Top Trials of the 20th Century

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5  Top Trials

of the

20th Century

Every so often there are trials that become so famous they grab the attention of millions of people from around the world. These are five of those cases from the last century and the early part of this one, where the drama was so immense that the world became enraptured.

 5. The Trial of Leon Czolgosz

The first “Trial of the Century” of the 20th century only lasted eight hours, but it was a huge sensation because of who was killed.

On September 6, 1901, President William McKinleywas standing in a receiving line greeting people at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York. Suddenly, 28-year-old anarchist Leon Czolgosz shot him twice at point blank range, and McKinley died eight days later. Czolgosz came from a poor immigrant family and shot McKinley because he thought that McKinley only helped the rich.

Czolgosz refused to talk to his two lawyers, two former State Supreme Court Judges, making it hard to come up with a defense. The trial started nine days after McKinley died on September 23, 1901 and Czolgosz didn’t testify in his own defense.

He was found guilty and sentenced to death. He was executed on October 29, 1901, via the electric chair.

4. The Scopes Monkey Trial

In March 1924, Tennessee passed a law that made it illegal to teach the theory of evolution in schools. Obviously, not everyone supported this law, so John Scopes, a high school teacher in Dayton, and a local businessman named George Rappalyea conspired for Scopes to get charged for breaking the law so they could challenge the ruling.

The court case attracted two of the country’s top lawyers, William Jennings Bryan, a three-time Democratic presidential candidate – who, incidentally, lost the 1900 election to William McKinley – volunteered to help the prosecution, while Clarence Darrow volunteered to help the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in defending Scopes.

The trial started on July 10, 1925, and attracted the attention of the country because it essentially represented what should be taught in schools – fundamental Christianity or science. The case didn’t start off great for the defense, because the judge opened each day with a prayer. Also, the defense wasn’t allowed to argue that the law was unconstitutional.

Near the end of the trial, Darrow changed tactics. He called Bryan, who was helping the DA, as a witness to defend Christian fundamentalism. During his examination, Darrow embarrassed Bryan by making him say contradictory and ignorant statements over his literal interpretation of the Bible.

In his closing statement, Darrow asked the jury to return a verdict of guilty so that it could be appealed. The jury spent eight minutes deliberating and returned a verdict of guilty. Scopes was fined $100, which was the minimum punishment. In 1927, the ruling was overturned on a technicality, but the law wouldn’t be repealed until 1967. The play (and later Oscar-nominated movie) Inherit the Wind tells the story of the infamous trial.

3. The Trial Charles Manson

In August 1969, the United States was shocked by the brutal murders of seven people in their upscale homes in Los Angeles. The most famous victim was actress Sharon Tate, who was the wife of film director Roman Polanski. She was eight-and-a-half months pregnant.

What made the crimes even more shocking was the people who were responsible for the crimes. It was a cult-like group of hippies that consisted of pretty young women, led by a strange little man named Charles Manson.

Due to the barbarity of the crimes and the weirdness of the culprits, the trial was a media circus. The members of the family that weren’t arrested showed solidarity by doing whatever Manson did, like carve Xs into their foreheads and shave their heads. At the courthouse, they would chant, sing, and treat the trial of the mass murderer like a picnic.

 In January 1971 Manson and several of his family members were found guilty and sentenced to death. The death penalty was abolished in 1972 and Manson’s sentence was commuted to life in prison.

2. The Trial of O.J. Simpson

Just after midnight on June 13, 1994, O.J. Simpson’s ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman were found brutally murdered in front of Nicole’s condominium.

A short time later, a warrant was issued for O.J. and he agreed to turn himself in, but then went on the infamous, slow car chase with his longtime friend, Al Cowlings. Eventually, Simpson was arrested and charged with two counts of first degree murder.

Just some of the evidence the District Attorney’s office had against O.J. was that he had a fresh cut on his finger and his blood was at the crime scene. Second, there was a blood covered glove found on O.J.’s property. The blood belonged to O.J., Nicole, and Goldman. Third, there was a sock found in his bedroom that had his blood and Nicole’s blood on it. There was also a bloody shoe print found at the scene from a size 12 Bruno Mali, a pretty rare shoe, and O.J. wore size 12 shoes. Finally, the police had been called several times to the home of Nicole and O.J. because O.J. was an abusive husband.

Of course, the evidence was only a small aspect of what became the definitive Trial of the 20thCentury. The defense’s strategy was to show that the Los Angeles Police Department had a history of systematic racism and had planted the evidence to set up one of the most famous African-Americans in the world.

The trial essentially came down to the credibility of the LAPD. The DA pretty much had a slam dunk case, but all the defense had to do was create reasonable doubt by making it sound like it was possible that the LAPD could have set O.J. up because he was African-American.

On October 3, 1995, the jury was back with a verdict. 150 million Americans tuned in, which was about 57 percent of the population. The verdict was, of course, not guilty.

O.J. would later go on to lose a civil trial against Goldman’s family in 1997. Then in 2008, O.J. was convicted of robbery and kidnapping and he was sentenced to 9 to 33 years in prison.

1. The Trial of Michael Jackson

In the early 2000s, Michael Jackson was already the world’s most famous weirdo. Besides his odd appearance and strange personal life, since a civil suit in 1993, there had been rumors that Jackson was having inappropriate relationships with children. But things got worse for the King of Pop in February 2003, when a documentary called Living with Michael Jackson was released, and in it, Jackson talks about sleeping with children in his bed.

The documentary led to a police investigation and on November 18, 2003, the day after Jackson released his greatest hits album, his home, Neverland Ranch, was searched. The next day, a warrant was issued and Jackson turned himself in on November 20.

Jackson’s trial started on January 31, 2005, and the District Attorney didn’t have much in the way of physical evidence. Instead the case mostly rested on the accusations of one boy, a 13-year-old cancer patient. The DA said that the accusations fit a pattern, even though Jackson had never been convicted of sexual assault, or any crime for that matter.

The trial lasted six months and it was a spectacle. Jackson’s odd appearance and outrageous wardrobes were interesting enough to attract millions of viewers every day.

On June 13, nearly six months after the trial started, the jury unanimously acquitted Jackson of all charges. He ended up dying four years later on June 25, 2009.


Top Trials

of the 20th Century

Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #142

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #142

…Aw heck, Judith, you know I’m just a small town paper guy. I am grateful for any scraps you send my way…

Small Town Boy-001

“Now that was one hell of a picture!” asks Harv Pearson of Judith Eastman. The two of them have been literally attached at the hip since their serendipitous meeting. Together they are taking photographic journalism to another level. Pictures taken at the Pan-American Exposition are gaining form in one of the three baths of liquid in this very dark room. A dim red bulb allows them to see their work, but little else.

“I was actually setting up for John Philip Sousa. When I heard the shots I turned the tripod, approximated the angle and snapped.” The President had not reached the ground in the aforementioned image; a moment frozen in time, for human eyes to see, now and forever.

“You do realize that you have a pretty good look at the gunman…..here?”

“I thought so,” Judith agrees, “though at first that bandage on his hand looked like real wound dressing”

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“So, how many duplicates does this make?” This particular picture is in great demand, making Judith an Eastman known in her own right. She is not exactly Matthew Brady, but neither is he and dying in a charity ward like him is not in her long-range plans.

“Ten, but do you remember what a time we had getting the government to release it for publication?”

“Don’t remind me. All my articles on the assassination ran with file photographs of McKinley.”

“Well, how soon we forget,” she quips with mock indignation.  “What about all the other pictures of the Exposition, including everyone and his brother with the President! Were they but chicken feed to you?”

Harv best backpedal, lest he be banished from her good graces. He can ill-afford to lose either her technical skills or her friendship, especially since he is not far from expressing his undying love for this incredible woman. If you throw in the national magazine the pair is envisioning, he cannot let professional considerations to be divisive.

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“Aw, heck, Judith, you know I’m just a small town paper guy. I am grateful for any scraps you send my way.”

“Don’t give me that poor old country boy routine.” She parts the dark to embrace him, fully appreciating that authentic charm. His nose for news and unfailing loyalty do not hurt his chances either. “Hurricanes and assassination and who knows what else have given you the most respected by-line I’ve seen in years. Your name has been mentioned in the same breath with Horace Greeley. Small town, my eye!


Alpha Omega M.D.

Small Town America by Tom Brown

Episode #142


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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #139

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #139

…There are so many wonders that titillate each of the five senses and not enough time to take it all in…

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But William McKinley has a prohibitive favorite in musical style: ragtime. The “King of Ragtime”, Scott Joplin is here to perform, as he had at the Chicago Exposition in 1893. You do not turn down a request by the president, who is treated to the recently composed, “Maple Leaf Rag”, among other many jazz favorites in this singular format.

Mister Joplin finishes this afternoon’s program to a large ovation from the several hundred fair goers. The concertmaster thanks everyone for coming and invites one and all to greet the President at a public reception commencing hence.

Scene in Fair Japan

“Fair Japan” by C.D. Arnold

“Where should we go now?” asks James Ferrell, whose youthful curiosity is fueled by what amounts to a vacation for him, in the midst of virtually two solid years of university study. There are so many wonders that titillate each of the five senses and not enough time to take it all in. “I want to see the racing cars.”

As you would think, there is no consensus among the Floridians, who struggled to amass themselves here. They had been scattered for the entire morning, in pursuit of their diverse interests and separate ways it seems to be now.

They are in their indigenous groups, however. The Ferrells are not about to waste a minute of their rare together time, as do the Campbells and the Endlichoffers, even though Amanda Campbell is distracted from missing the two children she left behind in Tallahassee, in the care of Princess Olla; freedom brings on new, if not worrisome, sets of dilemmas.

 

Just as their milling and mulling comes to an end, heads are turned by what sounds like firecrackers. Two pops precede gasps and screams. Someone yells, “Get a doctor! The President has been shot!”

Herbert Love was close enough to feel the shock waves from the pistol reports, he searches the crowd, searching for answers to the doctor request and is relieved to see Ziggy dragging Alpha through the gathering throng, turned angry mob.

“Am I shot?” the slumping leader gasps, not feeling the pain or the stream of flowing blood.

By this time the mob has tackled the assailant, beating him mercilessly. “Let no one hurt him.” McKinley orders in fear of vigilante justice.


 

Alpha Omega M.D.

Episode #139


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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #138

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #138

…Precious few human beings, whether they be murderer or monk, can resist melodic sounds that reach the ear and seem to linger for days…

The Tallahassee Twelve are back at the hotel before the poor boys can be humiliated any further, returning to a staff that attends to them in earnest, not contempt.

But, prejudice and related injustices may disappear in one spot, only to metamorphose, reappearing in a different form and/or place. And so it does on Thursday 6 September; different mad cause, same unfortunate place.

The Temple of Music’s purpose is to bring cultures closer together by the most common thread in God’s wonderful weave. Precious few human beings, whether they be murderer or monk, can resist melodic sounds that reach the ear and seem to linger for days, leaving most without the ability to get it out, once it’s in. Should you choose this exhibition building, you are treated to continuous tunes; rhythms and beat that come from a different drum than those that come out of Broadway or one of the many other theaters where the newest music is being played.

Imperialism

by Victor Gillatt

Today, however, there is a special treat for fair goers; hundreds will have the chance to get close their newly re-elected leader. One could say he is the leader of the free world, considering that before the Spanish-American War, hardly a soul heard of the islands of the Philippines and Guam, or cared about Cuba and Puerto Rico. And no, they did not exactly defeat the Spanish Armada in the 16th Century, but we were helping to keep the peace one-half the world away, daring to stray from just defending our shorelines.

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Yesterday, William McKinley expressed the need for sensible trade relations, which would not interrupt domestic production, rather extending outlets for forecasted surpluses. Surpluses in agricultural output have been foretold by Herbert Love, who has instituted a production reporting system that will aid in the accounting of commodities for possible export.

That same Mr. Love, along with the President’s Chief of Staff, George Cortelyou, attend a mini-concert at the Temple of Music in a semi-official capacity. They flank McKinley, who seems genuinely relaxed. If you look closely you can see him tapping his feet to the Mexican mariachi band, snapping his fingers to the reggae island beat, even uttering a timely ‘Iiii-eeeeee’ to Cajun/Creole melodies.


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Music Lives Here

Episode #138


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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #136

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #136

…In the first staged pose, she has the President sitting in a chair and the Tallahassee Twelve surrounding him…

Tallahassee 12-001

Judith Eastman goes about arranging her subjects with a bubbling fountain as the backdrop. In the first staging, she has the President sitting in a chair and the Tallahassee Twelve surrounding him. The second same, Alpha Campbell is seated on the floor, between McKinley’s knees. A third group shot, has the commander-in-chief is flanked by Herbert and Phoebe Love, just as they have stood by him through war and peace.

          The adept photographer flows through a series of individual requests:       

  1. John, Martha, James and Abbey.
  2. Willy, Amanda and Alfrey.
  3. Ziggy, Frieda and Alfrey.
  4. Herb and Phoebe alone.
  5. Frick and Frack/Jacob and Jacques.
  6. Just about everybody alone with the President.

“I have only two exposures left,” an exhausted Judith tells them.

“If you show me how to work your camera, how about and you and the Prez?” offers Harv Pearson.

“I would like that and——-Mister Love would you then take a picture of Harv and me?”

Each man takes his turn behind the lens.

Harv snaps off a beauty, Judith shaking McKinley’s hand. Somewhat hammy, yet quite dignified.

Herb needs not prompt the subjects of the final exposure; Eastman and Pearson, arm in arm, smiling ear to ear, perhaps at the warmth of the present, or the bright prospects in their future.

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“You will have to give me my leave, friends. I delivered a taxing speech toady, oh, not literally a tax speech, well you know what I mean and of course there is the reception in the Temple of Music tomorrow afternoon.” His bushy gray eyebrows furl at the thought of another long night of policy making, taking more time away from his beloved Ida.

William McKinley exits the room through a gauntlet of extended arms. No hand goes un-shook, no one goes away disappointed.


 

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #135

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #135

…Judith Eastman is much impressed with how connected these diverse individuals are to each other, including the President of the United States, of all people…

Photography-001

“I would be honored to take your picture, Mister President,” she curtseys in respect.

   “No, my dear, the honor is ours and I encourage setting the thoughts of your work aside and taking your publisher friend to the buffet. Waiter! Three bottles of your finest American champagne,” he politely commands. “I must tell Ida of this glorious evening!” One would think that teasing his house-stricken wife with stories of good times may depress her, but she can but live vicariously through a devoted husband, whom she could not be more proud. She, as well as he, is staying at the home of the President of the Exposition, John Milburn.

The famished and presentable Judith & Harv return to the table, barely able to manage consecutive bites without genuinely warm intrusions from all points on the compass. Well-wishers may be placing the carriage before the horse, but one and all are happy for the newspaperman, even the two other bachelors who, despite concerted efforts, have but their silverware in hand.

Somewhere out there, God has a woman for every man; right now, in Buffalo, there is a school administrator and an apothecary who are petitioning for that divine intervention.

oldcameraandtripod    Judith, for her part, is being a good sport, allowing herself to be drawn into the bowels of this unique collection of Southerners. She is much impressed with how connected these diverse individuals are to each other, including the President of the United States, of all people. She cannot help but feel at “home” with them; a stranger summarily accepted merely because one of the group, Harv Pearson, accepted her. They no doubt trust each other with their lives, forged in fire and hardened by trial.

Having uncased the large camera, finding just the right angle and lighting, her Eastman instincts take over. She initiates the shutter without alerting them, creating a candid portrait, frozen forever in time. Posing will come later.

Why you scamp! We weren’t prepared,” McKinley protests, presidents being experts at the pose.

“That is the point! You all are more “you” when you don’t know it’s coming……, now you do and my first picture will be the most spontaneous.”


 

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say cheese

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #131

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #131

…“We had one lady who claimed that cigars were causing her husband’s poor health. I guess he had trouble breathing.”

“What nonsense,” Statler concurs, “sounds like good old fashioned consumption to me?”…

by Dion Ja’Y 

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The Tallahassee folks on to good food & important friends.

“We make cigars, among other commodities, Mister Statler,” Herb pulls a Loyal Campbell from his tweed jacket pocket, handing it to their sponsor.

“There is nothing like a good cigar after a good dinner,” he bows his head in gratitude, passing it under his nose, looking at the wrapper ring. “Is that you?” He asks of Willy, referring to the representation on the ring.

“Yessir, it is.”

Herb continues his thought, “Yes, well, if you can imagine this, we had one lady who claimed that cigars were causing her husband’s poor health. I guess he had trouble breathing.”

          “What nonsense,” Statler concurs, “sounds like good old fashioned consumption to me?

    They finally gain a private room, apart from the commercial banquet facility. About sixty guests are presently mingling, including the Presidential host. He seems completely at ease, appearing to have shed any and all problems of his life and the world in general. Gone, for the moment, are worries about his dear frail, convalescent Ida. The Boer War in South Africa and “Boxer Rebellion” fade to the background, especially since he has a second in command to rely on. Teddy Roosevelt, whose motto is, “Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far.”, is the perfect second term Vice-president; young, capable and right there for the Republican party should William McKinley choose not to run for a third term.

Two long tables flank the room, each filled to capacity with every manner of salad, entree and gourmet dish. If any in attendance goes home hungry, the onus is on them.

The President sees Statler, as well as his Florida friends enter, capping his mental list of invitees. “May I have your attention,” he clinks his brandy snifter with handy silverware. “I see my table has arrived, so without further ado, please indulge your selves in God’s generous blessings!”

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The crowd needs little of the prompting, having already staked out their seats, at one of the six circular oak tables, as well as exactly what crystal plate or dish in the buffet they  are going to attack first.

McKinley wraps his arms around as many of his Southern folks as he can, separately or at one time. They follow his lead to the feast. “Do not forget to bring your plate. I so enjoy being able to serve myself, don’t you. Ummmm, this looks good, shrimp cocktail. Doesn’t this rice look special…, Florentine is it not, Lady Ferrell?”

Martha, who waits directly behind, answers, “Pilaf with almonds, I believe,” having the unique opportunity to correct a President.

Jacob Haley and Jacques Francois help Willy and Amanda sort through the culinary montage, when they’re not screening the room for potentially single females.

Alfrey is attached to the Endlichoffers, which is no surprise, but is helpless in consoling Ziggy about the apparent oversight of schnitzel or Hasenpfeffer.


 

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Episode #131


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