Famous American Trials

by | Mar 12, 2021 | College (1-2), English, Research Paper

Introduction: According to philosopher John Rawls, “A society regulated by a public sense of justice is inherently stable;” while Martin Luther King states “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” The idea of justice and what is just is an essential part of society.
For this assignment, you will research a well-known trial from American history to determine whether or not the verdict was just. You will then report your findings in a well-organized essay and try to persuade the reader your thesis is correct, using evidence from your sources to help back up your points.
Upon completion of this assignment, you should be able to:

  • Research a specific historical event
  • Synthesis information (your thoughts and ideas with the facts and details from your research)
  • Cite sources correctly in MLA format both in-text and in a Works Cited page
  • Resources
  • Chapter from American Trials of the 20th Century on your trial edited by Edward W. Knappman. Available in the Library. There is a print copy in the library and copies of the articles can also be found in the
  • EBSCOHost ebook database. A link to all 205 chapters from this eBook can be found by clicking here
  • (https://ezproxy.sccsc.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=218197&site=ehost-live&scope=site) . You will need to narrow the search to the trials assigned in class. Copies of these articles are also available in our D2L class.
  • The Famous Trials website: http://famous-trials.com
  • To help you find the remaining sources, use the library’s Great American Trials Research Guide: https://libguides.sccsc.edu/trials


  1. Length of essay: 800-1000 words (4-5 pages). Paper must be in MLA format with sources correctly cited in
    text and in a Works Cited page.
  2. Required sources: minimum of four, but no more than six. Two of these will be given to you (the article from American Trials and the Famous Trials Website.) The other two need to be from reputable, academic
    sources (i.e. published: no website articles, other than the information found on the Famous Trials website).
    You can find more information about the trial to supplement what you already know, you may also want to
    research the time period in American history or the US justice system to help you determine your thesis.
  3. Remember for this essay, you do not have to prove whether or not the defendant was guilty or not guilty,
    you just have to determine whether or not the verdict was just or unjust. Did he/she receive a fair trial? Was
    their sufficient evidence to support the verdict?
  4. You may choose from the following trials Note: no more than 4 students can research the same trial.
    a. Leo Frank Trial (1913) b. Scottsboro Boys Trials (1931-1937-focus on the first one)
    c. Sacco-Vanzetti Trial (1921) d. Bruno Richard Hauptmann (Lindbergh baby) (1935)
    d. Leopold and Loeb Trial (1924) e. Triangle Shirwaist Fire (triangle fire) (1911)
    f. Samuel Sheppard Trial (1954—there are two—focus on the 1st one)

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