35 of the Most Notorious Trials in World History

Source: pingnews / Flickr

History’s most famous trials are more than just accounts of the sobering verdicts rendered on some of history’s most famous – and in some cases infamous – people. They give us insight into a nation or society’s understanding and pursuit of fairness and justice. Trials can also reveal a darker side of humankind.  

24/7 Tempo compiled a list of the most famous trials of all time by using material from sources such as Famous Trials, History, Encyclopedia.com, PBS, CNN, Vanity Fair, and the FBI. We exercised editorial discretion to select trials and their outcomes that had particularly significant historical or cultural implications.

Some of history’s earliest famous trials were religious in nature, and many involved challenges to the Catholic Church. Martin Luther railed against corruption in the Church and was tried and excommunicated. Thomas More was tried for treason and beheaded for opposing King Henry VIII’s marriage to Anne Boleyn – a union that undermined the authority of the Vatican. Joan of Arc, today the patron saint of France, was burned at the stake by a religious tribunal in Rouen who accused her of heresy. (She now tops the list of the greatest women in military history.)

Trials such as those for Henry Wirz, the commandant at Andersonville Prison during the Civil War, and Nazi officials at Nuremberg after WWII, made history by creating a new kind of new criminal charges – violation of the rules of war and crimes against humanity. (Here’s a look at some of the most ruthless rulers in history.)

At least four famous trials over the last 68 years exposed the racial fissures in the United States. Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam were acquitted of murdering Emmett Till in Mississippi in 1955. The dismissal of charges of excessive force by Los Angeles police in the beating of Rodney King ignited riots in Los Angeles. The acquittal of O.J. Simpson of two murders polarized America along racial fault lines, as did the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Travyon Martin.

Sponsored: Tips for Investing

A financial advisor can help you understand the advantages and disadvantages of investment properties. Finding a qualified financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three financial advisors who serve your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.

Investing in real estate can diversify your portfolio. But expanding your horizons may add additional costs. If you’re an investor looking to minimize expenses, consider checking out online brokerages. They often offer low investment fees, helping you maximize your profit.