What really WAS the "trial of the century"?

Around the time of the OJ trial, there was a lot of hoo-ha about how it was the “trial of the century”. Well, now that we’re firmly into the next century and are able to look back a bit more dispassionately (or so one would hope), what really WAS the “trial of the century”?

Famous trials that immediately come to mind are Sacco and Vanzetti, the Scopes Monkey Trial, and Marbury v. Madison.

Which leads me to another question: would the trial of the century necessarily have to be a case that went to the U.S. Supreme Court? Would all other trials be lesser simply by nature of not having made it to the highest court in the land? Or could a trial win the title of “trial of the century” just by dint of having had the biggest hoopla associated with it. (The Chicago Seven trial comes to mind.)

Anyway, I’d have to go with the Scopes Monkey Trial. A matter of great importance, lots of controversy, and people are still talking about it nearly a century later.

Anyone else?

I’d definitely vote for the Sam Shapperd murder trial. Supposedly he killed his wife; there was so much media madness even then (in 1954) that it was hard for anyone to be immune. The jury found him guilty of second degree murder; after 12 years, a second trial found him not-guilty. There was a third trial after Sam’s death, but the fact of the matter is that no one has any idea who did it. There are plenty of far-fetched stories, but we’ll probably never know.

Anyway, the case involved an affluent, stereotypically perfect family, a brutal murder, media cover-up and exploitation, and ongoing drama for nearly 50 years.

The only two that even come close to being in the same league with O.J. (in terms of publicity, number of people in the general population who knew anything about it, etc.) would be, I think, the Lindbergh baby kidnapping trial and the Lizzie Borden trial.

Marbury v. Madison? Damn, I must’ve flunked history. I thought that was at the end of Jefferson’s presidency(in other words, two centuries ago).

And on the same scale as Scopes is Roe v. Wade. You want controversy, you got it.

Marbury v. Madison, arguably the trial of any of America’s two-and-a-quarter or so centuries…

For most recent one, I’ll go with Nuremburg. Lindberg was interesting, fascinating even (Hauptmann got the death penalty for stealing pajamas!!), but Nuremburg brought up more interesting points of law and I think will be remembered longest.

Marbury v. Madison? What the hell was I thinking? Wow, I’m going to chalk that one up to temporary ice-cream-induced dementia. Sorry about that!

Actually, at the end of Adams’ presidency and the beginning of Jefferson’s, in 1803. I don’t think Mrs. Whatsit meant to say it was in this century though, I think she (he?) was just referencing famous trials.

Or maybe not! :stuck_out_tongue:

The Hall-Mills Murders, of course. It had everything: sex, murder, and of course, The Pig Woman testifying from a stretcher in the courtroom. :slight_smile:

On a more serious note, I’d vote for the Nuremberg War Crime Trials.

What sprang to my mind when I saw the thread title were the Iran-Contra hearings.

As far as real court trials, the one during my life that’s seemed the most sensational (although not the most newsworthy, imo) is the OJ trial. The one with the most sensational result though seems to be the Rodney King trial, what with the riots and all.

For trials that should be “bigger” than they are, I’d say that mess with Slobodan Milosevic. I mean, Zsa Zsa Gabor got more media coverage over her speeding ticket problems than anybody in Central Europe accused of their various war crimes/crimes against humanity.

I understand that the trial of Charlie Manson & Co. were pretty big, although I’m too young to remember any of that firsthand.

Everything else that springs to mind has already been mentioned–Scopes, Roe v. Wade, Lindberg, Nuremburg.

What? No mention of Fatty Arbuckle?

Wow…no one has mentioned the Scopes Monkey Trial

Pssst…hey Reeder…re-read the OP…

Actually, Reeder the OP did and one other person (but hey, it late, so no harm no foul). And I would have to vote for it also. Although I loved the Hall-Mills Trial too. I especially enjoyed the play-by-play done by Damon Runyon.

But, Menkin did well by the Scopes Trial. And William Jennings Bryan going against Clarence Darrow couldn’t be beat. High drama that.

And basically it has defined the clash between fundamentalism and science since then. Many of the same arguments can probably be found in GD this very day.

Gotta be Nuremburg.

KneadToKnow hit it pretty well in an early post.
The Lindbergh babynapping was huge and gripping.

Hauptmann was railroaded (I’m not saying he was INNOCENT, I’m saying he didn’t get a fair trial).

Personally, I’d say MCI vs Ma Bell was the trial of the century. Rogue upstart collapses Goliath monopoly. Your world is significantly different because of it (hint to younger folks: You used to RENT your phone!).

I seriously can’t believe that it took five posts into this thread to produce the word “Nuremburg”. Unless the OP meant “What was the American criminal case of the century?”, of course.

I didn’t specifically say “American cases only”, but I have to admit that that’s what I was sort of thinking. However, had I given it any thought at all, I would have opened it up to international trials, so please, by all means, carry on!

Coldie, as much as I like my country, Americans are very ethnocentric. If it didn’t happen here, it’s not of great importance to most of us. Nuremburg wasn’t the first time the losers of a war were hanged, but it was the first time they were given a fair trial first, and it did treat WWII as a criminal enterprise by the Nazis. As an extension of justice, it was a milestone in law.

I do like the MCI v. MaBell cited above. Subtle.

Possibly the first case of the Twentieth Century to be dubbed the “Trial of the Century” was the prosecution of Henry K. Thaw for the murder of Stanford White back in 1906. See http://www.crimelibrary.com/classics/white/index.htm. It’s a fascinating case, but I guess it hasn’t really withstood the test of history. Hardly anyone remembers it now.

For a pure media circus, I think it has to come down to either OJ or the Lindbergh kidnapping case. If you believe this site http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/century.html,

“More reporters than covered World War II”??? If that’s true, imagine what it would have been like with modern technology…

(A quick Google of “Trial of the Century” comes up with a couple of other cases that have been given that appellation but not yet mentioned in this thread: The Leopold and Loeb case and the Alger Hiss case.)