Famous Trials – Falwell v Flynt

Nowadays, there are many debates sparked regarding the First Amendment and the appropriate use of free speech. That people have the right to say what they want, however they want, regardless of the circumstances. Sometimes, however, the line between what can be regarded as free speech and what is considered slander or libel can be muddied and smeared to a point of near-indistinction. In the case of Jerry Falwell vs. Larry Flynt, this is exactly what happened.

Reverend Falwell was a well-known champion against the pornography industry, claiming that the content was poisoning the minds of young people and tarnishing the purity of marital relationships by encouraging sex out of wedlock. He was an activist who founded the Moral Majority organization, established to spread a religious agenda that promoted religious practices in schools and spoke out against acts such as abortion and the spread of pornography.

Contrarily, Larry Flynt was regarded as the ruler of the pornographic world. His famous magazine, Hustler, was well-known throughout the country, delving from written articles on public and private opinion regarding the pornography industry into the pin-up starlet display that many of us know it to be today. And it was inside one particular issue of Hustler, in November 1983, that Flynt had published what many would argue to be a libelous article defaming the Reverend Falwell, falsely claiming an interest in incestuous relations with his own mother chief among other acts. Not surprisingly, Reverend Falwell took these matters to heart and called upon his campaign to fund a legal pursuit for damages to his reputation as well as emotional distress suffered as a result of the matter, calling it a mission to champion against the pornographic industry.

During the process of the trial, some might recall the fantastic deposition given by Mr. Flynt as he lay handcuffed to a gurney, in a state of apparent discomfort that suffered due to an attack on his person in Georgia years earlier. He seemed to mock the legal process with comments of incredible association such as collaborative efforts toward the ad targeting Falwell that involved the likes of Yoko Ono, Billy Idol, and even President Jimmy Carter. Other comments involved his blatant distaste for the Bible and organized religion as a whole, comments that involved exceedingly colorful language. Eventually, the deposition devolved into a series of personal attacks on Falwell’s attorney, Norman Roy Grutman. The entire process went over so poorly that Flynt’s attorney, Alan Isaacman, had to claim mental incompetence on the part of Flynt due to manic-depressive syndrome brought on by Flynt’s physical state combined with medication he was taking while in jail.

In December of 1984, Falwell appeared in court in Virginia. He described in detail the relationship with his mother and his steps with religion that had transformed him into the man he was – the “second-most admired man behind the President.” He described his personal vendetta against the pornographic industry before and especially after Hustler’s personal attack on him, telling about how he was so angry that he might have reacted physically if Flynt had been anywhere near him.

When Larry Flynt arrived in court, he appeared to be a man changed. Instead of being strapped to a gurney in prison garb, Flynt wore a three-piece suit. His expression was much calmer and composed than it had been during his deposition. He spoke more clearly and concisely, and he cited his reasons for publishing such an article as a reactionary piece to Falwell’s campaigning against his magazine and the industry as a whole. Flynt claimed he didn’t expect his readers to take any of it seriously due to the simple fact that it was so incredible to think a man such as Jerry Falwell could realistically engage in such activities, and that he didn’t even harbor any personal vendetta against Falwell despite the ad. In the end, the court awarded Falwell for damages due to emotional distress as well as punitive damages, though denied him the award for libel due simply to how fantastic and unbelievable the ad was.

After this point, supporters of Flynt’s right to free speech spoke out, and eventually, Isaacman called for a certiorari (effectively a review of proceedings from a higher court) to the United States Supreme Court. The case became one that centered heavily around the interpretation of the First Amendment. Isaacman argued in front of the Supreme Court the parallel between Flynt’s ad and such demonstrations as political cartoons that are a clear-cut case of satire and not necessarily an intended defamation on a targeted person. He argued the distinction between unpopular speech as opposed to a treatise on standards of decency and morality. Isaacman emphasized Falwell’s personal quest to combat the pornographic industry as detrimental to Flynt’s profession and livelihood, and that Flynt was only reacting with a parody to meet the threat of Falwell’s campaign. And while Grutman attempted to argue a “deliberate, malicious character assassination,” the Supreme Court appeared to side with Isaacman. Counterpoints included Justice Scalia comparing the event with “politicians depicted as horrible looking beasts,” and Chief Justice Rehnquist wrote following a unanimous decision toward the tune of emphasizing the protected right of Flynt to write such an article even out of malice regarding public figures. The Supreme Court reversed the jury’s award to Falwell, cementing the near-absolutism of free speech without fear of reprisal protected by the First Amendment.

Famous Trials – George Zimmerman

On February 26, 2012, a confrontation between a young, black man and a neighborhood watch group leader sparked one of the largest social controversies the United States had experienced in many years. It was an event that rekindled issues such as racial profiling, civil rights, and ever-debated gun control laws. The altercation that was initially considered by police as an act of self-defense later brought on the activist star power of the likes of Jesse Jackson and Reverend Al Sharpton, and it even garnered attention from President Barack Obama. As widely known as the trial of O.J. Simpson in the mid-90’s, the trial of George Zimmerman in the case of Trayvon Martin’s death is sure to go down as one of the most infamous trials of the 21st century.

The general consensus of the story agrees that Trayvon Martin was walking down the street outside a resort community in Sanford when Mr. Zimmerman passed him by while driving on an errand. That is where the similarities regarding the separate points of view end. Mr. Zimmerman attested that, during  a 911 emergency call, he had heeded the advice of the dispatcher and broke off his pursuit of Trayvon Martin, when Martin had allegedly jumped him behind some bushes and began assaulting him. An audio witness who was speaking with Martin on the phone at the time attests quite differently: that Martin was approached by Zimmerman and promptly assaulted in turn. At this point, the guessing game involves whether Martin’s death was due primarily to self-defense or to an issue of racial profiling and bigotry.

While police initially concluded that there wasn’t enough evidence to arrest Zimmerman on grounds of assault, Travyon Martin’s father Tracy pursued the issue further with the help of civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump. The case attention and criticism nationwide, and an Internet petition gathered over 2 million digital signatures that called for Zimmerman’s arrest. State attorney Angela Corey charged Zimmerman with second-degree murder, a move that was criticized by many legal analysts as overreaching, without the arrangement of a grand jury.

While many nationwide viewed this act as racially motivated and thus called for Zimmerman’s conviction after his arrest, there were those within the legal community who fervently believed this case never should have gone to trial. Beyond the prosecution’s challenge of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that Zimmerman meant bodily harm to Martin without provocation, interviews later revealed that the jury did not even give discussion toward whether or not Zimmerman’s actions were motivated by race. Zimmerman was found not guilty after 16 hours of deliberation.

What may have been just as shocking as the event itself was the dichotomy of opinion and involvement that developed from the verdict. Polls suggested that a vast majority of Republicans approved the verdict while a minority number of Democrats agreed. Of those polled, an overwhelming number of African Americans found the shooting unjustified, while a dramatically lower number of Caucasian citizens concurred. As a nationally-involved trial, several political figures, athletes and celebrities voiced their opinions on the jury’s verdict, just as divided as the general public.

There are those who criticize Ms. Corey for her decision to take this case to court, especially without convening a grand jury beforehand. There are those who believe this case was simply one that no prosecuting team could win given the evidence that they were to use. Some believe Corey suffered from intense political pressure, and so charged Zimmerman simply for the sake of deflecting that pressure from her office. Some believe that charging Zimmerman was not serving justice, the primary function of a prosecutor, and that Corey may have just been looking for someone to pin the crime to in light of the situation garnering national attention from the civil rights community and anyone who believed the event was racially motivated. Whatever the case, after Zimmerman’s acquittal, the Justice department closed their own investigation and decided against pressing charges as well.

Who Was Ahmad Suradji?

Although we’re often taught to believe that the U.S. is the best at everything, it might surprise you to know that other countries breed their fair share of bat-crap crazy serial killers with equally bizarre rituals. Ahmad Suradji grew up in Medan, the capital of Indonesia, and would eventually confess to the slaughter of 42 women over the span of about a decade. He wasn’t picky about age, and killed an eclectic bunch ranging from about 17 to 40. And you thought all the crazy serial killers lived in New York

He was also known for breeding cattle.

Suradji lived on a sugarcane plantation and buried the majority of his victims there, where they were eventually discovered just prior to his arrest on April 30, 1997. He was absolutely sure that the heads of his victims were pointing toward his home, because he thought it would give him a power-up.

It gets weirder. He had three wives–sisters–who sometimes assisted him. Like most hobbies, killing is apparently more fun when the activity can be shared with those you love the most.

We’ll skip how he was caught, and focus instead on why he committed so many murders in the first place. He had a dream. In it, he was told by the ghost of his dead father that in order to attain status as a mystic healer (and we’re guessing an immortal legacy), all he had to do was drink the saliva of a measly 70 women. Oh, but they couldn’t be alive at the time. It had to be dead girl saliva, or it didn’t count.

He got lazy. He decided that he didn’t want to wait for chance encounters with 70 dead women, and so opted for the more reasonable approach to making his long-term goals a reality: he would just kill them all himself. No big deal. Mystic healing powers are nothing when compared with a few months or years of work. Did the steps for fulfilling the prophecy have to be followed to the letter? Questions for later.

Because Suradji was considered a sorcerer by the locals, women were already fond of making frequent visits. How do you most easily make the jump from offering spiritual advice to premeditated murder? Well, you make sure the women who come to you know that they need to be buried up to the waist, or else the real magic just can’t work like it should. The women were buried, and instead of working magic Saradji worked his hands around their necks rather tightly without offering the promised spiritual advice, after which he took his wet reward from their still-warm bodies.

Someone eventually saw a corpse with its head sticking out of the dirt at the plantation, he was caught red-handed, and the rest as they say is history.

Firing squads were a lot more common in Indonesia than in the U.S. at the time–another fascinating benefit of living abroad. Suradji was convicted of the murders and then killed by this means on July, 10, 2008 at the age of 59. We’re sure his wives, who all faced lesser charges and shorter sentences, will miss him always.

What Did Ted Bundy Like To Do In His Free Time, And Who Was His Daddy?

The man, the myth, the crazy guy with the unibrow you can’t look away from: Ted Bundy. Who was he, and why was he such a national sensation? You already know the answer, even if you don’t know the details. He was a serial killer operating in the U.S. with a penchant for kidnapping, rape and necrophilia–you know, the usual subject of American fascination. He liked them oh-so-young and eventually confessed to upwards of 30 murders while in police custody. But how did this tragic, and tragically enticing, story come to be?

His story is an interesting one. Because we live in a society that treats its bastards like unicorn turds, dear young Ted was raised by his grandparents instead of his not-quite-as-young-but-still-pretty-young mother, who subsequently posed as his sister. He eventually saw through the elaborate ruse (after being called a bastard), and seethed with rage toward his deceptive mommy. Although the real story isn’t clear from later interviews with Ted, it seems like his real father whom he never met and his actual grandparents were an abusive lot who liked the drink. By high school, Ted was stealing equipment to pursue his only normal hobby of skiing. Darker hobbies came a little later.

So he didn’t have the best childhood. Noted.

Ted had a fairly normal college experience before beginning to skip class. That’s how it happens, really: a young, upstanding citizen starts skipping class and before you know it young girls are starting to vanish from the face of the Pacific Northwest.

Or perhaps it began much earlier–a couple of homicide detectives strongly believe that Bundy began his serial killing stint in his teens. Either way, in 1974 women were popping out of existence on average of once a month. At first detectives didn’t know what to make of it, except that there was nothing obvious to connect the young women to one another, and an aggravating lack of evidence pointing to foul play. Eventually, remains were discovered near a site where Bundy often hiked and more at a state park. Things were starting to come together, but Bundy still wasn’t located.

Bundy moved to Salt Lake City to go back to college, and shockingly women began to disappear yet again. Ted was known to have brutally beaten, rape, sodomize, strangle, shampoo hair, and apply makeup with his victims. Sadly, that was also the typical order of operations during a ritual that was at that point routine for him.

This model citizen was caught by authorities in Utah in 1975 for the minute charges of aggravated kidnapping and attempted criminal assault. It wasn’t long before the local judicial system figured out that those charges were mere child’s play for Bundy, who was eventually connected to a series of murders spanning a number of states. Like most crazy people, he chose to represent himself during a preliminary hearing in Aspen. Since judges are stupid, Bundy was freed from his cuffs and allowed access to the courthouse library. You know those courthouses you walk past on busy city roads? This wasn’t one of those. He jumped from the second story window and poof! He was gone.

Because there was a much longer list of incompetent people involved, or maybe because Bundy is just that good, he was incarcerated again, escaped a second time, murdered three more people, and was then finally captured–for good–in Florida by 1978.

He was executed at the age of 42 on January 24, 1989, and gave most everyone in the country a reason to be thankful for capital punishment. His legacy of terror persists even today. Will we ever get over our possibly unhealthy obsession with serial killers, rapists, mass murders, explosions, and dystopian TV dramas? Probably not.

Luis Garavito: The Ghoul Of Columbia

There is really almost nothing to say about a man who is sentenced to eight centuries in jail for his crimes. And when a man is known for raping and killing young boys, well …

Silence is golden. But writing no more words would be bad for blogging, so we’ll force ourselves to tell his story because it is a man most in North America will not know about otherwise, yet is someone who puts Charles Manson and Jeffery Dahmer combined to shame.

Luis Garavito is considered one of the world’s worst serial killers (right up there with H.H Holmes in the U.S. and Jack the Ripper in Europe), yet because he was in Latin America, not many people know about him. His exploits were almost legendary in scale in that he confessed to sexually assaulting and killing almost 200 young boys between the ages of 6 and 16 over a seven-year period in the 1990s (about five every two months over that time), and it wasn’t until he was arrested for suspicion of sexually assaulting a boy that was not killed did the police find out about his killing spree.

Garavito confessed to every murder, and in fact drew detailed maps to show authorities where all the bodies were located. It is believed that Garavito may have killed as many as 300 by the time all is said and done, considering the number of unreported crimes and unfound missing children around that time.

As Garavito confessed to murders in Colombia (they were scattered about 11 of the country’s 32 districts) and Ecuador, he has had prison sentences piled on each other in that he is serving what amounts to more than 830 years in prison.

How did he do so much killing without being caught sooner? Authorities said he often would drift around the country, preying on homeless or unattended boys while dressed as a priest or monk, inducing the boys with money or drink. Many of the boys would not be reported missing because there was a lack of adult supervision or guardianship over many of these children, which made it easier for Garavito to steal away his victims, sexually assault them, mutilate their bodies, kill them and bury them with no one being the wiser.

It may not be surprising to learn that Garavito grew up in a rough childhood, colored with abuse from his father and others. He had just five years of formal schooling and left home at 16, gathering odd jobs before eventually drifting around the country. His killing spree began sometime in 1992 when he was about 35 years old, and encompassed nearly 60 towns and cities around Colombia and Ecuador by the time he was finally jailed in April 1999.

Colombia does not have the death penalty, but as the country has not had a serial killer of such magnitude before, and considering the victims and the general outrage of Garavito’s story, according to a website, there has been a push to change the law to allow for an execution in these rare instances.

Elisa Lam: Mystery Gross Over TIme

A young woman of Chinese descent, raised in Canada, spending time in Los Angeles, found dead in a water tank on the roof of a notorious hotel.

There is a reason to think that Elisa Lam’s mystery would gather international attention.

Lam, a 21-year-old Chinese-Canadian, was found face-up in a rooftop water tank atop the Hotel Cecil in downtown Los Angeles in February 2013, and how she got there and how she died is still a mystery, despite a thorough investigation and even the viral elevator video featuring Lam inside the hotel.

The death has captivated many in the four short years since it occurred, as the official autopsy report called the death an accidental drowning, but there are so many questions still unanswered, namely:

  • How did Elisa get into the tank in the first place?

Elisa would have had to climb out the window of her room, up the fire escape, then up a ladder to the top of the tank (which was about eight feet high), then lift the 20-pound lid, climb in, then close the lid behind her. Not to mention, she was found naked in the tank.

  • What was going on in the elevator video?

Elisa has captivated many with the elevator surveillance video, which the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) released to the public just days after Elisa’s body was found. Known to have bipolar disorder and depression, Elisa was seen to be acting oddly in the video, cowering in the corner of the elevator at one point, and at another point seeming to be talking to someone in the hallway – though there was no other person seen. Was she having an episode, or was she really talking to someone who just happened to be outside of camera view?

  • Was there drugs or alcohol involved?

This question is only partially settled in that the official toxicology report showed that there was no drugs or alcohol in Elisa’s system. However, does that mean the three or four known medications she was supposedly taken were not in her system either? Actually, we’re not sure of that because there was no report of blood work done on Elisa’ body, which would have confirmed the existence of these medications as well as any other foreign substances.

And no, the body showed no signs of trauma that might have suggested a homicide, and there seemed to be no real evidence that Elisa died as a suicide attempt (the Hotel Cecil has a reputation, but all those suicides were executed by jumping off the building, not drowning in the tank). Elisa’s personal effects and some of her clothing was found floating next to her in the water, and her body was only found after maintenance crews responded to guest complaints about low water pressure and/or muddy water.

The real tragedy here is that Elisa’s family, especially her parents back in Vancouver, British Columbia, has many of the same unanswered questions, and also does not have the closure that they would need to understand what happened to their girl.

It is a death that has inspired episodes of shows and even short films – which makes sense since it was right in the backyard of Hollywood.

Elisa Lam’s death is truly an L.A. Confidential.

 

The Sodder Children: Fire Or Mafia Statement?

Was it just a tragic accident, or was there a nefarious purpose?

Was it a tragic loss of life, or a cover for a kidnapping?

Was it just a matter of a grieving family’s grasp for hope, or were five children truly taken and were actually still alive?

The sad story of five of 10 Sodder children in West Virginia in 1945 eventually caught the compassion and attention of the nation in the months and years following.  The story is a clash between what has been “officially” determined about their fates, and the story pushed forward by the Sodder parents, who were never convinced that their children died in that house fire Christmas Eve night in 1945.

The fire started from the fuse box at a two-story house where the Sodder family of George and Jennie Sodder and thei r 10 children lived. Five of the children, aged 5 to 14, where in the two attic bedrooms when the fire broke out, and the staircase that would have led downstairs was engulfed in flames, so the children had to find another way out.

George Sodder, the father, tried to get up to the bedroom window from the outside of the house to rescue the children, but could not because a ladder that would have been used was missing (later found dumped in a nearby ravine). He tried as best he could, but could not reach the children, and was left to hopelessly watch the fire consume the entire house, and presumably the five children with it.

The next morning, Christmas Day, there was a brief inspection of the fire scene (about two hours, when normal inspections will take days), and there were no human remains found on the property. The cause of the fire was officially recorded as due to faulty wiring, but George Sodder questioned that because he had an electrician re-wire the house recently, and the Christmas lights on the tree were still on and working while the fire burned around it.

With no remains recovered, and the ladder missing and found later in an area that made no sense, the Sodders begin to think that the fire was used as a ruse to have the children kidnapped from their bedrooms, as some sort of retaliation by the Italian mafia in response to George’s public rants against Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. Sodder had become a pillar of West Virginia society as an owner of a small trucking company, so his anti-Mussolini rants were well-known among the Italian communities in the Eastern U.S., as there were a number of Italians who supported Mussolini – including most of the mafia that operated.

George Sodder, in his haste to erase the memory of the fire, bulldozed the site soon after the initial investigation and buried everything under five feet of dirt, making all future investigations nearly impossible. Several investigations were undertaken in the years following, as there were eyewitness accounts of seeing the children leaving the house in a vehicle at the time of the fire, with even one waitress at a nearby diner serving breakfast to a “family” of children with a man on Christmas morning, with a car in the parking lot having a Florida license plate.

Seventy years later, the youngest of the Sodder children, Sylvia, was the last surviving member from that home (she was about 2 at the time). She had continually pressed the issue about knowing the whereabouts of her siblings, and even passing the story down to her own children to pursue until final answers can be determined.

There is a belief that death in the fire is most plausible conclusion, but there is also the belief that the kids were kidnapped and sent back to Italy. To this day, there is still no hard evidence on any website to support either result, so the mystery continues.

The Lindbergh Baby Kidnapping: The Right Man?

Charles Lindbergh crossed the Atlantic Ocean in a plane. If only he could have piloted the safe return of his young son.

The tragic story of “Lindbergh’s baby” made international headlines, and led to the “trial of the century,” resulting in a conviction and execution of the alleged kidnapper, though the convict maintained his innocence throughout.

The case involved 20-month-old Charles Lindbergh Jr., the son of famed aviator Charles Lindbergh and his wife, Anne. In the evening of March 1, 1932, little Charles was reportedly abducted from his crib at home in New Jersey just after being put to bed by the Lindbergh family nanny, Betty Gow.

In the days following, several ransom notes were sent to the Lindbergh, each with different ransom demands and different conditions for the ransom to be delivered. Finally, Lindbergh asked a family doctor and friend to meet with the man believed to be the kidnapper for an exchange of money in return for information of the location of the toddler.

The toddler was said to be on a boat called the Nelly, though the boat was not found – even by Lindbergh himself, who flew up and down the Eastern seaboard in his personal plane. Finally, a motorist pulled over to urinate in a patch of woods near the Lindbergh home and found the remains of a small child, decomposing and missing organs. Officials later determined that it was indeed Charles Jr., and that he had been dead as much as two months – long before the last of eight ransom notes was delivered to the Lindberghs.

It wasn’t until two years later, in September 1934, that a man was arrested and charged with the kidnapping and murder of Junior Lindbergh – a German immigrant named Richard Hauptmann, who was found by a license plate number written on the back of a dollar bill that was among those used as the ransom money (the police had tracked the serial numbers of the bills). Several of the bills were used along a certain subway route in New York City that went through the German-Austrian neighborhood of Yorkville in the Bronx.

An investigation of Hauptmann’s home revealed about $14,000 in ransom cash in his garage, the phone number of the Lindbergh family doctor written into a door jamb, and some wood floor panels missing that were consistent with the wood used to make the makeshift ladder that the kidnapper used to climb through the baby’s window at the Lindbergh home.

During the trial, the prosecution hammered the circumstantial evidence against Hauptmann, though there was no physical connection between Hauptmann, the baby and the crime scene (no fingerprints were found on the window, the crib, or the child himself). Meanwhile, Hauptmann’s defense was that he only discovered the money was left behind by a friend, Isidor Fisch, who had returned to Germany in late 1933 and died a few months later. However, cross-examination revealed that there was no record of the box being where Hauptmann claimed it was, and no record of a $7,500 business debt that Fisch supposedly owed Hauptmann, which the latter claimed as justification for about $40,000 cash being left behind by Fisch and claimed by Haptmann as debt repayment.

With Fisch dead, and the defense able to discredit several witnesses who claimed Fisch was near the Lindbergh house prior to the child’s disappearance, the circumstantial evidence against Hauptmann proved to be overwhelming, and he ws convicted of murder and kidnapping in 1935 and executed by electric chair in April 1936.   He insisted he was innocent, even turning down a commutation of his sentence to life in prison in exchange for a confession.

Scopes Monkey Trial: Collision of Religion vs Science

Can religion and science co-exist? Is there common ground between what fundamentalists believe about God and the creation of the universe, and what science has taught us about the universe and its origins?

In the 21st century, we can certainly answer that question a little more definitively than we could in the 1920s.In the 1920s, there was a real debate about religion and science and which should prevail in the education of children, and the flashpoint came in July 1925 with the famous Scopes Monkey Trial, which was immortalized in the book and play titled Inherit the Wind.

The Scopes Monkey Trial was a legal clash between Darwin’s theory of evolution and the Biblical account of creation as being antithetical. Earlier in 1925, the Tennessee state legislature passed what was called the Butler Act, which prohibited the teaching of evolution in any state publicly funded school.  John Scopes, a high-school science teacher in Dayton, Tenn., worked with businessman George Rapalyea to test this new law by launching a conspiracy to violate the law and put it on trial as an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment.

To make a spectacle of the law, the ACLU joined in the defense of Scopes and wound up enlisting famed defense attorney Clarence Darrow to for the defense team for the trial, which was to be held in the tiny town of Dayton. Darrow joined the cause after the prosecution brought one of the Fundamentalist heroes of the time, three-time Democratic presidential nominee William Jennings Bryan, to represent the prosecution, despite not having tried a case in more than three decades. It seemed like a death sentence.

Because of the names involved, and the thought of religion being attacked in a Bible-belt state like Tennessee, a large crowd of spectators and national media descended on Dayton for what turned out to be an eight-day trial that discussed evolution and the Bible.

After the judge shot down the defense’s primary argument challenging the constitutionality of the law by keeping the focus of the trial on Scopes and his alleged violation, Darrow pretty much had his hands tied. Even some scientific witnesses, who would have testified to the theory of evolution, were not allowed to testify.

Eight days of the trial led to less than 10 minutes of jury deliberation, and Scopes was found guilty of violating the Butler Act and was ordered to pay the minimum $100 fine (which is near $1,400 in today’s dollars). The case was appealed, and the conviction was overturned on a technicality, as state law prevented judges from unilaterally imposing fines of more than $50; the jury was supposed to impose the fine of at least $100 according to the text of the Butler Act.

Though Scopes was not called to the stand during the trial, he did say publicly afterward that he was not sure that he ever taught evolution in class, but the fact was not in dispute during the trial, which led to the conviction.

While Bryan, the fundamentalist Christian, won the case, he was publicly humiliated during the trial when Darrow took the unorthodox step of calling Bryan to the stand as a witness and spent two hours exposing Bryan’s Christian beliefs and his ignorance of science (at the time) and his literal interpretation of the Bible, which was already being heavily questioned by scholars around the world.

By the way, the Butler Act remained on the books until 1967, and these kinds of laws were banned altogether by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1968, which ruled a similar law in Arkansas was unconstitutional as a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

Why Is Amelia Dyer One Of The Most Notorious Serial Killers In History?

Out of all the serial killers whose murderous adventures interest society the most, none transcend the notable women who make the list. Especially those whose murders took place over a century ago. One of the most infamous serial killers of all time, Amelia Dyer, etched her name into history books forever as a result of killing babies. That’s right. Babies. It doesn’t get any worse (unless you keep reading).

Born in Britain, Dyer was a nurse living in poverty after her husband died, and she desperately needed a way to support herself. Perhaps it was not long until she had an epiphany that would change her life (and the lives of many soon-to-be-murdered infants) forever. She would turn to baby farming. If you’re confused, don’t worry. You’re in good company. When people needed a little extra cash, they would turn to parents who could not or would not care for their own kids. In other words, baby farming was a genuine kids-for-cash get-rich-quick scheme. For Dyer, it didn’t work out so well.

The whole business of baby farming may have started out innocently enough, but time and circumstance would pave the way for tragedy. We don’t know if she murdered the first batch, but a few did not survive Dyer’s care all the same. In addition to the ones she had adopted, she was already caring for her own two. When her baby farm started to lose members, she was tried and convicted of negligence. For her alleged crime, she was forced to do six months of hard labor.

After that, it’s a lot more clear that she was murdering kids on purpose. Because she strangled them and dumped their bodies, it became a lot easier to decipher her intent. Eventually, one of the murdered kids was found in a bag floating down the Thames River. Whatever evidence was found with the body, it implicated her in the murder.

This time she wouldn’t get off the hook so easy. Or at all, really. She was convicted of murder and sentenced to hang, a punishment that was carried out on June 10, 1896. The date capped a life of pain and trauma that included the deaths of two younger sisters and the care of a deteriorating and raving mother dying of typhus, in addition to the cruelty and mental instability that had frequently landed her in the care of asylums that obviously did little to help work out her problems. Experts believe she tried to commit suicide at least once.

It is not known exactly how many children’s lives she was responsible for ending, but the number is thought to be more than four hundred. Only twelve were ever definitively confirmed.

Someone even proposed the theory that Dyer was responsible for the Jack the Ripper killings. Although it was probably a theory deemed unlikely, it could be somewhat plausible. Dyer probably had the expertise to perform abortions (although Jack the Ripper was responsible for killing prostitutes as the result of improperly performed abortions). Could the two serial killers in fact be one? We’ll probably never know if there was a real connection.

Like all terrible acts of cruelty, the case did lead to some positive change. Afterward, Britain made adoption a more strenuous affair in order to make “baby farming” more difficult for those seeking financial gain in exchange for kids who obviously did not stand to benefit from the arrangements of their elders.