- 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 judicialauthorities have already determined the guiltof the defendantand 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
jurisprudenceand 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 tortureprior to appearing in the court-room.
Show trials were a significant part of
Joseph Stalin's regime. The Moscow Trialsof the Great Purgeperiod in the Soviet Unionare 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 Chayanovto 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.
British jurist F.J.P. Veale implied, in his book "Advance to Barbarism" that the 1946
Nuremberg Trialsof Nazileaders 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.
* Trial of Charles I of England or
High Court of Justice for the trial of Charles I
* Trial of the
Gang of Four
Kangaroo court: A sham legal proceeding.
Trial of the Thirty, Paris, 1894
László Rajk, a show trial under Hungary's communist regime
* Trial of
* Execution of Louis XVI of France
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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