“Trial of the Century” was a term coined to highlight the importance of certain court cases. Many of these cases have several factors that lead to their importance – generally involving high profile individuals or severity and brutality of the crimes committed. One would think that “trial of the century meant there would be one major case every century but the term is used roughly every decade. With the improvement of technology and ways to view media more people focus on current events leading to more outside involvement in these trials. Below are the larger court cases that earned the title “trial of the century” since the term became relevant in the early 20th century.
Trial of Leon Czolgosz for the assassination of United States President William McKinley (1901)
On September 13, the day before McKinley succumbed to his wounds, Czolgosz was taken from the police headquarters, which were undergoing repairs, and transferred to the Erie County Women’s Penitentiary. On September 16, he was brought to the Erie County Jail ahead of being arraigned before County Judge Emery. After the arraignment, Czolgosz was transferred to Auburn State Prison. A grand jury indicted Czolgosz on September 16 with one count of first-degree murder. Throughout his incarceration, Czolgosz spoke freely with his guards, but he refused every interaction with Robert C. Titus and Loran L. Lewis, the prominent judges-turned-attorneys assigned to defend him, and with the expert psychiatrist sent to test his sanity. The case was prosecuted by the Erie County District Attorney, Thomas Penney, and assistant D.A. Frederick Haller, whose performance was described as “flawless”. Although Czolgosz answered that he was pleading “Guilty”, presiding Judge Truman C. White overruled him and entered a “Not Guilty” plea on his behalf. In the nine days from McKinley’s death to the start of Czolgosz’s trial, Czolgosz’s lawyers were unable to prepare a defense because Czolgosz refused to speak to either one of them. As a result, Loran L. Lewis argued at the trial that Czolgosz could not be found guilty for the murder of the president because he was insane at the time (similar to the ineffective defense used at Charles J. Guiteau’s trial in 1881, after he had shot President James A. Garfield). On September 23 and 24, the prosecution presented testimony of the doctors who treated McKinley and of various eyewitnesses to the shooting. Lewis did not call any defense witnesses. Czolgosz himself refused to testify on his own defense, nor did he even speak in court. In his statement to the jury, Lewis noted Czolgosz’s refusal to talk to his lawyers or co-operate with them, admitted his client’s guilt, and asserted that “the only question that can be discussed or considered in this case is… whether that act was that of a sane person. If it was, then the defendant is guilty of the murder… If it was the act of an insane man, then he is not guilty of murder but should be acquitted of that charge and would then be confined in a lunatic asylum.” Even had the jury believed the defense that Czolgosz was insane by claiming that no sane man would have shot and killed the president in such a public and blatant manner in which he knew he would be caught, there was still the legal definition of insanity to be overcome. Under New York law, Czolgosz was legally insane only if he was unable to understand what he was doing. At Thomas Penney’s request, White closed the trial with instructions to the jury which supported the prosecution’s argument that Czolgosz was not insane, and that he knew clearly what he was doing. After this, no chance remained of acquitting Czolgosz on the basis of insanity, for the defense had offered no evidence that he could not understand the wrongfulness of his crime. Czolgosz was convicted on September 24, 1901, after the jury had deliberated for only an hour. On September 26, the jury unanimously recommended the death penalty. Czolgosz was said to have remained silent and to have shown no emotion upon either his conviction or his sentencing to death. When he was asked by Judge White if he wanted to make any statement in open court, Czolgosz shook his head to indicate that he did not. Upon returning to Auburn Prison, Czolgosz asked the warden if this meant he would be transferred to Sing Sing to be electrocuted, and he seemed surprised to learn that Auburn had its own electric chair. His last words were: “I killed the President because he was the enemy of the good people – the good working people. I am not sorry for my crime.” As the prison guards strapped him into the chair, however, he did say through clenched teeth, “I am only sorry I could not get to see my father.” Czolgosz was electrocuted by three jolts, each of 1800 volts, in Auburn Prison on October 29, 1901, just 45 days after his victim’s death. He was pronounced dead at 07:14.
Trial of Harry Thaw for the murder of Stanford White (1906)
Thaw was charged with first-degree murder and denied bail. A newspaper photo shows Thaw in The Tombs prison seated at a formal table setting, dining on a meal catered for him by Delmonico’s restaurant. In the background is further evidence of the preferential treatment the Thaw influence and money provided the incarcerated man. Conspicuously absent is the standard issue jail cell cot; during his confinement Thaw slept in a brass bed. Exempted from wearing prisoner’s garb, he was allowed to wear his own custom tailored clothes. The jail’s doctor was induced to allow Thaw a daily ration of champagne and wine. In his jail cell, in the days following his arrest, it was reported that Thaw heard the heavenly voices of young girls calling to him, which he interpreted as a sign of divine approval. He was in a euphoric mood; Thaw was unshakable in his belief that the public would applaud the man who had rid the world of the menace of Stanford White. As early as the morning following the murder, news coverage became both chaotic and single-minded, and ground forward with unrelenting momentum. Any person, place or event, no matter how peripheral to the murder of Stanford White was seized on by reporters and hyped as newsworthy copy. Facts were thin but sensationalist reportage was plentiful in this, the heyday of tabloid journalism. The hard-boiled male reporters of the yellow press were bolstered by a contingent of female counterparts, christened “Sob Sisters”. Their stock-in-trade was the human-interest piece, heavy on sentimental tropes and melodrama, crafted to pull on the emotions and punch them up to fever pitch. The rampant interest in the White murder and its key players were used by both the defense and prosecution to feed malleable reporters any “scoops” that would give their respective sides an advantage in the public forum. Thaw’s mother, as was her custom, primed her own publicity machine through monetary pay-offs. The district attorney’s office took on the services of a Pittsburgh public relations firm, McChesney and Carson, backing a print smear campaign aimed at discrediting Thaw and his wife Evelyn Nesbit Thaw. Pittsburgh newspapers displayed lurid headlines; a sample of which blared, “Woman Whose Beauty Spelled Death and Ruin.”
Trial of Bill Haywood for murder (1907)
On December 30, 1905, Frank Steunenberg was killed by an explosion in front of his Caldwell, Idaho home. A former governor of Idaho, Steunenberg had clashed with the WFM in previous strikes. Harry Orchard, a former WFM member who had once acted as WFM President Charles Moyer’s bodyguard was arrested for the crime, and evidence was found in his hotel room. Famed Pinkerton detective James McParland, who had infiltrated and helped to destroy the Molly Maguires, was placed in charge of the investigation. Before the trial, McParland ordered that Orchard be placed on death row in the Boise penitentiary, with restricted food rations and under constant surveillance. After McParland had prepared his investigation, he met with Orchard over a “sumptuous lunch” followed by cigars. The Pinkerton detective told Orchard that he could escape immediate hanging only if he implicated the leaders of the WFM. In addition to using the threat of hanging, McParland promised food, cigars, better treatment, possible freedom, and even a possible financial reward if Orchard cooperated. The detective obtained a 64-page confession from Orchard in which the suspect took responsibility for a string of crimes and at least seventeen murders. Writer Peter Carlson charged that McParland then used perjured extradition papers, which falsely stated that WFM leaders had been at the scene of the Steunenberg murder, to cross state lines into Denver, Colorado and arrest Haywood, Moyer, and George Pettibone. However, under Idaho law, conspirators were considered to be present at the scene of the crime. McParland arrived in Denver on Thursday, February 15, and presented the extradition papers to Colorado Governor McDonald, who, by prior arrangement with the governor of Idaho, accepted them immediately. But they waited until Saturday evening to arrest Haywood, Pettigrew, and Moyer, then held the three overnight in the Denver Jail, and refused requests by the three to contact lawyers and family. Early Sunday morning the prisoners were put on a special train, and guarded by Colorado militia, were sped to Idaho. Writer Peter Carlson described it as a “kidnapping scheme,” to extradite them to Idaho before the courts in Denver could intervene. The events were so extraordinary that even American Federation of Labor president Samuel Gompers, who had little good to say about the WFM, directed his union to raise funds for the defense. The U.S. Supreme Court denied a habeas corpus appeal (George Pettibone v. Jasper C Nichols), ruling that the arrest and extradition were legal, with only Justice Joseph McKenna dissenting. Haywood’s trial began on May 9, 1907, with famed Chicago defense attorney Clarence Darrow defending him. The government had only the testimony of Orchard, the confessed bomber, to implicate Haywood and the other defendants, and Orchard’s checkered past and admitted violent history were skillfully exploited by Darrow during the trial, though Darrow did not lead Orchard’s cross-examination. During the trial Orchard admitted that he had acted as a paid informant of the Mine Owners’ Association, in effect working for both sides. He admitted to accepting money from Pinkerton detectives, and had caused explosions during mining disputes before he had met Moyer or Haywood. After Darrow’s final summation (which moved many in the courtroom to tears), the jury acquitted Haywood. During the subsequent trial of George Pettibone, Darrow conducted a powerful cross-examination against Orchard, before falling ill and withdrawing from the trial, leaving Judge Hilton of Denver in charge of the defense. After a second jury acquitted Pettibone, the charges against Moyer were dropped. Despite his radical views, Haywood emerged from the trial with a national reputation. Eugene Debs called him “the Lincoln of Labor.” Along with his colorful background and appearance, he was known for his blunt statements about capitalism. “The capitalist has no heart,” he often said, “but harpoon him in the pocketbook and you will draw blood.” Another time, he began a speech by noting, “Tonight I am going to speak on the class struggle and I am going to make it so plain that even a lawyer can understand it.” Yet Haywood also had a flair for dangerous hyperbole that, when quoted in newspapers, was used to justify wholesale arrests of IWW strikers. “Confiscate! That’s good!” he often said. “I like that word. It suggests stripping the capitalist, taking something away from him. But there has got to be a good deal of force to this thing of taking.” When the WFM withdrew from the IWW in 1907, Bill Haywood remained a member of both organizations. His murder trial had made Haywood a celebrity, and he was in demand as a speaker for the WFM. But his increasingly radical speeches became more at odds with the WFM, and in April 1908, the WFM announced that the union had ended Haywood’s role as a union representative. Haywood left the WFM, and devoted all his time to organizing for the IWW.
Sacco and Vanzetti murder trial (1920–1927)
Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were Italian-born US anarchists who were convicted of murdering a guard and a paymaster during the armed robbery of the Slater and Morrill Shoe Company on April 15, 1920, in South Braintree, Massachusetts, United States, and were executed by the electric chair seven years later at Charlestown State Prison. Both adhered to an anarchist movement that advocated relentless warfare against what they perceived as a violent and oppressive government. After a few hours’ deliberation, the jury found Sacco and Vanzetti guilty of first-degree murder on July 14, 1921. A series of appeals followed, funded largely by the private Sacco and Vanzetti Defense Committee. The appeals were based on recanted testimony, conflicting ballistics evidence, a prejudicial pre-trial statement by the jury foreman, and a confession by an alleged participant in the robbery. All appeals were denied by trial judge Webster Thayer and eventually by the Massachusetts State Supreme Court. By 1925, the case had drawn worldwide attention. As details of the trial and the men’s suspected innocence became known, Sacco and Vanzetti became the center of one of the largest causes célèbres in modern history. In 1927, protests on their behalf were held in every major city in North America and Europe, as well as in Tokyo, Sydney, São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, and Johannesburg.
Leopold and Loeb murder trial (1924)
Leopold and Loeb, were two wealthy students at the University of Chicago who in May 1924 kidnapped and murdered 14-year-old Robert Franks in Chicago. They committed the murder—widely characterized at the time as “the crime of the century”—as a demonstration of their perceived intellectual superiority, which, they thought, rendered them capable of carrying out a “perfect crime”, and absolved them of responsibility for their actions. After the two men were arrested, Loeb’s parents retained Clarence Darrow as counsel for their defense. Darrow’s 12-hour-long summation at their sentencing hearing is noted for its influential criticism of capital punishment as retributive rather than transformative justice. Both men were sentenced to life imprisonment plus 99 years. Loeb was killed by a fellow prisoner in 1936; Leopold was released on parole in 1958.
Scopes Trial (1925)
The Scopes Trial, was an American legal case in 1925 in which a substitute high school teacher, John Scopes, was accused of violating Tennessee’s Butler Act, which had made it unlawful to teach human evolution in any state-funded school. The trial was deliberately staged to attract publicity to the small town of Dayton, Tennessee, where it was held. Scopes was unsure whether he had ever actually taught evolution, but he purposely incriminated himself so that the case could have a defendant. Scopes was found guilty and fined $100 (equivalent to $1,349 in 2015), but the verdict was overturned on a technicality. The trial served its purpose of drawing intense national publicity, as national reporters flocked to Dayton to cover the big-name lawyers who had agreed to represent each side. William Jennings Bryan, three-time presidential candidate, argued for the prosecution, while Clarence Darrow, the famed defense attorney, spoke for Scopes. The trial publicized the Fundamentalist–Modernist Controversy, which set Modernists, who said evolution was not inconsistent with religion, against Fundamentalists, who said the word of God as revealed in the Bible took priority over all human knowledge. The case was thus seen as both a theological contest and a trial on whether modern science should be taught in schools.
Gloria Vanderbilt custody trial (1934)
Gloria Laura Vanderbilt (born February 20, 1924) is an American artist, author, actress, heiress, and socialite. During the 1930s, she was the subject of a high-profile child custody trial in which her mother, Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt, and her paternal aunt, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, both sought custody of the child Gloria and control over her $5 million trust fund. The trial, called the “trial of the century” by the press, was the subject of wide, sensational press coverage due to the wealth and notoriety of the involved parties and the scandalous evidence presented to support Whitney’s claim that Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt was an unfit parent.
Lindbergh kidnapping trial (1935)
Charles Augustus Lindbergh Jr. was the eldest son of aviator Charles Lindbergh and Anne Morrow Lindbergh, and was abducted from his family home on the evening of March 1, 1932. Over two months later, on May 12, 1932, the body of the 20-month-old toddler was discovered in Hopewell Township, a short distance from the Lindberghs’ home town of Highfields, in East Amwell, New Jersey, United States. A medical examination determined that the cause of death was a massive skull fracture. After an investigation that lasted more than two years, Richard Hauptmann was arrested and charged with the crime. In a trial that was held from January 2 to February 13, 1935, Hauptmann was found guilty of murder in the first degree and sentenced to death. He was executed by electric chair at the New Jersey State Prison on April 3, 1936. Hauptmann proclaimed his innocence to the end, and many historians question his guilt. Newspaper writer H. L. Mencken called the kidnapping and subsequent trial “the biggest story since the Resurrection.” Legal scholars have referred to the trial as one of the “trials of the century”. The crime spurred Congress to pass the Federal Kidnapping Act, commonly called the “Lindbergh Law,” which made transporting a kidnapping victim across state lines a federal crime.
Nuremberg trials (1945–1946)
The Nuremberg trials were a series of military tribunals, held by the Allied forces after World War II, which were most notable for the prosecution of prominent members of the political, military, judicial and economic leadership of Nazi Germany who planned, carried out, or otherwise participated in The Holocaust and other war crimes. The trials were held in the city of Nuremberg, Germany. The first, and best known of these trials, described as “the greatest trial in history” by Norman Birkett, one of the British judges who presided over it, was the trial of the major war criminals before the International Military Tribunal (IMT). Held between 20 November 1945 and 1 October 1946, the Tribunal was given the task of trying 24 of the most important political and military leaders of the Third Reich, though one of the defendants, Martin Bormann, was tried in absentia, while another, Robert Ley, committed suicide within a week of the trial’s commencement. Not included were Adolf Hitler, Heinrich Himmler, and Joseph Goebbels, all of whom had committed suicide in the spring of 1945, well before the indictment was signed. Reinhard Heydrich was not included, as he had been assassinated in 1942. The second set of trials of lesser war criminals was conducted under Control Council Law No. 10 at the U.S. Nuremberg Military Tribunals (NMT), which included the Doctors’ Trial and the Judges’ Trial. This article primarily deals with the IMT; see Subsequent Nuremberg Trials for details on the NMT (the second set of trials).
Charles Manson and Manson “family” for Tate/LaBianca murders (1970)
Charles Manson has been in jail for more than four decades. In 1971, he and several of his followers — Tex Watson, Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel and Leslie Louise Van Houten — were convicted in the era-defining Tate-LaBianca murders that horrified not only Los Angeles, where the murders took place in the summer of 1969, but the entire nation. (Manson was convicted, in essence, as a “conspirator,” as he was not present at the killings, but ordered them to be carried out.) The ferocity of the murders; the seeming randomness of the violence; and the chilling, bottomless weirdness of the Manson cult itself incised a terrible, indelible black mark on the late 1960s. But it was during grand jury testimony and at the trial of Manson and his followers — with the trial itself serving as a kind of bleak circus that lasted nine months, from the summer of 1970 to the spring of 1971 — that the nation was able to gauge just how deeply unhinged “the Family” truly was. Carving x’s in their foreheads? No problem. Shaving their heads to show solidarity with their leader? Done. Blocking entrances to the courthouse, chanting, singing, treating the trial — and, by extension, the murders themselves — like a trip to the amusement park? For the Manson clan, it was all grist for their cheery, death-adoring psychopathy. After all, if Manson, Krenwinkel and the rest were going to be tried and (quite obviously) convicted of mass murder by the “establishment” and “the pigs” they despised, the least their brothers and sisters in the Family could do was show the world that, in the universe they inhabited, the killers were not truly criminals at all, but instead were iconoclasts. Rebels. Heroes.
Claus von Bülow trials (1982–1985)
Claus von Bülow (born Claus Cecil Borberg; 11 August 1926) is a British socialite of German and Danish ancestry. He was accused of the attempted murder of his wife Sunny von Bülow (born Martha Sharp Crawford, 1932–2008) in 1979 which had left her in a coma from which she later recovered but that conviction in the first trial was reversed and he was found not guilty at his second trial. In the same trial he was also accused of the attempted murder of his wife by administering an insulin overdose in 1980 which left her in a persistent vegetative state for the rest of her life, but that conviction in the first trial was also reversed and he was found not guilty at his second trial.
Klaus Barbie trial (1987)
Nikolaus “Klaus” Barbie (25 October 1913 – 23 September 1991) was an SS-Hauptsturmführer and Gestapo member. He was known as the “Butcher of Lyon” for having personally tortured French prisoners of the Gestapo while stationed in Lyon, France. After the war, United States intelligence services employed him for their anti-Marxist efforts, and also helped him escape to South America. The Bundesnachrichtendienst recruited him, and he may have helped the CIA capture Argentine revolutionary Che Guevara in 1967. Barbie is suspected of having had a hand in the Bolivian coup d’état orchestrated by Luis García Meza Tejada in 1980. After the fall of the dictatorship, Barbie no longer had the protection of the Bolivian government, and in 1983 was extradited to France, where he was convicted of crimes against humanity. He died of cancer in prison on 23 September 1991.
Trial of Nicolae and Elena Ceaușescu (1989)
The trial of Nicolae and Elena Ceaușescu was a short trial held on 25 December 1989 by an Exceptional Military Tribunal, a drumhead court-martial created at the request of the Council of the National Salvation Front, resulting in the death sentence and execution of former Romanian President and General Secretary of the Romanian Communist Party Nicolae Ceaușescu and his wife, Elena Ceaușescu. Considered by some a kangaroo court, the main charge was genocide—namely, murdering “over 60,000 people” during the revolution in Timișoara. Other sources said the death toll is 689 or hundreds of people. Nevertheless, the charges did not affect the trial, as the verdict had been already decided before the Tribunal had been created; General Victor Stănculescu had brought with him a specially selected team of paratroopers from a crack regiment, handpicked earlier in the morning to act as a firing squad. Before the legal proceedings began, Stănculescu had already selected the spot where the execution would take place—along one side of the wall in the barracks’ square. Nicolae Ceaușescu refused to recognize the Tribunal, arguing its lack of constitutional basis and claiming that the revolutionary authorities were part of a Soviet plot.
Vizconde massacre (1991)
The Vizconde murder case, was the multiple homicide of members of the Vizconde family on 30 June 1991 at their residence in BF Homes, Parañaque City, Metro Manila, Philippines. Estrellita, 49, had suffered thirteen stab wounds; Carmela, 18, had suffered seventeen stab wounds and had been raped before she was killed; and Jennifer, 6, had nineteen stab wounds. Lauro Vizconde, Estrellita’s husband, and the father of Carmela and Jennifer, was in the United States on business when the murders took place. The lead suspect was Hubert Webb, whose father Freddie Webb was famous as an actor, former basketball player, and former Congressman and Senator. The other defendants were Antonio Lejano II, Hospicio Fernandez, Michael Gatchalian, Miguel Rodriguez, Peter Estrada, Joey Filart and Artemio Ventura. In the Trial Court (People of the Philippines vs. Hubert Webb, et al., G.R. No. 176864), it became one of the most sensational cases in the Philippines, being described as a “trial of the century”. The men were convicted by the Parañaque Regional Trial Court which the Court of Appeals affirmed. Except for Filart and Ventura who had been convicted in absentia, the men were later acquitted by the Supreme Court on 14 December 2010 for failure of the prosecution to prove their guilt beyond reasonable doubt.
O. J. Simpson murder case trial (1995)
The O. J. Simpson murder case (officially the People of the State of California v. Orenthal James Simpson) was a criminal trial held at the Los Angeles County Superior Court, in which former National Football League star and actor O. J. Simpson was tried on two counts of murder for the June 12, 1994, deaths of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown-Simpson and restaurant waiter, Ron Goldman. The trial spanned from the jury’s swearing-in on November 9, 1994, to opening statements on January 24, 1995, to a verdict on October 3, 1995, when Simpson was acquitted. The case has been described as the most publicized criminal trial in American history. Simpson hired a high-profile defense team, initially led by Robert Shapiro and subsequently led by Johnnie Cochran, and that also included F. Lee Bailey, Alan Dershowitz, Robert Kardashian, Shawn Holley, Carl E. Douglas and Gerald Uelmen, with two more attorneys specializing in DNA evidence: Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld. Los Angeles County believed it had a strong prosecution case, but Cochran was able to persuade the jurors that there was reasonable doubt about the DNA evidence (a relatively new form of evidence in trials at the time) – including that the blood-sample evidence had allegedly been mishandled by lab scientists and technicians – and about the circumstances surrounding other court exhibits. Cochran and the defense team also alleged other misconduct by the Los Angeles Police Department. Simpson’s celebrity and the lengthy televised trial riveted national attention on the so-called “trial of the century”. By the end of the criminal trial, national surveys showed dramatic differences in the assessment of Simpson’s guilt or innocence between black and white Americans. The Brown and Goldman families subsequently filed a civil lawsuit against Simpson, and on February 4, 1997, the jury found Simpson “responsible” for the two deaths. The families were awarded compensatory and punitive damages totaling $33.5 million.
Trial of Yolanda Saldívar (1995)
State of Texas v. Yolanda Saldívar was a criminal trial held at the Harris County Courthouse in Houston, Texas. The trial began with the jury’s swearing-in on October 9, through opening statements on October 12, to a verdict on October 23, 1995. Former nurse Yolanda Saldívar was tried on one count of first-degree murder after the shooting death of American Tejano music singer Selena on March 31, 1995, after which she held police and the FBI Crisis Negotiation Unit at bay for almost ten hours. The case has been described as the most important trial for the Latino population and was compared to the O. J. Simpson murder trial by media outlets. It was one of the most publicly followed trials in the history of the state of Texas. On April 3, Saldívar was arraigned and pleaded not guilty; she explained that the shooting was accidental and that she had meant to end her own life. Judge Mike Westergren, who presided over the case, appointed high-profile defense attorney Douglas Tinker and his team to appear for Saldívar. The public criticized prosecutor Carlos Valdez as an inexperienced criminal lawyer. The prosecution argued against the motion of change of venue from Corpus Christi, Texas, to Houston, while the defense believed that Selena’s high-profile status in her hometown might result in a biased jury. The prosecution team called between forty-five and fifty witnesses including: Selena’s father, and manager of her music career Abraham Quintanilla Jr., Selena’s widower Chris Pérez, employees at Selena Etc. and at the Days Inn motel where the shooting occurred, a paramedic, several gun experts, the owners of the gun shop where Saldívar purchased the gun, emergency personnel, and Lloyd White who performed the autopsy. The defense team called fewer witnesses including: Saldívar’s parents, former co-workers, motel staff at the Days Inn, Selena’s former seventh grade teacher, and the lead murder investigator. The evidence used in the trial included the gun used to kill Selena, the outfit Saldívar wore the day she claimed she was sexually assaulted, and the recorded conversations between FBI negotiators Larry Young and Issac Valencia, and Saldívar. The jury convicted Saldívar of first-degree murder after a two-hour deliberation, and she was sentenced to a maximum of life imprisonment with no eligibility for parole until March 2025. Fans outside the courtroom cheered the verdict. Many were seen expressing their delight at the outcome to Saldívar’s parents and some wore T-shirts degrading to their daughter. There were more than two-hundred accredited media representatives at the courthouse. The trial generated interest in Spain, Europe, South America, Australia and Japan. Tinker announced an appeal but it was denied by Westergren both in 1998 and 1999. Valdez published a book about the trial entitled: Justice for Selena: The State vs. Yolanda Saldívar in 2004. As of December 2014, Saldívar was representing herself in an attempt to be released from prison, claiming that some witnesses were not called during the trial, and that evidence went missing following the trial.
Trial of Slobodan Milošević (2002–2005)
The 2002–2005 trial of Slobodan Milošević at the ICTY included hundreds of witnesses and lasted until the death of Slobodan Milošević. Milošević did not recognize the tribunal but participated in the proceedings with the larger point of presenting his view of the truth. The tribunal in this case serves not only as the court but it has a larger role of establishing what has really happened in the 1990s in Yugoslavia, and of distinguishing facts from fiction and propaganda. The trial has been described as the “trial of the century”.
Trial of Saddam Hussein (2004–2006)
The Trial of Saddam Hussein was the trial of the deposed President of Iraq Saddam Hussein by the Iraqi Interim Government for crimes against humanity during his time in office. The Coalition Provisional Authority voted to create the Iraqi Special Tribunal (IST), consisting of five Iraqi judges, on 9 December 2003, to try Saddam Hussein and his aides for charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. The trial was viewed by many as a kangaroo court or show trial. Amnesty International stated that the trial was “unfair,” and Human Rights Watch judged that Saddam’s execution “follows a flawed trial and marks a significant step away from the rule of law in Iraq.” Saddam was captured on 13 December 2003. He remained in custody by United States forces at Camp Cropper in Baghdad, along with eleven senior Ba’athist officials. Particular attention was paid during the trial to activities in violent campaigns against the Kurds in the north during the Iran–Iraq War, against the Shiites in the south in 1991 and 1999 to put down revolts, and in Dujail after a failed assassination attempt on 8 July 1982, during the Iran–Iraq War. Saddam asserted in his defense that he had been unlawfully overthrown, and was still the president of Iraq. The first trial began before the Iraqi Special Tribunal on 19 October 2005. At this trial Saddam and seven other defendants were tried for crimes against humanity with regard to events that took place after a failed assassination attempt in Dujail in 1982 by members of the Islamic Dawa Party. A second and separate trial began on 21 August 2006, trying Saddam and six co-defendants for genocide during the Anfal military campaign against the Kurds of northern Iraq. On 5 November 2006, Saddam was sentenced to death by hanging. On 26 December, Saddam’s appeal was rejected and the death sentence upheld. No further appeals were taken and Saddam was ordered executed within 30 days of that date. The date and place of the execution were secret until the sentence was carried out. Saddam Hussein was executed by hanging on 30 December 2006. With his death, all other charges were dropped.
Trial of Michael Jackson (2005)
People v. Jackson (full case name: 1133603: The People of the State of California v. Michael Joseph Jackson) was a 2005 trial involving American recording artist Michael Jackson. A 13-year-old boy that Jackson had befriended named Gavin Arvizo accused him of sexual abuse. Jackson was indicted for four counts of molesting a minor, four counts of intoxicating a minor in order to molest him, one count of attempted child molestation, and one count of conspiring to hold the boy and his family captive at his 2,700-acre (11 km2) Neverland Ranch, as well as conspiring to commit extortion and child abduction. He denied all counts. On June 13, 2005, the jury found Jackson not guilty on all fourteen charges, which included all of the above plus four lesser misdemeanor counts.
Death of Caylee Anthony (2011)
Caylee Marie Anthony (August 9, 2005 – 2008) was a two-year-old American girl who lived in Orlando, Florida (United States), with her mother, Casey Marie Anthony (born March 19, 1986), and her maternal grandparents, George and Cindy Anthony. On July 15, 2008, she was reported missing in a 9-1-1 call made by Cindy, who said she had not seen Caylee for 31 days and that Casey’s car smelled like a dead body had been inside it. Cindy said Casey had given varied explanations as to Caylee’s whereabouts before finally telling her that she had not seen Caylee for weeks. Casey told detectives several falsehoods, including that Caylee had been kidnapped by a nanny on June 9, and that she had been trying to find her, too frightened to alert the authorities. She was charged with first-degree murder in October 2008 and pleaded not guilty. On December 11, 2008, Caylee’s skeletal remains were found with a blanket inside a trash bag in a wooded area near the family home. Investigative reports and trial testimony alternated between duct tape being found near the front of the skull and on the mouth of the skull. The medical examiner mentioned duct tape as one reason she ruled the death a homicide, but officially listed it as “death by undetermined means”. The trial lasted six weeks, from May to July 2011. The prosecution sought the death penalty and alleged Casey wished to free herself from parental responsibilities and murdered her daughter by administering chloroform and applying duct tape. The defense team, led by Jose Baez, countered that the child had drowned accidentally in the family’s swimming pool on June 16, 2008, and that George Anthony disposed of the body. The defense contended that Casey lied about this and other issues because of a dysfunctional upbringing, which they said included sexual abuse by her father. The defense did not present evidence as to how Caylee died, nor evidence that Casey was sexually abused as a child, but challenged every piece of the prosecution’s evidence, calling much of it “fantasy forensics”. Casey did not testify. On July 5, 2011, the jury found Casey not guilty of first-degree murder, aggravated child abuse, and aggravated manslaughter of a child, but guilty of four misdemeanor counts of providing false information to a law enforcement officer. With credit for time served, she was released on July 17, 2011. A Florida appeals court overturned two of the misdemeanor convictions on January 25, 2013. The not guilty murder verdict was greeted with public outrage, and was both attacked and defended by media and legal commentators. Some complained that the jury misunderstood the meaning of reasonable doubt, while others said the prosecution relied too heavily on the defendant’s allegedly poor moral character because they had been unable to show conclusively how the victim had died. Time magazine described the case as “the social media trial of the century”.
Bo Xilai trial (2013)
Bo Xilai (born 3 July 1949) is a Chinese former politician. He came to prominence through his tenures as the mayor of Dalian and then the governor of Liaoning. From 2004 to November 2007, he served as Minister of Commerce. Between 2007 and 2012, he served as a member of the Central Politburo and secretary of the Communist Party’s Chongqing branch. On 22 September 2013, Bo was found guilty of corruption, stripped of all his assets, and sentenced to life imprisonment. The son of Bo Yibo, one of the Eight Elders of the Communist Party of China, Bo Xilai is one of the “princelings” of Chinese politics. He cultivated a casual and charismatic image in the media that marked a departure from the normally staid nature of Chinese politics. While serving in Liaoning, Bo held an important niche in the Northeast Area Revitalization Plan. Bo initiated a campaign against organized crime, increased spending on welfare programs, maintained consistent double-digit percentage GDP growth, and campaigned to revive Cultural Revolution-era “red culture”. Bo’s promotion of egalitarian values and the achievements of his “Chongqing model” made him the champion of the Chinese New Left, composed of both Maoists and social democrats disillusioned with the country’s market-based economic reforms and increasing economic inequality. However, the perceived lawlessness of Bo’s anti-corruption campaigns, coupled with concerns about the image he cultivated, made him a controversial figure. Bo was considered a likely candidate for promotion to the elite Politburo Standing Committee in CPC 18th National Congress in 2012. His political fortunes came to an abrupt end following the Wang Lijun incident, in which his top lieutenant and police chief sought asylum at the American consulate in Chengdu. Wang claimed to have information about the involvement of Bo Xilai and his wife Gu Kailai in the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood, who allegedly had close financial ties to the two. In the fallout, Bo was removed as the party chief of Chongqing in March 2012 and suspended from the politburo the following month. Bo’s dismissal exposed disunity within Communist Party ranks shortly before a leadership transition, and some observers suspected that it was because he threatened Xi Jinping’s future grip on power. He was later stripped of all his party positions, lost his seat at the National People’s Congress, and was eventually expelled from the party.