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Jury of the Damned
Dan'l Webster had faced some hard juries and hanging judges in his time, but this was the hardest he'd ever faced, and he knew it. They sat there with a kind of glitter in their eyes, and the stranger's smooth voice went on and on. Every time he'd raise an objection, it'd be "Objection sustained", but whenever Dan'l objected, it'd be "Objection denied". Well, you couldn't expect fair play from a fellow like this Mr. Scratch.
Stephen Vincent Benet, The Devil and Daniel Webster

In The Devil and Daniel Webster by Stephen Vincent Benet when Daniel Webster is defending his client Jabez Stone against the Devil, he demands the right to a trial with an American judge and jury. The Devil agrees, provided he gets to choose the judge and jury. He provides a jury of traitors and murderers to sit in judgment on Stone.

This has been played with many times in homages, pastiches and parodies of The Devil And Daniel Webster, although some modern viewers may not know what the original source was.

See also Joker Jury and History's Crime Wave. May be subject to Historical Villain Upgrade.

Examples

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     Anime and Manga  

  • In One Piece, on the island where the World Government's justice is passed, the accused goes before a judge and jury. The jury is all convicts who have, so far, never passed a not-guilty verdict, on the grounds that they all want to take as many people with them as they can.

     Comic Books  

  • In Whiz Comics #43 Ibis defends Eric Winthrop, a friend whose acting career was due to a deal he was tricked into making with the Devil a year ago. The Devil is convinced to give a trial and summons the man's 'peers in evil'. The Judges are Nero, Brutus and Robespierre, and the Jury are 'Thieves! Sweepings of the Gutter! Renegades!' The Devil tells them he expects the verdict to be guilty. Ibis brings back memory of the courts crimes forcing them to flee from Earth as they cannot face this.
  • In The Incredible Hercules, Zeus is put on trial by Pluto with a jury of dead supervillains, including the Armless Tiger Man.
  • Superman was once put on trial by group of dead criminals raised when a magical MacGuffin fell into a prison graveyard. He had The Phantom Stranger as his defender.

     Fan Works 

  • The Pony POV Series has Fluttercruel end up in one of these after what appeared to be her death, with a court of demonic shadows ruling on whether or not she should exist. The find her guilty, but she fights her way out of it to help the heroes defeat Princess Gaia/Nightmare Whisper and fix the mess she was responsible for. Its left ambiguous as to whether or not this was real or all in her head.
    • Starlight finds herself in one after dying in the G2 Era's Class 2 apocalypse, being on trial for her role in said apocalypse. Her Defense Attorney is an unnamed Alicorn version of her and the Prosecutor is a foal. In an unusual case, she's both the defendant and the judge, with Judicium, the Alicorn of Judgment, serving as her adviser. She finds herself guilty at the end. In another twist, her Defense Attorney was actually Havoc, the Dimension Lord of Hell, and that declaring herself innocent would've condemned her because it means she's refusing to accept responsibility for her actions. The Prosecutor was actually the Father of All Alicorns, the Dimension Lord of Heaven who was trying to get her to accept that responsibility and ask forgiveness so he could give it and let her into Heaven.

     Film  

  • The Devil and Daniel Webster was made into a brilliant film version in 1941, also known as All That Money Can Buy, with a screenplay by Benet.
  • The 2001 film version, released in 2007, Shortcut To Happiness transfers the story to modern-day Las Vegas.
  • There is an animated version titled The Devil and Daniel Mouse.
  • In the 1946 movie A Matter of Life and Death, Englishman Peter Carter is put on a trial before a celestial jury to determine whether he has the right to remain on Earth. The prosecutor is American Abraham Farlan, who hates the British for causing his death in the American Revolutionary War. Carter's defender, Doctor Reeves, challenges the composition of the jury, which is made up of representatives who are prejudiced against the British: a Napoleonic French officer, a Boer soldier from the Boer War, a Russian killed in the Crimean War, an Indian killed in the annexation of the Punjab, a Chinese man who died in the Boxer Rebellion, and an Irishman from the early 20th Century.

     Literature  

  • The originator of this trope was the short story The Devil and Daniel Webster by Stephen Vincent Benet.
  • The Barsoom Project, sequel to Larry Niven's Dream Park, features a sequence where the Player Characters are put on trial by the manifestations of humanity's sins and crimes as defined by the literal themepark version of the Eskimo religion.
  • In the Xanth book Heaven Cent, Prince Dolph has to protect the skeleton Grace'l Ossein from one of these, though it's less a jury of the damned and more a jury of characters met earlier in the book.
  • Implied to be the case in J. S. Le Fanu's "Mr. Justice Harbottle," where the title character, a Hanging Judge, winds up on trial in the High Court of Appeal in the Kingdom of Life and Death. It doesn't help that the Judge is on trial before a monstrous version of himself.

     Live Action TV  

     Tabletop Games 

  • In Dungeons & Dragons cosmology, the closest thing demons have to a justice system is the Lords of Woe, a cabal of nalfeshnee who hold court on the 400th layer of the Abyss, Woeful Escarand. The court enforces the law of the Abyss, or at least their interpretation of it, and as you might expect of demons, it's little more than a dark and insane parody of a true court of law. Most of the time they simply decide the fates of chaotic evil mortal souls who end up in the Abyss; when they actually decide to hold a trial, the defendants are usually tried in absentia, as few are willing to submit themselves to their "justice". The only thing that keeps them from becoming a total joke is pacts written in ancient times that do, indeed, given them authority to make judgments, so those who are convicted tend to give them a wide berth.

     Theatre  

  • Benet co-wrote a one-act opera based on the short story.

     Web Comics  

  • Richard in Looking for Group is held in court to be judged by his peers — the damned, who don't think he's living up to his damnation. Subverted in that they don't have the power to enforce their ruling after all.

     Western Animation  

  • The Simpsons episode 'Treehouse of Horror IV' ("The Devil and Homer Simpson" segment), when Homer sold his soul for a doughnut, included a jury consisting of John Wilkes Booth, Lizzie Borden, John Dillinger, Blackbeard, Benedict Arnold, the starting lineup of the 1976 Philadelphia Flyers (popularly known as the "Broad Street Bullies" because they were famed for their violent play), and Richard Nixon.
    Nixon: But I'm not dead yetnote ! In fact, I just wrote an article for Redbook. Anybody see it?
    Satan (Flanders): Hey, I did a favor for you!
    Nixon: Yes, master.
  • Tiny Toons episode "Night Ghoulery" ("The Devil and Daniel Webfoot" segment).
  • In Tripping the Rift episode "The Devil and a guy called Webster", Chode sells his soul to Satan. To get out of paying what he owes, the crew intends to travel back in time to the 1880s to hire Daniel Webster to represent him. Unfortunately, they accidentally travel to the 1980s, and brink back Emmanuelle Lewis (aka Webster). Incredibly, he still manages to win the case.
  • In The Smurfs episode "Harmony Steals the Show", Harmony Smurf is put on trial by a jury of (generic) ghost musicians and composers in a dispute about being in a legally-bound contract that allowed him to use a ghost's original symphony as his own in exchange for being that ghost's eternal spectral nightclub performer; only the ghost making the charge against Harmony is found guilty of plagiarism when the "original symphony" he claimed he created was revealed to be musical pieces stolen from other musicians.
  • The Nelvana production The Devil And Daniel Mouse sees a jury of the damned. The Devil himself supplies three demons to sit as jurors, and when Daniel complains that a jury requires twelve persons, the demons split into several copies until there are twelve.


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