellites. (his would not have occurred without Soviet approval. One of the most radical groups was the German Red Army Faction (Rote Armee Fraktion--RAF). They murdered politicians, very high level judges, industrialists, U.S. Army soldiers. Some were arrested and tried. Some are still free. Baader/Meinhof is the most famous group. Palestinian terrorists highjacked an air plane, after some days they landed in Somalia. The demanded that Baader/Meinhoff should be released. A special German police group was sent to Somalia and succeeded in freeing the passengers. When the information was published Baader/Meinhoff and others who werre facting trial murdered themselves in jail (1977). Some West German politicians, supporting the RAF during the trials as lawyers. Some even became members of the German Bundestag in the left-wing parties, e.g. Schily and Ströbele from the Green party and the Social Democrats (SPD). It is known that some lawyers smuggled the weapons into jail with which Baader/Meinhof and their associates murdered themselves. The SPD and Greens do not want to remember all this today.

McMartin Preschool Abuse Trial (United States, 1987)

The McMartin Preschool trial harkns back to the Salen Witch Truals. Accusations of sexual abuse and satanic rituals surfaced. But soon after, other parents complained to police that their children reported being fondled, sodomized, and forced to participate in pornographic films. Others alege that McMartin teachers slaughtered animals and babies in front of the children before abusing them. It was all pure fiction. It was later revealed that the mother initiating the charges suffered from mental instability. But the McMartin Preschool Trial proved to be the longest and most expebsive criminl trial in American history. In the end there was not a single cinviction. But as in Salem ib demobstated what happens when authorities leap to conclusions.

O.J. Simpson Murder Trial (United States, 1995)

Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman were stabbed to death (1994). Their lifeless bodies were found the next morning. Her two children were asleep inside their Brentwood home at the time of the attack. This led to the famed low-speed Bronco chase. O.J. Simpson, was arrested and trued. The trial riveted the nation like bo other in the TV era (1995). Simpson was acquitted which shocked many Americans. Attitudes toward the trial followed the racial divide. Subsequently in a civil suit, Simpson was ordered to pay $33 milllion for their wrongful deaths (1997). Similar homocides occur all the time in America. This murder case was only different because of Simpson's celberity status and a initer-racial marriage. These two factors provably expkain the enormous media attention. The lasting impact was mostly to affect how celeberity cases are handeled.

Duke Lacross Team Rape Scandal (United States, 2006)

After a party held by the team in which they hired exotic dancers, serious allegations were leveled at the players. Duke University based solely on the allegtions suspended the lacrosse team for two games (March 28, 2006). One week later, the University forced lacrosse coach Mike Pressler to resign under threat by athletic director Joe Alleva )April 5). Duke President Richard Brodhead canceled the remainder of the 2006 season. Tht was just the beginning. Team members were informed by the University that one of the dancers, Crystal Magnum, was leveling serious sexual assault charges against her unknown attackers, including rape, sexual offense, and kidnapping. If convicted, players could receive up to 30 years in prison. Distract Attorney Mike Nifong jmped on the case, presumbly to burnish his political image. He painted the players as a privileged group of young white men, who had never faced hardship, and felt entitled not only to their already luxurious lifestyles, but also to the bodies of women. H continued this pur fiction in he resulting court case, describing the team members as 'a bunch of hooligans.' And using reports of racial slurs to classify Magnum's reported rape as hate-crime. Thanks to the PC obsessed mainline media, the whole country was soon convinced of their guilt

Obama Star Chamber University Trials (United States, 2010s)

This is actually the case of hundreds of young Americans being denied the right if trial and basic coinstituional rights in modern Anerica. Under pressure from the Obama Justice Department, universities across America adopted 'sexual misconduct policies' following Administration guidelines. These guidelines virtually guaranteed the conviction of any accused male student, whether innocent or guilty. Under the Obama Administration guidelins, the accused are denined basic constitutional rights of due process. In contrast to the legal system established by the U.S. Constitution, the Obama Administration has guided universities into resurrected the medieb=val Star Chamber. The accused is tried in absentia, prohibited from cross-examining witnesses, and denied representation by an attorney. It is stunning that such proceedings can take place in Anerica and largely unreported by the minlime media. And details of the proceedings get even worse. If the accused student tries to defend himself by investigating the incident, finds witnesses, or reveals the identity of his accuser to his parents or to an attorney, he is subject to additional penalties for violating 'rules of secrecy'. All of these rules are designed with one goal in mind, to prevent any defense and to guarantee conviction based soley on accusations. The Obama Justice Department bought the argument that women do not lie when they come forward. This was a mantra of Mrs. Clinton. (The sane Mrs. Clinton who relentlessy attcked women who accused her husband--the so-called Bimbo eruptions.) Now it is surely true that women are quite often telling the truth when they come forward, but the idea that they always are telling the truth is ideological nonsence. Women sometimes make false charges for various reasons, out of spite or hurt feelings, to settle scores, or other reasons. We see it again in President Obma's star chambers on university campuses.

Special Council Muller: The Russian Investigation (2017-19)


Berg, Scott W. 38 Nooses: Lincoln, Little Crow and the Beginning of the Frontier's End (2012), 384p.


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Created: 11:07 AM 12/20/2017
Last updated: 12:34 PM 2/25/2019