Show trial

Show trial

The term show trial is a pejorative description of a type of highly public trial. The term was first recorded in the 1930s. [OED] There is a strong connotation that the judicial authorities have already determined the guilt of the defendant and that the actual trial has as its only goal to present the accusation and the verdict to the public as an impressive example and as a warning. Show trials tend to be retributive rather than correctional justice.

Such trials can exhibit scant regard for the niceties of jurisprudence and even for the letter of the law. Defendants have little real opportunity to justify themselves: they have often signed statements under duress and/or suffered torture prior to appearing in the court-room.

Moscow Trials

Show trials were a significant part of Joseph Stalin's regime. The Moscow Trials of the Great Purge period in the Soviet Union are characteristic.

The authorities staged the actual trials meticulously. If defendants refused to "cooperate", i.e., to admit guilt for their alleged and mostly fabricated crimes, they did not go on public trial, but suffered execution nonetheless. This happened, for example during the prosecution of the so-called "Labour Peasant Party" (Трудовая Крестьянская Партия), a party invented by NKVD, which, in particular, assigned the notable economist Alexander Chayanov to it.

The first solid public evidence of what really happened during the Moscow Trials came to the West through the Dewey Commission. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, more information became available. This discredited Walter Duranty, who claimed that these trials were actually fair.

Nuremberg Trials

British jurist F.J.P. Veale implied, in his book "Advance to Barbarism" that the 1946 Nuremberg Trials of Nazi leaders amounted to a form of show trial, as the judgments were not rendered by a disinterested party, which is a key element of independent judicial integrity. Others have disputed this characterization, noting that the forms of due process were observed and that some of the Nuremberg defendants were acquitted or were convicted of lesser charges than desired by the prosecution.

ee also

* Trial of Charles I of England or High Court of Justice for the trial of Charles I
* Trial of the Gang of Four
* Jan Hus trial
* Kangaroo court: A sham legal proceeding.
* Trial of the Thirty, Paris, 1894
* László Rajk, a show trial under Hungary's communist regime
* Trial of Shafiq Ades
* Execution of Louis XVI of France
* NKVD Troika.
* Nuremberg Trials
* Secret trial: A trial not open to the public.
* Witch hunt, hunting down people of a certain race/trait/profession/political conviction for being/doing something sinful.


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Look at other dictionaries:

  • show trial — show trials N COUNT (disapproval) People describe a trial as a show trial if they believe that the trial is unfair and is held for political reasons rather than in order to find out the truth. Amnesty International has denounced the show trials… …   English dictionary

  • show trial — show .trial n an unfair ↑trial that is organized by a government for political reasons, not in order to find out whether someone is guilty ▪ Stalin staged a series of show trials …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • show trial — show ,trial noun count a trial that a government arranges for political reasons and decides the result of before the trial begins …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • show trial — ► NOUN ▪ a judicial trial held in public with the intention of influencing or satisfying public opinion, rather than of ensuring justice …   English terms dictionary

  • show trial — n. a trial, widely publicized and seemingly open and fair, of a person regarded as a political subversive or ideological dissident, in which a verdict of guilty is assured by means of false evidence, a forced confession, etc …   English World dictionary

  • show trial — noun a trial held for show; the guilt of the accused person has been decided in advance • Hypernyms: ↑trial * * * noun, pl ⋯ trials [count] : a trial in a court of law in which the verdict has been decided in advance They were forced to confess… …   Useful english dictionary

  • show trial — UK / US noun [countable] Word forms show trial : singular show trial plural show trials a trial that a government arranges for political reasons and decides the result of before the trial begins …   English dictionary

  • show trial — show′ tri al n. gov the public trial of a political offender conducted chiefly for propagandist purposes • Etymology: 1945–50 …   From formal English to slang

  • show trial — trial conducted in a totalitarian country that is not a true and fair trial (the outcome and sentence are generally pre determined) …   English contemporary dictionary

  • show trial — noun (C) an unfair trial 1 (1) that is organized by a government for political reasons, not in order to find out whether someone is guilty: Inadequacies of the Soviet system that made such show trials necessary …   Longman dictionary of contemporary English

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