Crimes and Trials of the Century [Two Volumes] [2 volumes]

Overview

What do O. J. Simpson, the Lindbergh baby, and Gary Gilmore have in common? They were all the focus of famous crimes and/or trials in the United States. In this two-volume set, historical and contemporary cases that not only shocked the nation but that also became a part of the popular and legal culture of the United States are discussed in vivid, and sometimes shocking, detail. Each chapter focuses on a different crime or trial and explores the ways in which each became famous in its own time. The fascinating ...

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Overview

What do O. J. Simpson, the Lindbergh baby, and Gary Gilmore have in common? They were all the focus of famous crimes and/or trials in the United States. In this two-volume set, historical and contemporary cases that not only shocked the nation but that also became a part of the popular and legal culture of the United States are discussed in vivid, and sometimes shocking, detail. Each chapter focuses on a different crime or trial and explores the ways in which each became famous in its own time. The fascinating cast of characters, the outrageous crimes, the involvement of the media, the actions of the police, and the trials that often surprised combine to offer here one of the most comprehensive sets of books available on the subject of famous U.S. crimes and trials.

The public seems fascinated by crime. News and popular media sources provide a steady diet of stories, footage, and photographs about the misfortunes of others in order to satisfy this appetite. Murder, rape, terrorism, gang-related activities, and other violent crimes are staples. Various crime events are presented in the news every day, but most of what is covered is quickly forgotten. In contrast, some crimes left a lasting impression on the American psyche. Some examples include the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the bombing of the Murrah building in Oklahoma City, and the September 11th attacks. These events, and other significant cases, are immediately or on reflection talked about as crimes of the century. They earn this title not only because they generate enormous publicity, but because of their impact on American culture: they help define historical eras, influence public opinion about crime, change legal process, and focus concern about important social issues. They seep into many other shared aspects of social life: public conversation, fiction and nonfiction, songs, poems, films, and folk tales.

This set focuses on the many crimes of the century of the last 100 years. In vivid detail, each crime is laid out, the investigation is discussed, the media reaction is described, the trial (if there was one) is narrated, the resolution is explored, and the significance of the case in terms of its social, political, popular, and legal relevance is examined. Illustrations and sidebars are scattered throughout to enliven the text; print and electronic resources for further reading and research are offered for those wishing to dig deeper. Cases include the Scopes Monkey trial, Ted Bundy, Timothy McVeigh, O.J. Simpson, Leopold and Loeb, Fatty Arbuckle, Al Capone, JonBenet Ramsey, the Lacy Peterson murder, Abu Ghraib, Columbine and more.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Crimes and Trials of the Century offers an excellent starting point for those interested in crime history and the media. It is recommended for both public and private libraries and would serve as a nice supplement for a variety of criminal justice, criminology, and sociology courses."

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American Reference Books Annual

"The scholary essays of this guide explore the details of each crime, the legal issues involved, the course of litigation and appeals. The analysis assesses the impact of the media on the case as well as change in laws, criminal justice procedures, and the attitudes of society at large….This excellent survey will provide students of criminal justice, communication, political science and cultural history with a provocative introduction to key issues in criminal prosecution in the United States."

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Lawrence Looks at Books

"Appropriate for high school students and above as well as for general readers, this two-volume reference, in a thoughtful, non-sensational manner, presents criminal cases of the past 100 years that have caught the attention of the public for various reasons. Arranged chronologically, the first volume covers the Black Box Scandal of 1920 through the Attica Prison riots of 1971; the second, from Pine Ridge trials in the mid-1970s to Abu Ghraib in the early years of the 21st century. The cases are described in detail with a substantial amount of material illuminating the individuals involved, the social and historical contexts, legal issues, and outcomes. In addition, editors Chermak (criminal justice, Michigan State U.) and Bailey (criminal justice, U. at Albany SUNY) provide a contextual introduction to each of the two volumes. A bibliography and thorough indexing conclude the second volume."

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SciTech Book News

"This set certainly provides fascinating reading to laypersons interested in the topic. It would also be useful for assignments; the reading level is appropriate for high school readers and above. Recommended for public libraries or community colleges supporting sociology or criminology programs."

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Library Journal

"[T]his set looks closely at 35 particularly newsworthy American crimes….providing considerable detail on key moments along with thought-provoking discussion about their significance. Most entries are chronological, adding historical background as needed and avoiding sensationalizing the drama and suspense, which emerge effectively through the factual narratives. Clear distinctions between evidence, speculation, and consensus opinions provide fairly balanced views throughout….Clear writing, strong organization, and involving subject matter make this a strong resource."

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School Library Journal

"This text is strongly suggested for higher-education institutions that have criminal-justice programs. Public libraries and high-school media centers will also find it of use for its easy-to-read descriptions of often sensational events."

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Booklist

Library Journal

Although not immediately apparent from the title, this set covers only crimes and trials of the 20th century that occurred in the United States. Chosen according to their immediate and lasting influences on American culture, the cases are arranged (as stated in the set's introduction) in "rough" chronological order; Volume 1 spans 1900-72, while Volume 2 concludes with 2004's Abu Ghraib scandal. This particular split in time period is not accidental, as editors Chermak (Victims in the News) and Bailey (Out of the Woodpile) believe that the crimes of each period are characterized by recurring themes. The themes of Volume 1 concern the falls of celebrities, national security, notorious gangsters, legal debates, and turbulent social change. Volume 2 collects cases involving protectors of freedom and justice, signifying events, "if it bleeds, it leads," celebrities in the news, and the innocence of children. Each of the 35 cases is given contextual treatment within this identified framework. Each entry begins with a description of the setting in which the event occurred, and sidebars include web resources-such as the O.J. Simpson Poetry Corner-as well as time lines and other fast-fact type information. Black-and-white photos appear throughout, but one wishes for more. References and suggestions for further reading round out each entry. Volume 2 contains the index and a general bibliography as well as information about the editors and contributors. Is the Columbine shooting here? Yes. O.J.? Yes. John Gotti? No. The editors explain that certain content had to be excluded, such as crimes or trials involving presidents (no Lewinsky scandal here), terrorism, and organized crime.However, you will find an entry for Al Capone, the Unabomber, and Timothy McVeigh. The events of 9/11 get mention in Volume 2's introduction.
—Katherine Mossman

School Library Journal

Gr 9 Up -From the Black Sox scandal of 1919 to the investigations of Abu Ghraib through 2006, this set looks closely at 35 particularly newsworthy American crimes. In some cases legal events take on greater significance than the act that initiated them, as in the Scopes Trial, while others, such as "Alphonse Capone," focus more on crimes and detection. Most articles range from 15 to 25 pages, providing considerable detail on key moments along with thought-provoking discussion about their significance. Most entries are chronological, adding historical background as needed and avoiding sensationalizing the drama and suspense, which emerge effectively through the factual narratives. Clear distinctions between evidence, speculation, and consensus opinions provide fairly balanced views throughout. Articles look beyond specific events, stressing the powerful impacts of the media, public perception, and the moods of the times. Political movements, such as the role of the abortion debate in the Scott Peterson case, add further valuable context, and many articles examine the long-term legal and social impacts that the trials may have inspired. Two small black-and-white photos accompany a typical article. Shaded sidebars provide time lines, factoids, and further information, such as a biography of Rodney King in the article related to his case. Clear writing, strong organization, and involving subject matter make this a strong resource. The editors also produced the five-volume Famous American Crimes and Trials (Praeger, 2004), and nearly half of the essays here also appeared in that set, though this one has some added sidebars.-Steven Engelfried, Multnomah County Library, OR

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780313341090
  • Publisher: Greenwood Publishing Group, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 10/30/2007
  • Edition description: Two Volume Set
  • Pages: 752
  • Product dimensions: 7.30 (w) x 10.30 (h) x 2.20 (d)

Meet the Author

STEVEN CHERMAK is Associate Professor of Criminal Justice at Michigan State University. He is the author of Victims in the News: Crime and the American News Media and Searching for a Demon: The Media Construction of the Militia Movement and was co-editor of Media Representations of September 11th and Famous American Crimes and Trials.

FRANKIE Y. BAILEY is Professor of Criminology at SUNY Albany. She is the author of Out of the Woodpile: Black Characters in Crime and Detective Fiction (Greenwood Press, 1991), which was nominated for the Mystery Writers of America 1992 Edgar Award for Criticism and Biography. She has edited, with Donna C. Hale, Popular Culture, Crime, and Justice. She is also co-author of "Law Never Here": A Social History of African American Responses to Issues of Crime and Justice (Praeger, 1999), and co-editor of Famous American Crimes and Trials (Praeger, 2004) and Media Representations of September 11th.

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