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As World Awaits Verdict in George Floyd Trial, What Other Cases Have Had the Globe Enthralled?

The 12 jurors considering the fate of former police officer Derek Chauvin are sequestered in a Minneapolis hotel room considering testimony from 45 witnesses. The George Floyd trial is the latest trial to have caught the world’s attention.

 

Law enforcement across the United States is on alert for a violent reaction if former police officer Derek Chauvin is acquitted of murdering George Floyd.

Chauvin, who is white, has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

​Chauvin, 44, was caught on camera kneeling for nine minutes on the neck of Floyd, a 46-year-old African-American man who was handcuffed and placed on the ground after allegedly buying cigarettes with a fake US$20 bill.

Jurors must reach a unanimous verdict on each charge to find him guilty or not guilty and if any one of them disagrees with the majority a mistrial would be declared and a new jury would hear the case all over again.

The outcome of the trial is being watched all over the world. Sputnik takes a look at some other cases which held the world enraptured.

The Trials of Oscar Wilde – 1895

In the late Victorian era Oscar Wilde was one of the most popular playwrights in London.

His plays, Salome and The Importance of Being Earnest, played to packed crowds in London’s West End and he also earned wild reviews for his novel The Picture of Dorian Gray.

​But in 1891, at the height of his fame, Wilde, 38, began a homosexual affair with Lord Alfred Douglas, a young poet and aristocrat.

The affair outraged Douglas’s father, the Marquess of Queensberry, who set out to ruin Wilde’s reputation by making the world know about his sexual peccadilloes.

Homosexuality was illegal at the time but Wilde stupidly sued for libel.

Queensberry’s barrister, Sir Edward Carson, announced he proposed to call to the witness box a procession of young men with whom Wilde had been sexually associated.

Wilde not only dropped the libel action but tried to flee the country but was captured and put on trial for gross indecency.

On the fourth day of the trial Wilde took the stand. 

Wilde spoke up in defensive of homosexuality, saying: “It is in this century misunderstood, so much misunderstood that it may be described as the ‘Love that dare not speak its name,’ and on account of it I am placed where I am now. It is beautiful, it is fine, it is the noblest form of affection. There is nothing unnatural about it…The world mocks it and sometimes puts one in the pillory for it.”

The jury in his first trial were unable to reach a verdict but he was convicted at a retrial and jailed for two years, during which he wrote the Ballad of Reading Gaol.

The Dreyfus Trial – 1899

In 1894 Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish officer in the French Army had been jailed for life and sent to the penal colony of Devil’s Island off the coast of Guiana after being convicted of spying for Germany.

After his conviction Dreyfus had the insignia torn from his uniform and was paraded before a baying Paris crowd, which shouted: “Death to Judas, death to the Jew.”

​Four years later the influential writer Émile Zola wrote an open letter in the French newspaper L’Aurore which began “J’accuse (I accuse)…”

In it he highlighted the serious judicial errors and lack of evidence against Dreyfus and went on to accuse the establishment of anti-Semitism. Zola’s open letter led to him being convicted of libel and having to go into temporary exile in England.

In 1899 the eyes of the world were on France again when Dreyfus was granted a new trial. But again he was found guilty by a court martial.

It was only in 1906 that Dreyfus was officially pardoned and reinstated in the army.

Dreyfus retired from the army due to ill health in 1907 but was called back when the First World War broke out and served with distinction, being awarded the Légion d’honneur for his part in the battle of Verdun.

Nuremberg Trials – 1945/6

On 20 November 1945 the surviving leaders of the Nazi regime went on trial in the Bavarian city of Nuremberg.

By the time the trial began Hitler, Goebbels and Himmler were already dead but Hermann Goering was joined in the dock by Hitler’s deputy Rudolf Hess, foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop and 21 other prominent Nazis.

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