What Were The Nuremberg Trials And Why Were They Significant?

In Germany, the Nazi party held an annual rally in Nuremberg before the beginning of World War II. Many of the laws proposed and instituted during these rallies targeted Jews as a part of fundamental Nazi ideology, and they helped pave the way for the Holocaust to slowly unfold over the next decade. Many of the “Nuremberg Laws”–as they would come to be known–prevented anyone with Jewish blood from obtaining citizenship in the Reich, and made sexual relations between Jews and “pure-blooded” Germans a criminal offense. Over time, those of Jewish background all but lost most of the rights we hold universal and self-evident today.

It is only fitting then, that the trials which would crush Nazi war criminals under the fist of justice would take place in Nuremberg. They were carried out from the end of the war in 1945 until 1949 and were aptly named the Nuremberg Trials. The defendants of this trial were mostly former higher-ups in the Nazi party, including military officers, doctors, lawyers, industrialists, etc.

These trials were not only significant in their scope, but also because they were a cornerstone for the international laws that would eventually be drafted in order to prevent a recurrence of the atrocities of the Holocaust, most of which have persisted until today. They helped humanity recognize how these atrocities can occur, and who can legally be held accountable. In addition, it was only because of the Nuremberg Trials that an eventual international court was finally established in order to deal with proposed injustices as they occur throughout the world.

For many, these changes did not happen fast enough to make a difference.

It was not until December of 1942 that Allied leaders acknowledged the slaughter of the Jewish peoples who had resided throughout Europe at the time of Germany’s invasion–long, long after they already knew. It was at this time that they made public their intent to prosecute those responsible for the proposed crimes against humanity.

Perhaps a surprise to no one, Joseph Stalin suggested that up to 100,000 German officers be executed. Even Winston Churchill tossed about the idea of summarily executing certain members of the Nazi party. American leaders rejected these ideas outright, although probably not for the reasons we might invoke today. Instead, they believed the best way to avoid scrutiny of the executions in the future was to try those whose guilt was already certain. That way, evidence could be collected and cataloged for future generations who might otherwise judge those who put the men to death as equally guilty.

Although there was a precedent for trying military officers and political leaders for war crimes on a much smaller scale in regional conflicts that occur in one country or another, there were certainly no precedents available for trying such a great number of people accused of international crimes against humanity. The London Charter of the International Military Tribunal (IMT) helped draft the laws which would then govern the Nuremberg Trials. This charter helped categorize crimes based on what occurred. If you violated a peace treaty, you could be charged with a crime against peace. If you violated already-established customs or laws that typically govern war, you could be charged with a war crime. If you were guilty of murder, you could be charged with a crime against humanity.

These first steps were those that inspired the Geneva Conventions that we still use to govern international law today–and hopefully will into the future.

Aileen Wuornos: The Monster

“The Monster” is quite the appropriate nickname for Aileen Wuomos. While she was indeed evil, and there was no excuse for her actions, there was a clear time in her life where her evil was created, much like many fictional monsters throughout history.

Wuornos’ background is just about as harrowing as one could possibly be. She never met her father (he was charged with sex crimes against children and hanged himself in prison), was abandoned by her mother, sold herself for food and drugs at the age of 11, got sexually assaulted by her grandfather, was pregnant by 14, dropped out of school at 15, and lived in the woods as a prostitute to support herself.

The mental makeup of any person would be extremely distorted after what happened to Wuornos. Unfortunately, however, she responded about as negatively as one could to that terrible situation. She was arrested for a DUI when she was 18 and escaped the authorities by moving to Florida, where she married a 69-year-old man. Her brother then passed away, and she burned her $10,000 inheritance in less than two months.

After being arrested for armed robbery, she was arrested for car theft, where police found extra ammunition and a loaded gun below the driver’s seat of her stolen car. This was not enough to lock her up for good, however, as she met her soulmate, Tyria Moore, at a gay bar a few months later.

After teaming up with Moore, Wuornos turned to prostitution to provide for them. This is where her murders started. Wuornos murdered seven people, all of whom she claimed were in the process of raping her after they hired her as a prostitute. The victims of criminal activity included a store owner, a rodeo worker, a sausage salesman, and a security guard.

Wuornos and Moore stole the car of Peter Siems, a victim of The Monster’s crimes. When they were in an accident, their likenesses were reported to the authorities, and they were arrested for his murder, along with the murder of several others. In exchange for immunity, Moore was able to persuade Wuornos to confess for her crimes.

Although Wuornos confessed, she stressed that she only murdered men who were attempting to rape her. She was found guilty for sixth death sentences, as Siems’ body was never found, so she was not found guilty of his death. Wuornos was the tenth woman executed in the United States since 1976.

Famous Trials: Leopold and Loeb

In order to fully understand the ramifications of this trial, first, we have to learn a little about the two key players – Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb.

Nathan Leopold was a child prodigy with an intelligence of 210. He spoke 5 languages fluently and was a renowned ornithologist by the time he was 18 years old. Richard Loeb was also intelligent, skipping several grades and graduating University at the age of 17. But he was characterized as lazy and unmotivated.

This is important to note because Leopold and Loeb thought that their superior intelligence would allow them to plan and execute the perfect crime and not get caught. They were also both influenced by Nietzsche and his concept of the Ubermensch or Superman. The fact that they were intellectually superior to the common folk and their basic rules didn’t apply to them. They began testing this theory by a string of petty theft but no one noticed or cared. This is when they began to plan “their perfect crime” that would garner them media attention and catapult them into Superman status.

Leopold (then 19) and Loeb (then 18) somehow believed that kidnapping and murdering a young boy would be the perfect crime. They spent months planning every little detail from the method of abduction to the disposal of the body, to the delivery method of the money for the ransom as well as which chisel to buy to commit the murder.

Decided to murder Bobby Franks was easy as it was Loeb’s cousin and former tennis partner.

On May 21st, 1924 as Leopold and Loeb offered Franks a ride in a rented vehicle. Leopold drove and Loeb sat in the back seat with the chisel. Franks originally declined the invite but was convinced to get into the car after Loeb offered to discuss tennis rackets. Franks sat in the passenger seat and Loeb struck him in the head with the chisel several times. He then dragged him into the back seat, gagged him and Franks subsequently died. Then poured hydrochloric acid onto his face, body scar, and genitals to obscure any identification to the body, and dumped him in the culvert near the railroad in Hammond Indiana. By the time they arrived back to Chicago, there were already reports that Franks was missing. They made their first phone call to the Franks family saying a ransom note will be sent soon, then mailed their ransom note, burned Franks’s clothes and cleaned the blood off the rented car.

Then they poured hydrochloric acid onto his face, body scar, and genitals to obscure any identification to the body, and dumped him in the culvert near the railroad in Hammond Indiana. By the time they arrived back to Chicago, there were already reports that Franks was missing. They made their first phone call to the Franks family saying a ransom note will be sent soon, then mailed their ransom note, burned Franks’s clothes and cleaned the blood off the rented car.

The next morning they called a second time to dictate the first set of payment for ransom. This is where the plan fell apart. The intricate instructions were too confusing and a nervous family member forgot where he was supposed to go.

As this was happening, Franks’s body was found, and Leopold and Loeb knew their kidnapping charade was kaput. They destroyed the typewriter and went about their lives, as usual, thinking they committed the perfect crime.

As the investigation began, Loeb kept to himself where Leopold helped police and even offered to help. He even gave theories of what could have happened and was quoted saying “If I were to murder anybody, it would be just such a cocky little son of a bitch as Bobby Franks.”

Then things began to fall apart again. Found near the body was a pair of glasses. These glasses contained an unusual hinge mechanism that was quite expensive. Only three people in Chicago had purchased a pair of glasses such as these. One of which was Leopold. When confronted he said during a bird watching trip they must have fallen out of his pocket. But soon the destroyed typewriter was found by the police.

When questioned by police as to their whereabouts the night of the murder, they said they picked up two women and dropped them off by a golf course. However, their alibi was blown when Leopold’s chauffeur stated that the car was in the garage all night and being repaired.

It’s not surprising that Loeb confessed to the murder and kidnapping first. Loeb confessed that he was the driver and Leopold was the murderer. Then Leopold confessed but said he was the driver and Loeb was the murderer. Until this day, the details of who was driving and who committed the murder are refuted back and forth. But the common theory is the one listed above.

Now, onto the point of our blog: the trial. Once again the criminal defense lawyer was none other than Clarence Darrow. At this point, he had garnered a reputation for being the best criminal defense lawyer and was retained for $700,000.

Many people assumed that Darrow would go with a defense of not guilty by reason of insanity. Rather, he went for a guilty plea but ask the judge that rather than death penalty, to offer life in prison. Darrow’s speech during this trial is considered to be the highlight of his career with an overarching theme of inhumane methods and punishments of the American Justice system.

This 12-hour closing argument sparked a major reversal in America’s thinking about capital punishment and caused the overall number of executions performed in the country to decrease, which is why we believe that this is definitely one of the trials of the century.

 

Serial Killers: Carl Panzram

When people think about stereotypical criminals in the early 1900s, young Carl Panzram fits the bill perfectly. He had a bit of an alcohol problem, was always getting into trouble with the police, and ran away from home when he was only 14 years old.

In order to try and escape his troubled past, Panzram enlisted in the US Army, where he was promptly charged with larceny and ordered to serve a two year prison sentence by future president William Howard Taft. Panzram claimed that any shred of good left in him was destroyed in this time.

He was not reformed whatsoever in his time in prison, as after his release he continued his thieving ways. After being caught and imprisoned several times under several aliases throughout the country, Panzram emerged truly evil. His time in prison was full of beatings, as he routinely attacked guards and neglected their orders.

Panzram’s lack of remorse and huge physical frame helped create the monster he decided to become after his time in prison. He described himself as “rape personified” as his lack of remorse and physical strength made him nearly impossible to fend off, even though all of his victims were male. The only time in his life where he didn’t actively engage in crime was during his time as a strikebreaker, until he was dismissed for showing up to work intoxicated.

On June 1, 1995, after burglarizing a house in Oregon, Panzram was arrested while trying to sell stolen items. Panzam was sentenced to seven years in a penitentiary where the warden believed in harsh treatment of prisoners. Panzram was involved in the murder of the warden when he helped a fellow inmate escape. Like the true outlaw he was, Panzram was able to escape himself by sawing through his jail cell and escaping east via freight train.

After his escape, he raided William Howard Taft’s home, stole a gun, and began a murder spree. He would lure sailors outside of bars, get them drunk, and kill them before disposing of their bodies in a body of water. Panzram continued his spree after catching a boat to Africa, as he admitted to killing children and men while he was there.

All in all, Panzram confessed to over 20 murders and thousands of rapes and other personal injury. When he was sentenced to the death penalty, he refused any appeals, and asked his executioner to hurry up. Panzram wrote about his horrifying crimes in detail while on death row, and his story has been made into several movies and documentaries. He is the embodiment of evil.

Weird Crimes: The Unsolved Disappearance of Paula Jean

There’s the old adage that “life was simple back then”. And perhaps that is the truth because many teenagers thought that hiking through the woods in Vermont would be a good idea.

After working a double shift at the campus’s dining hall, 18-year-old Paula Jean told her roommate, “I am all through with studies; I’m taking a long walk.” It was a chilly afternoon in December of 1946.

Dressed in her signature red parka coat with the fur lined hood and blue jeans, Paula embarked on Vermont’s Long Trail, a 272-mile trail that goes from Massachusettes to Canada.

Here’s what we do know: a girl who matched Paula’s description was spotted by Danny Fager at a gas station near the college around 2:45 pm (when Paula left her room).

A girl who matched Paula’s description was spotted by Danny Fager at a gas station near the college gates around the same time that Paula left the school.

Fifteen minutes later, a man named Louis Knapp picked up a hitchhiker near the college on Route 67A that also matched Paula’s description. He dropped her off on Route 9 near The Long Trail.

Around 4 pm, Paula was spotted in Bickford Hollow. One man recalled seeing her without her red parka and told her that it was too cold to hike without the appropriate gear.

She was never heard from again.

The next morning, her roommate telephoned her parents if she had somehow gone home that evening back to Connecticut. This was not the case. The father organized a massive search party with no luck. Local investigator offered a $5,000 award.

Days passed with no luck. A few leads that were not reliable came in including a waitress who claims that served dinner to someone fitting Paula’s description in Massachusetts. Here’s where it gets weird: Paula’s Dad believed this woman and flew all the way to investigate the lead. He mysteriously disappeared for 3 days until he showed back up in Vermont having “not found anything.” Some people believe that Paula’s dad is somehow connected to here disappearance.

Here’s where it gets weird: Paula’s Dad believed this woman and flew all the way to investigate the lead. He mysteriously disappeared for 36 hours until he showed back up in Vermont having “not found anything.” Some people believe that Paula’s dad is somehow connected to her disappearance.

As time progresses more facts came to light. Paula had a boyfriend who her father did not approve of. Paula and her father had a huge falling out over it and weren’t on speaking terms. Some speculated that this boyfriend must be the guilty party despite their being no proof (other than a fortune teller saying so).

About 9 years later, in 1956, a lumberjack came forward, claiming to know where Paula’s body was buried. But after being questioned, he said he made it up for his 15 minutes of fame. But in 1968, almost 22 years later, a skeleton was found. But after some testing, it was revealed the skeleton did not belong to Paula.

As of this day in 2017, this is still considered an active cold case.

Tsutomu Miyazaki: The Human Dracula

Tsutomu Miyazaki was the textbook definition of a creepy guy. Even when compared to other serial killers, the things he did to his victims was nothing short of horrifying, from engaging in vampirism to preserving body parts.

Miyazaki murdered four young girls from August 1988 to June 1989 and faced trial for those crimes once he was caught. In his trial, it was revealed that his crimes might be a result of his father’s incestuous relationship with Miyazaki’s sister. On top of this, it was discovered that Miyazaki had hands so deformed that he needed to move his whole forearm just to rotate his hand.

Before he committed his crimes, Miyazaki moved into his parents’ house but did not want to work at his father’s newspaper. He apparently only wanted to be heard by his family, but they were far more concerned with production than emotion.

When his grandmother died in May of 1988, Miyazaki truly entered his most evil state for the first time. This deepened his already pretty damn deep depression, and in an attempt to keep her in this world, ate her ashes. After this, his sister caught him spying on her in the shower, which caused him to attack her.

While nothing will ever absolve him of his enormous crimes, not even CMZ, at least we were able to get some insight as to how someone so terrible could be created.

As for the murders, Miyazaki murdered four young girls between the age of four and seven and consequently violated their corpses. He drank the blood of one and ate the hand of another. Miyazaki then sent letters to the families of the girls he killed. He would send their burnt remains along with cryptic messages, which might have been the evilest part of all.

Miyazaki was caught in a park trying to take inappropriate photos of a schoolgirl and was eventually tracked down by the police after he escaped on foot. The police found thousands of videotapes in his house, which contained many pictures of his victims.

Miyazaki was executed on June 17, 2008, after being sentenced to death on April 14, 1997, which is an incredibly prompt timeframe in the Japanese court system. Many believe that Miyazaki inspired two copycat killers, which was a big reason for the swiftness of his execution.

Famous Trial: Big Bill Haywood

In order to fully understand the nature of this trial, let’s take a quick look at the circumstances leading up to it:

It begins in July of 1892 in Northern Idaho, during a worker’s strike of local miners because of their wages being reduced from 35 cents to only 30 cents. After discovering a company plant, angry union workers decide the best way to get their point across is to blow up a mill and hold captive non-union workers. Other union men commandeer a train and take over other mills in the area. The Governor of Idaho declares martial law and with the assistance of President Benjamin Harrison, the federal troops are sent in.

The Governor of Idaho declares martial law and with the assistance of President Benjamin Harrison, the federal troops are sent in. The Federal Troops arrest 600 union men and sympathizers where they are held with no charges and then released.  Union leaders are tried.

Two years later in 1894, 40 masked men assassinate John Kneebone, a witness against the union leaders. This forces President Cleveland to send more federal troops to occupy Idaho.

Tension like this continues over the next several years with more mining explosions more federal troops being sent it, with over 1000 union members and sympathizer being arrested as of 1899.

In the early 1900s, the violence continued; a train bombing killing non-union members and the governor of Idaho being blown to smithereens from a bomb planted in his home.

Now that we have some historical context, the next thing we must focus on is the investigation into the bombing of the governor of Idaho:

On December 31, 1905, a waitress from The Saratoga Hotel, remembers a visibly shaken Thomas Hogan after the explosion that killed the governor. A search of his hotel room shows traces of plaster of paris which was used to hold the bomb together. The next day Thomas Hogan (born Harry Orchard) is arrested for the murder of the governor.

The state of Idaho hires the best detective of the era James McParland. He meets with Orchard and offers a plea deal if he is willing to testify as to who hired him for the job.

After having a complete meltdown in prison on February 1, 1906, Orchard confesses to killing the governor as well as 17 other people on the behest of union members William Hayword, Charles Moyer and George Pettibone.

Aha! It’s all coming full circle!

After some ridiculous shenanigans of getting William Hayword back to Idaho (he was Colorado hiding out but was found), on May 9, 1907, Hayword stood trial for the murder represented by the criminal defense lawyer Clarence Darrow and Edmund Richardson.

On July 29, 1907, the jury deliberates for 9 hours and announces it’s decision.

Hayword is found NOT GUILTY.

How could this be? There has been much debate amongst historians. Some believe that it was Clarence Darrow’s eloquence while other’s believe that it was the prosecution’s failure to provide any evidence to Orchard’s claims against Hayword. And remember the burden is on the prosecutor to prove without a reasonable doubt that Hayword was guilty of ordering the murder of the governor of Idaho.

Reports from all over the country reported on Darrow’s skilled defense and his team’s ability to countering the witness is cross-examination. One reporter even wrote, “the greatest trial in modern times.” And that is precisely why it’s on his our list.

Weird Crimes: The Watcher House

Well, this first story isn’t really a crime as it is more creepy, and could totally be adapted into a horror film. But according to Ranker.com, this was voted the weirdest crime on their website. There was an indeed a lawsuit though, let me explain.

In June of 2015, a couple named Derek and Maria Broaddus received a threatening letter in the mail from “The Watcher.” In response, the couple left the newly purchases home and filed a lawsuit against the former homeowner for not mentioning the history of “The Watcher” and his/her relationship to the house.

According to The Watcher’s first letter to the Broaddus family, this particular house has been in his family for decades starting with this grandfather in 1920, his father in the 60s and now himself.

In the second and third letters, he mentions oddly specific things like how he disapproves of the remodeling and how they won’t let their children play.

An independent investigator went on the hunt to see if he could get some answers. After some digging, there was something odd about the lawsuit filed. The Broadduses claimed they spent a lof of money on renovations (as did The Watcher describe) yet no neighbors saw any contractors nor did the Braodduses file any permits with the city. One local visitor claims that the Broadduses wrote the letters to themselves to get out of their mortgage which was evaluated at one million dollars.

Meanwhile, as of March of 2016, the former owners John and Andrea Woods, filed a counterclaim for defamation of character. Another update happened on September 26, 2016. A superior court judge rejected the motion to dismiss the defamation lawsuit against the Braudduses. As of

As of February 2017, a new resident of the Watch home has taken residence and seems to be “unphased” by the stalker threats. The alleged author of the letters has not been identified and the suit and countersuit are still pending in court.

Here’s the news coverage from ABC News about a 4th letter that was sent to the home:

When Does Murder Become A Federal Crime?

According to the United States Constitution, criminal law is left to be handled by the individual States where the crime was committed. So for example, let’s say you kill someone in Florida and are caught, you will be tried under Florida’s criminal laws.

But did you know that there are 10 specific cases in which committing murder can be seen as a federal offense and therefore ultimately be tried in a federal court? Not that we condone murder in any way but here’s how murder becomes a federal crime:

  1. Murdering An Elected/Appointed Official Of The Federal Government – this includes the President, Vice-President, Congressman, Senators, Cabinet Members or Supreme Court Justice.
  2. Murdering A Federal Jude or Law Enforcement Official – this includes any judge servicing on the federal court as well as law enforcement officials like the FBI, CIA, DEA, etc.
  3. Murdering An Immediate Family Member of A Law Enforcement Official – you cannot threaten a law enforcement to drop their investigation by murdering their family.
  4. Murdering Someone With The Intent Of Influencing The Outcome Of A Court Case – you cannot kill jurors, witnesses, police informants or officers to help win your court case. It’s also a federal crime to kill someone in response to their testimony.
  5. Murdering Someone During A Bank Robbery – since bank robbery in itself is a federal crime, if someone is killed (civilian, security guard, etc) the criminal will be brought up on a federal murder charge.
  6. Murdering A Child With Ties To Rape, Child Molestation or Sexual Exploitation – if you have sexually abused a child and they are killed because of it or you murder them afterward that will lead you to a federal murder charge. 
  7. Murdering Someone Aboard A Ship – maritime law is tricky because the ocean is considered multinational but since you are crossing multiple state lines in some cases it becomes a part of interstate travel which is under Federal Jurisdiction.
  8. Murdering Someone For Drug Related Reasons – due to the country’s War on Drugs, drug related offenses have higher punishments and are prosecuted under federal laws.
  9. Murdering Someone Due To A Contract (Communicated Through Internet/Cell Phone) – since cell phone towers and internet lines cross state lines this falls under Federal Jurisdiction.
  10. Murdering Someone Due To A Contract (Communicated By Mail) – same reason as above.

For the record, MURDER IS A CRIME! We do not want anyone to commit these heinous acts. But in some situations, it becomes a federal crime where the punishment and sentencing are much more severe than if being tried in a state court. We are bringing these up in the event you watch Crime Dramas, you can impress all your friends and family with your knowledge of Federal Law.

The Story Of The Grim Sleeper

During the summer of 1985 until 1988, a killing spree began in Southern Los Angeles. It all started when a woman reported that she was raped and shot, describing her killer as African American, aged mid-20s, a little under six feet, about 160lbs, well mannered, educated, pockmarked face and well kept. People were on the look out for the “Southside Slayer.”

As it turns out, the woman was explaining none other than Lonnie David Franklin Jr. After being arrested in 2010 for a crime he committed in 2002, he earned a new nickname: The Grim Sleeper. He earned this nickname because of the length between the crimes in 1988 and 2002.

Most of the victims were African American women (all but one). There is a suspicion that he did murder one African American male but not confirmed. Most of his victims were also sex workers and his victims were murdered by being shot with a .25 caliber gun.

He was finally arrested in 2010 due to new forensic evidence (DNA analysis). Although his DNA was not in the system, his son was convicted of a federal weapons charge and therefore was. They used this DNA to help find Franklin through familiar DNA matching.

The trial took a long time to get under way because the police were still trying to identify all of his victims and secure evidence from over 30 years ago leading to a very long pre-trial length.

His trial began in February 2016 and on May 5th, he was convicted of killing nine women and one teenage girl and one count of attempted murder.  On August 10th 2016 he was sentenced to death 10 times for each person he murder.

We still do not know what caused Franklin to start committing murders again after a 14-year hiatus. Nor are we sure that there were no murders done by him between 1988 and 2002.

You can watch a documentary to learn more about The Tales of The Grim Sleeper here: