Bernard Ryan, Jr.

Great American Trials, Great World Trials, and Sex, Sin and Mayhem

The following is from Editorial Reviews: Amazon.com at the time of publication of the first edition of GREAT AMERICAN TRIALS in one big fat volume in 1993. The second edition, covering 378 historically and legally significant or notorious courtroom battles in two big fat volumes, was published in 2002.

If you're fascinated by crime, interested in American history or politics, trying to be an informed citizen, or simply in need of a fun reference for casual browsing and settling arguments, you shouldn't pass up this bargain of a book. A sturdy, large-format paperback nearly 900 pages long, Great American Trials covers 200 trials from 1637 to 1993 that encompass every facet of American life that has come under scrutiny in courtrooms: civil rights, freedom of speech and religion, child and family issues, business, medicine, labor, organized crime, murder, kidnapping, politics, privacy, and taxes. The design is clear and elegant: for each trial there's a box summarizing the dramatis personae, location, date(s), verdict(s), sentences(s), and historical and legal significance, followed by an engaging narrative with quotations from transcripts, photos, and suggestions for further reading. Also included are three tables of contents (chronological, alphabetical, by subject), a legal glossary, and an extensive index. The next time you forget what happened with Alger Hiss or Patty Hearst or Claus von Bülow, this is the book to reach for.

From Booklist
"True crime" stories interest many in our society, and this new book will prove popular for reference and for browsing. Beginning with Anne Hutchinson's trials in the 1630s for religious dissent and heresy and ending with the Los Angeles police officers' trials in 1992, the trials represent a variety of issues--rape, civil liberties, corruption, and impeachment, with murder the largest category. Cases were chosen by the editor for their historic significance.

Amazon's review of GREAT WORLD TRIALS says:

"The very concept of what constitutes a trial--much less a fair trial--differs radically from one society to another... Yet there is a common denominator among all the trials in these pages... Each trial, however rigged, venal, or tyrannical, was intended to provide a cloak of legitimacy for the punishment of a real or imagined infraction of the rules of the contemporary social order." Religious movements, ideological clashes, revolutions, wars, nationalist uprisings, decolonization, and changing social mores have all generated famous trials, the consequences of which are still felt. Edward Knappman, editor of the excellent Great American Trials, has selected 100 important trials from around the world (two-thirds of which are from the 20th century). For each trial there's a box summarizing the dramatis personae, location, date(s), verdict(s), sentences(s), and historical/​legal significance, followed by an engaging narrative with photos, quotations from transcripts, and suggestions for further reading. Also included are four tables of contents (chronological, alphabetical, by subject, and by country) and an extensive index.

From Booklist:
Of the 100 courtroom battles included here, many will be familiar to readers through the pages of history books, or because the trial has occurred so recently that it is still referenced in daily newspapers. From the Alcibiades trial in 415 B.C. to the 1996 trial of Yigal Amir and covering crimes such as murder, treason, fraud, and negligence, this work paints a vivid portrait of international jurisprudence through the ages.

Each entry follows the same format. The defendants, charges, defense and prosecuting attorneys, judge(s), location, date, verdict, sentence, and historical or political significance are all listed in a fact box at the start of the entry. This is followed by a narrative describing events leading up to the trial, the trial itself, and the aftermath. A brief list of suggested readings completes the entry. All entries are signed. Black-and-white illustrations complement the text.

Famous and infamous trials were included in this work based on the following criteria: political significance, including those trials that were convened to protect the established religious order; historical significance, including war-crimes trials; and public attention, particularly trials of recent vintage, which have been widely covered by the media. U.S. trials are not included because they are covered in Great American Trials. For reasons of interest and the amount of information available, the majority of the trials covered occurred in the twentieth century and in European countries.

This work is arranged chronologically, beginnning with ancient history and ending with 1950^-90s. There are four tables of contents: a chronological listing, an alphabetical list, a list by subject of the trial or type of crime, and a geographical list. The index lists key figures in the trial, subjects, and points of law--for example, illegal disposition of a corpse, an issue in the Rosa Luxemburg's assassins' trial.

A well-written, well-edited survey, Great World Trials is an excellent companion to Great American Trials. It would be a valuable addition to the reference shelves of high-school and public libraries.

From Ingram:
As riveting as a courtroom, this book brings readers right into the jury box with its gripping account of 100 important legal battles. With real-life drama, it sets the stage for each case, presents the details, discloses the verdict and analyzes the impact of the action. 90 photos.

About Sex, Sin & Mayhem:

This book, which was published just three weeks after the acquittal of O.J. Simpson in his trial for murder, details that trial and such other courtroom dramas as Woody Allen-Mia Farrow, John Bobbitt and Lorena Bobbitt, Doctor Jack Kevorkian, Tonya Harding, and the Navy Tailhook Investigation--some 26 in all.

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