Monday, October 21, 2013

Famous Trials Website

Douglas O. Linder at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law, has created the Famous Trials website that offers selected documents including testimony, judgments and commentary on many famous trials.

Many are American, but they are also non-US trials in the collection.

In a section called Goals and Purposes, Linder writes:
"My original purpose in creating the Famous Trials site was a very modest one. I wanted to post a variety of background materials for students enrolled in my Famous Trials Seminar. There is no single text that works for such a seminar, and requiring my students to purchase, say, fourteen books about fourteen trials seemed out of the question. Soon, however, I discovered through e-mails that there was a wider audience for such materials."  
"My purpose shifted over time. Now, I see my principal audience as high school, college, and law school instructors and students. Sure, I also hope the site will serve as a useful starting point for the serious scholar working on a major book or paper on one of the trials covered on the site. But the site does not pretend to be archival in the traditional sense. Most of the trial transcripts for the thirty-plus trials on the site run into the thousands of pages. Without grants and without significant university resources, there is simply no way that I can scan such voluminous materials and post them in complete form on the site. In fact, such a massive posting of materials would run counter to my basic goal of providing a clear, concise, and reasonably balanced understanding of the trials. Transcripts can be overwhelming. I've tried to present some of the most important and compelling testimony, and leave out materials that are less significant--and often mind-numbingly repetitive (...)  "
"A few critics have also complained about my choice of trials, suggesting that my trial selection ought to be 'more focused."' One critic noted that my trials ranged from ancient times (Socrates) to very modern times (Simpson), and included trials from both sides of the Atlantic and Pacific and from various types of courts.  Other critics have complained that their favorite trial (say, the Manuel Noriega trial) has been inexcusably omitted while some other frivolous and inconsequential trial (say, the Chicago Black Sox trial) has been included.  To such critics I can only say, 'I'm not getting paid a penny for this--I put up the trials that I, with all of my idiosyncrasies, find interesting or compelling in some way'." (...)

"Yes, the Famous Trials site is not everybody's cup of tea, but I'm comfortable in the knowledge that it has stimulated many people to think more seriously about both our legal system and the nature of justice."  
Earlier Library Boy posts about legal history materials include:


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posted by Michel-Adrien at 12:54 pm


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