Nonfiction books/articles about trials?
May 18, 2012 5:13 AM   Subscribe

Nonfiction books/articles about trials, please.

Does anyone have any recommendations for books or long articles that center around a trial (criminal or civil)? Doesn't matter which country. Looking for depictions that are particularly gripping or thoughtful. Thanks!
posted by caoimhe to Writing & Language (22 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

Iphigenia in Forest Hills is amazing. (WARNING: some people hate it, but they are WRONG, wrong, wrong.) (The shorter New Yorker version is also great.) I would also send you to her The Crime of Sheila McGough; really, almost all of Janet Malcolm's work involves trials in some capacity. (The coda to The Journalist and the Murderer is some of the best writing on trial law to date.)

Now, my favorite nonfiction book about trials is Reckless Disregard. This account of two overlapping libel trials is not a particularly easy read, but it's truly incredible. (This review points out that there is a sentence that is nearly two pages long.) But it's also masterful and thrilling.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 5:23 AM on May 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

Not a single trial, but Courtroom 302
posted by timsteil at 5:24 AM on May 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

RJ Reynolds is right that people who don't love Iphigenia in Forest Hills are wrong.

I would add A Trial By Jury, by D Graham Burnett, and of course A Civil Action.
posted by oliverburkeman at 5:31 AM on May 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

A Civil Action by Jonathon Harr. As a bonus, it has a documentary companion.
posted by megatherium at 5:32 AM on May 18, 2012

Helter Skelter focuses on both a crime (gruesome murder) and the subsequent murder trial. I'm not kidding when I say it is gruesome.
posted by the young rope-rider at 5:34 AM on May 18, 2012

And if you like Helter Skelter, you may also be interested in the author's take on the JFK assassination, Reclaiming History. The author took the role of prosecutor in a trial of Lee Harvey Oswald for the BBC, and his research is...thorough, to say the least.
posted by House of Leaves of Grass at 5:51 AM on May 18, 2012

For The Thrill Of It, about the Leopold and Loeb case in Chicago in the 1920's.
posted by bibliogrrl at 6:29 AM on May 18, 2012

I would suggest any of Bugliosi's books.
posted by TedW at 6:32 AM on May 18, 2012

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote is incredible.

Much more than just the trial.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:33 AM on May 18, 2012

The Murder of the Century: The Gilded Age Crime That Scandalized a City & Sparked the Tabloid Wars by Paul Collins

The Killer of Little Shepherds: A True Crime Story and the Birth of Forensic Science by Douglas Starr

The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: A Shocking Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective by Kate Summerscale

Also, if you can visit your local public library, the call number in the non-fiction area you want to browse in is 364.152 (true crime). There'll be plenty of trials there!
posted by stampsgal at 6:53 AM on May 18, 2012

The Bakke Case takes a close look at affirmative action and a Supreme Court decision that upheld it.
posted by IvoShandor at 6:57 AM on May 18, 2012

Anthony Lukas Big Trouble: A Murder in a Small Western Town Sets Off a Struggle for the Soul of America. Blurb:
After Idaho's former governor is blown up by a bomb at his garden gate at Christmastime 1905, America's most celebrated detective, Pinkerton James McParland, takes over the investigation. His daringly executed plan to kidnap the radical union leader "Big Bill" Haywood from Colorado to stand trial in Idaho sets the stage for a memorable courtroom confrontation between the flamboyant prosecutor, progressive senator William Borah, and the young defender of the dispossessed, Clarence Darrow.
William Rehnquist Grand Inquests: The Historic Impeachments of Justice Samuel Chase and President Andrew Johnson.
posted by shothotbot at 7:13 AM on May 18, 2012

Michael Musmanno's memoir, Verdict: My Life in Court is largely a series of accounts of the trials and other legal wranglings in which he participated. It's sort of a lawyer's version of All Creatures Great and Small.
posted by ThisIsNotMe at 8:58 AM on May 18, 2012

Eichmann in Jerusalem
posted by mkultra at 9:00 AM on May 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

And the Sea Will Tell (Bugliosi) is a true story about a murder and the trial that followed. Twist: it is set on a south seas island. A good read.

The Defense Never Rests is several short stories by F. Lee Bailey about some of his most famous cases.

The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher mentioned above is the true story of an investigation. But if you are looking for lawyer type stuff, there is no actual trial in it.
posted by SLC Mom at 9:30 AM on May 18, 2012

OMG! How could I have forgotten this one:

Reversal of Fortune: Inside the Claus Von Bulow Case
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:55 AM on May 18, 2012

The article Fatal Distraction in the Washington Post describes the trial of a parent who forgot his kid in a hot car, causing the kid's death. It's long-ish (5 pages). I first read about it here on Metafilter. Whenever I so much as think of that article I come close to tears.
posted by indognito at 11:20 AM on May 18, 2012

Long Way Home is about a guy who spent five years in jail waiting to even get to trial, and then the trial itself. Very good.
posted by BibiRose at 12:13 PM on May 18, 2012

A Trial by Jury is fairly interesting, if a little maddening at times.
posted by devinemissk at 12:51 PM on May 18, 2012

Speaking Freely is about several cases involving the First Amendment argued by Floyd Abrams. It certainly is not of the true crime genre but has interesting cases such as the Wayne Newton v. NBC libel case and the Pentagon Papers.
posted by EsotericAlgorithm at 1:19 PM on May 18, 2012

I strongly recommend The Buffalo Creek Disaster, by Gerald M. Stern. It's realistic, entertaining and even inspiring. It's a painless way to learn about how the legal system really works when it's working at its best.
posted by Corvid at 1:55 PM on May 18, 2012

Any of Ann Rule's books.
posted by SisterHavana at 11:52 PM on May 18, 2012

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