Cover image for America on trial : inside the legal battles that transformed our nation
America on trial : inside the legal battles that transformed our nation
Dershowitz, Alan M.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Warner Books, [2004]

Physical Description:
xix, 586 pages ; 24 cm
Colonial America -- Early history of the US -- From Jacksonian democracy to the pre-Civil War period -- The prelude to the Civil War -- The Civil War -- The post civil war period -- Early 20th century -- The "roaring 20's" and the depression 30's -- World War II -- The Cold War and McCarthyism -- The civil rights movement -- The Vietnam War era and its aftermath -- 1980's and 1990's -- The new millennium and the future.
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Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
KF220 .D37 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
KF220 .D37 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
KF220 .D37 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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The Boston Massacre. The Dred Scott decision. The Chicago Seven. O.J. Simpson. These are some of the trials that have both shaped and fascinated American society. Alan M. Dershowitz, who has been either a lawyer, consultant, or commentator on some of the most celebrated cases of the 1970s, 80s and 90s, highlights the trials he believes to be the most significant in our history, and discuses how they were central to the development of America's political and social structure.

Author Notes

Attorney and bestselling author Alan M. Dershowitz was first in his class at Yale Law School.

Dershowitz was editor-in-chief of the Yale Law Journal and the youngest full professor in the history of Harvard Law School. He is currently the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law at Harvard University. He has served on the National Board of Directors of the American Civil Liberties Union. Dershowitz has represented many controversial clients, including O. J. Simpson, Claus von Bulow, Mike Tyson, Leona Helmsley and Patricia Hearst.

His books include Reasonable Doubt (about the O. J. Simpson trial) and Sexual McCarthyism: Clinton, Starr, and the Emerging Constitutional Crisis.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

Harvard law professor Dershowitz discusses several dozen cases that he believes provide insight into the transformation of the country and its legal system from the colonial period to the present. As the broad historical sweep of the project suggests, he is forced to compromise by simplifying events that are, by their nature, complex. Consequently, readers familiar with these legal cases will find many of his conclusions one-dimensional. The following observation, drawn from the prologue, gives a sense of how rudimentary the historical treatment often is: "The American colonists were generally familiar with the stories of the Bible." Although Dershowitz claims to have read more trial transcripts than any other living lawyer, his recounting of the legal proceedings is remarkably lackluster. The whole enterprise has more than a little scent of student research about it, supplemented by observations that those familiar with the author's various hobbyhorses willrecognize: his contempt for Justices Scalia and Thomas, whom he implies would have voted to uphold slavery had they participated in the Dred Scott decision; his own self-aggrandizement as he offers critiques of other lawyers, such as Clarence Darrow and Robert Bennett; and his love for the clich? masked as insight "[T]he acquittal of a guilty murderer may also constitute a miscarriage of justice." While the book reminds readers of many interesting cases that have lapsed into relative obscurity, it is not the place to look for their elucidation. Agent, Helen Rees. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

In his 21st book, multitalented author, attorney, and professor Dershowitz (law, Harvard) describes 63 famous trials in American history and offers his pointed opinions about the quality of justice. The book is arranged chronologically and includes the Colonial Salem witchcraft trials, the 1868 impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson, Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, the impeachment trial of President Clinton, and Bush v. Gore. What is remarkable about the book is Dershowitz's ability to distill the essence of a case into three or four pages, including excerpts from the trial transcripts. The writing is sparkling and places the trials in their historical context. The book is a blend of fact and commentary, as shown by the author's occasional jibes at current Supreme Court justices, whose decisions he considers corrupt. Dershowitz deftly explains his legal positions and does an excellent job of separating myth from reality in American legal cases. Highly recommended for both public and academic libraries. Harry Charles, St. Louis (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Noted legal scholar Dershowitz recounts 64 famous trials throughout US history. He begins with an account of the witchcrafts trials in Salem, Massachusetts, between 1648 and 1706 and ends with the account of the 2004 trials of post-9/11 terrorist detainees. In between, he reviews famous cases whose participants are familiar to most readers. Dershowitz brings the characters alive, pinpoints the central issues, and reveals the enduring lessons of the cases. Although he focuses on criminal trials, he moves beyond crimes of passion and violence to recount famous cases involving issues of free expression, as well as the Scopes trial, the court martial of Billy Mitchell, the Pentagon Papers case, the Bakke affirmative action case, and the Senate trials of the two presidents who have been impeached (Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton). The book elicits sober reflection: often justice was thwarted. One of the lessons Dershowitz imparts is that even at their best judges (and the legal process) play only a limited role in preserving liberties, and that the surest safeguard to liberty, as Judge Learned Hand said, "lies in the hearts of men and women. While it lies there it needs no constitution, no law, no court to save it." ^BSumming Up: Recommended. General readers, undergraduate and professional collections. M. M. Feeley University of California, Berkeley

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. xi
Introductionp. xiii
Prologue: The Foundations of American Lawp. 1
Part I Colonial Americap. 27
The Salem Witchcraft Trialsp. 35
The Trial of John Peter Zengerp. 44
The Slave Revolt Trialp. 49
The Boston Massacre Trialsp. 54
Part II The Early History of the United Statesp. 63
The Trials of Aliens and Seditionersp. 68
The Trial of Aaron Burrp. 75
Part III From Jacksonian Democracy to the Pre-Civil War Periodp. 83
The Boorn-Colvin Murder Mysteryp. 88
The Richard Lawrence Casep. 93
The Harvard Medical School Murderp. 101
Part IV The Prelude to the Civil Warp. 109
The Dred Scott Casep. 117
The John Brown Casep. 124
Part V The Civil Warp. 131
The Savannah Casep. 139
The Trial of Captain Henry Wirzp. 146
The Trial of the Lincoln Assassinsp. 152
Part VI The Post-Civil War Periodp. 161
The Trial of Andrew Johnsonp. 170
The Trial of Susan B. Anthonyp. 174
The Trial of Mary Todd Lincolnp. 178
The Trial of the Assassin Guiteaup. 183
The Trial of Lizzie Bordenp. 187
Part VII The Early Twentieth Centuryp. 195
The Trial of Stanford White's Killerp. 203
The Great Labor Union Trialsp. 208
The Trial of Leo Frankp. 218
The Abrams Casep. 227
The Shoeless Joe Jackson Casep. 233
Part VIII The Roaring Twenties and the Depression Thirtiesp. 245
The Trial of Sacco and Vanzettip. 251
The Trial of Leopold and Loebp. 256
The Scopes Trialp. 262
The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchellp. 268
The Lindbergh Kidnapping Trialp. 272
The Scottsboro Trialsp. 276
Part IX World War IIp. 283
The Nuremberg Trialp. 290
The Ezra Pound Casep. 297
Part X The Cold War and McCarthyismp. 305
The Alger Hiss Casep. 313
The Trial of the Rosenbergsp. 319
The Remington Casep. 329
Part XI The Civil Rights Movementp. 337
The Brown Casep. 346
The Prosecution of Martin Luther King Jr.p. 356
The Case of Clarence Earl Gideonp. 361
The Trial of Jack Rubyp. 369
Part XII The Vietnam War Era and Its Aftermathp. 375
The Trial of Dr. Spockp. 382
The Trial of the Chicago Sevenp. 390
The Court-Martial of Lieutenant William L. Calley Jr.p. 395
The Pentagon Papers Casep. 400
Roe v. Wadep. 405
The American Indian Movement Trialsp. 412
The Bakke Casep. 419
The Trial of Richard Herrinp. 428
The Trial of Jeffrey MacDonaldp. 434
Part XIII The 1980s and 1990sp. 445
The Trial of Jean Harris for the Scarsdale Diet Doctor Murderp. 452
The Attempted Assassination of President Reagan by John Hinckley Jr.p. 458
The Trials and Appeal of Claus von Bulowp. 462
The John DeLorean Trialp. 470
Flynt v. Falwellp. 477
The Bernhard Goetz Casep. 482
The McMartin Casep. 486
The Central Park Jogger Casep. 490
The Trial of Mike Tysonp. 493
The Two Trials for the Beating of Rodney Kingp. 507
The O.J. Simpson Trialp. 514
The Clinton Impeachment Trialp. 522
Part XIV The New Millennium and the Futurep. 537
Bush v. Gorep. 541
The Texas Sodomy Trial and Appealp. 551
The Cases of the Terrorist Detainees--in Guantanamo, on the U.S. Mainland, and in Unknown Places Around the Worldp. 559
Indexp. 569