Everybody Must Get Stoned
During the Salem Witch Trials of 1692, nineteen accused witches are hanged, at least four die in prison, and one wizard meets a particularly grisly end. Octogenarian Giles Cory, accused of enticing young girls into league with the devil, saw the tribunals as a sham, and refuses to stand trial. Cory is sentenced to death by “pressing,” or having heavy stones placed upon his chest until he is literally crushed to death, the first and only instance of this barbaric execution method ever used in America.
Let’s Hear it for the Boys
During his 1865 trial for indecency, British authorities delve into Oscar Wilde’s sexual history, thus exposing to prim Victorian society, a parade of male prostitutes, cross-dressers and teen brothels. England is scandalized and Wilde is sentenced to two years in prison.
Home Field Advantage
In the worst baseball scandal that doesn’t involve a hypodermic needle and Roger Clemens’ ass, eight players from the Chicago White Sox are accused of losing the 1919 World Series on purpose. But after key evidence disappears, the jury deliberates only two hours before acquitting the players on all charges. The courtroom quickly turns into a veritable parade as hats and confetti fly through the air, with players and spectators thumping the backs of jurors in approval. Some jurors even go so far as to lift players on their shoulders, parading them through the courtroom.
A Powerful Accusation
In 1935, Bruno Hauptmann, charged with kidnapping and murdering Charles Lindbergh’s son, sits in the courtroom as Amandus Hochmuth, an 87-year-old witness who lived on the road leading to the Lindbergh estate, testifies. Asked by the prosecution to identify the man who drove by him the morning of the kidnapping, Hochmuth points to Hauptmann, exclaiming, “Him!” Just then the power cuts out, leaving the courtroom in total darkness. Hauptmann’s defense attorney doesn’t miss a beat as he stands and declares “It’s the Lord’s wrath over a lying witness.”
During the infamous Chicago 8 Trial in 1969, Bobby Seale, one of the founders of the Black Panther party, calls Judge Julius Hoffman (no relation to fellow defendant Abbie Hoffman), at various and repeated times, a “pig,” a “fascist” and a “rat.” Judge Hoffman eventually orders Seale to be gagged and chained to his chair.
Reading is Fundamental
In 1977, on trial for the murder of Caryn Campbell, Ted Bundy is given use of the Pitkin County Courthouse library in Aspen, CO. Rather than hit the books, he hits the bricks, escaping out a second story window and then casually strolling through town. Bundy is re-arrested in town six days later, driving a stolen Cadillac.
Larry Flynt, pornographer and provocateur, is a legendary 1970s and 80s courtroom fixture, becoming almost as famous for his sartorial style as for his nudie magazines. By sporting t-shirts emblazoned with phrases like “Fuck This Court,” “I Wish I Was Black,” and by wearing an American flag as a diaper during his trials for obscenity, Flynt’s fashion choices are just as audacious as he is.
MacGyver Would Be Proud
Harold McCord had been convicted of kidnapping and assault, and, as a three-time legal loser, was looking at life in prison. Proving that desperation is the true mother of invention, in 2003 McCord shapes the cardboard backing of a notepad into a three-dimensional model of a .25-caliber handgun, stuffs it with toilet paper and wraps it in newspaper he’s inked black with a pen. McCord makes a break for freedom at Pierce County Courthouse in Washington, using his Faux & Wesson to take a hostage and forcing deputies to drop their (real) guns. After 24 hours of fugitive freedom, McCord is shot and killed in a standoff with police.
Well, It’s Bedtime In Kuala Lumpur
Michael Jackson certainly is no slouch when it comes to memorable outfits. Who can forget the red leather outfit from “Thriller,” the black, be-zippered jumpsuit from “Bad” and his numerous Liberace-meets-General MacArthur military outfits? But when Jackson shows up late to a Los Angles courthouse during his child molestation trial in 2005, he’s rocking a look that’s odd even for him: powder blue pajama pants and a disheveled white t-shirt. He also dons a black blazer, for that added hint of propriety.
Ticket to Drench
Heather Mills, upset with what she regards as a paltry $48.6 million alimony settlement from her ex, Paul McCartney, takes justice into her own hands during a hearing earlier this year. Grabbing a pitcher of water, she dumps it on Fiona Shackleton, McCartney’s attorney. How hated is Mills? For the first time in history, the world sympathizes with a rich man’s divorce lawyer.
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