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Kangaroo Court / Real Life

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  • France could be pretty bad about this historically, especially in the military courts of the Third Republic.note  Alfred Dreyfus was convicted of treason in 1895 for supposedly selling secrets to the Germans despite the fact that he didn't do anything wrong, and to top it off military officials later suppressed evidence showing he was innocent (antisemitism was also involved, with Dreyfus being suspected because he was Jewish). The real culprit was even given a reverse example, being wrongly found not guilty to cover this up. Dreyfus was eventually pardoned five years later, but it took another six years after that for him to finally be fully exonerated of the charges.
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  • The 'Show Trials' of Stalin's Soviet Union, in which the court was ostensibly impartial, but enemies of the state would tearfully confess to the numerous crimes they had committed against Comrade Stalin, the Party and All Soviet People, and would beg the court to sentence them to the most severe penalties possible (mainly because if they didn't, their families would pay the price, which they often did anyway, as in the case of Grigory Zinoviev and Lev Kamenev, who confessed to outlandish accusations of crimes against the state solely due to the fact that Stalin promised their lives and those of their loved ones would be spared. The result was them both being shot in the basement of the Lubyanka and their families either receiving similar treatment or ending up in a gulag, which wasn't much better). This was after they'd been routinely beaten, tortured, and deprived of sleep for weeks at a time. With some defendants, crimes extended back to before there even was the Soviet Union to betray, with them supposedly traitors as they were fighting with the revolution, but not in any way preventing it (the reason for the harshness is quite simple: any judges that showed leniency would often be among the next defendants).
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  • The trial of former Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu and his wife Elena after the Romanian Revolution was an obvious show trial. It took 55 minutes. Even their own lawyers accused them of capital crimes. Though the presiding judge told them that there remained the possibility of appeal, their sentence of death by firing squad was carried out minutes after the trial. As Ceaușescu himself put it, "We could have been shot without having this masquerade!"
  • Joan of Arc's trial was headed by Bishop Pierre Cauchon, who was on the payroll of both the English Earl of Warwick and the Duke of Burgundy and handpicked the judges himself from members of the University of Paris who also hated Joan's guts. Seriously, she never really stood a chance. The Pope later declared the entire proceeding null and void, while completely exonerating Joan.
  • The 'People's Court' of Nazi Germany was extreme even by the standards of the regime. Impartiality or fairness to those "tried" in said court were not even feigned. Defendants were sometimes denied belts to hold up their trousers or given ill-fitting clothing to purposely make them look disheveled. Some trials consisted of little more than a rambling stream of invective language by the judge, Roland Freisler, a living caricature of a Hanging Judge, who one time even used "Off with His Head!" as a verdict. Fittingly, Freisler met a Karmic Death when his courthouse took a near-direct hit during an Allied bombing raid.note  The government allowed judges to give a defendant a sentence not allowed by law or even to reason by analogy if the "healthy folk sentiment" required it.
    • And this was the kind of justice that the Aryan Master Race reserved for itself: by comparison, those Slavic Poles who were judged in Sondergerichte (special courts, of which the People's Court was just one) were termed "Polish subhumans" and "Polish rabble" by the court, with a judge even saying Poles should get longer sentences than Germans since they were racially inferior. Regular courts in Nazi Germany at least nominally had legal protections for defendants (such as the right to counsel), but Sondergerichte lacked any.
    • At the end of the war, there were the even more ruthless "flying court-martials," staffed with SS and fanatical Nazi party members, who punished deserters and defeatists note  with a bullet in the back of the neck or by a hanging from the nearest tree or lamp post.
  • All trials in the early period of the People's Republic of China were this way. Defendants who didn't admit their guilt would be punished more severely (an aspect of mainland Chinese law that still exists today). A formal legal system didn't really exist until after Mao died anyway — the judges would be loyal party members who often had no legal training, with two "people's assessors" who more often than not were just peasants. Even now, the PRC's legal system is not renowned for its fairness.
  • North Korea:
    • People were executed for minor theft. The defense attorney agreed with the prosecutor.
    • Averted: bribing the police could get a person released. Many people were released to avoid overcrowding the prisons.
    • Subverted: people were arrested for a minor crime, charged with a political crime, and then the police would steal the evidence and sell it on the black market.
    • People are punished for the crimes of their family members going back three generations (i.e. there have been people born in labor camps because their parents had been sent there for crimes one of their grandparents allegedly committed).
    • Assuming they even bother with the show trial at all...
  • King Charles I had no chance of receiving a fair trial on charges of high treason, given that the tribunal was hand-picked by the enemies who had just defeated him. The trial was a short series of Courtroom Antics. Charles attempted to stop the indictment being read by the Solicitor General, first by tapping him on the shoulder with his cane, and then when this was ignored, striking him so hard it broke. He then refused to enter a plea, saying no court had jurisdiction over him, as its sovereign, noting that by the law of the time, kings were immune to prosecution. Since he remained silent, the court held this was a guilty plea (as was then-standard legal practice, going by the old Latin maxim "he who is silent is said to consent"). Despite this, they called thirty witnesses, although some were excused before testifying. King Charles was not allowed to hear their testimony, or cross-examine them (also standard back then). Obviously, he was found guilty and sentenced to death. The outcome, while undergoing plenty of constant negotiating behind the scenes, was never in doubt anyway.
  • In 1882, "Doc" Manning, Frank Manning, and James Manning found themselves in a rare example of a Kangaroo Court that wanted to get them off when they were tried for the murder of US Marshal Dallas Stoudenmire by a jury made up entirely of their friends.
  • In 1872, Susan B. Anthony was arrested for the "crime" of voting (remember that the 19th Amendment was still decades away). The judge at her trial refused to allow her to testify, specifically ordered the jury to deliver a guilty verdict, (which is a violation of principles of The Common Law dating from time immemorial)note  and then entered the verdict as "guilty" when they stood mute, refused to poll the jury afterward (even after both sides asked him to), and read an opinion he had written weeks before. Anthony informed the court she would never pay the sentenced $100 fine, and she kept her word for the rest of her life. The judge said he wouldn't send her to jail instead (knowing it would lead to appeal, on which he would surely be reversed, even being quoted in some accounts as saying, in reference to her defiant vow before leaving the courtroom, "I fear that she is right, and the law will soon be changed."),note  and an embarrassed New York state government was only too happy to forget the whole thing.
  • Many modern historians believe that the infamous Captain William Kidd was nothing more than a privateer with harsh methods. His trial for piracy lasted only two days, and critical evidence that would've exonerated Kidd was deliberately misplaced. Kidd was trapped between the Tory and Whig political parties. The Tories wanted to use Kidd to disgrace the Whigs. When he refused to testify, he became politically useless. The Whigs wanted him convicted to avoid public embarrassment. Here is an article at the other wiki.
  • The Khmer Rouge functioned the same way as the PRC and USSR did, but they usually had the guilty dig their own grave before beating them to death since ammunition was scarce and thus expensive.
  • Trials for blacks in the Jim Crow South were frequently Kangaroo Courts, especially if the victim was white. With no black judges, all-white juries, and careless-at-best attention paid to constitutional protections, a conviction was more or less a Foregone Conclusion. All this was assuming that the accused didn't get lynched first... The Scottsboro Boys trials are a famous example (a rare case where the defendants eventually escaped due to a vigorous defense).
  • Double Subverted in the Mary Phagan case. The accused Leo Frank, a Jew from New York, was convicted of raping and murdering Mary Phagan in Atlanta, Georgia, despite a wealth of evidence pointing at the black janitor (irony of ironies) who was the prosecution's chief witness and sentenced to death. The governor of the state looked over the evidence, however, and was not convinced; accordingly, he commuted the sentence to life imprisonment, sacrificing his own political career in the process. A lynch mob broke into the prison and hung Frank anyway, taking pictures which sold widely in the South. This case was what led to the formation of the Anti-Defamation League.
  • Some people seem to take this trope literally. Three activists went into the court where one of Singapore's vocal opposition leaders was charged with defaming the Prime Minister and his father (the country's founder). Each wore t-shirts depicting kangaroos in judge's robes. They were cited for contempt.
  • The Pirate Bay seem to be on the receiving end of several of these in the civil cases between them and entertainment companies. It's a matter of debate on the Spectrial over whether the judge's membership of the same pro-copyright organizations as several representatives of the entertainment industry in the case constitutes bias or not. One example which is VERY suspect is them being sued in the Netherlands but not even officially summoned. They lost that case.
  • England's Star Chamber, originally conceived to quietly deal with the medieval equivalent of celebrity crimes, became this by the time of Charles I. One of the more egregious cases was that of John Lilburne; when brought before the Court he was asked how he pleaded, and when he asked what the charge was, they tortured him for a while and then asked him again how he pleaded. It was notorious for this, and has lent its name to such courts, as in "star-chamber process." They met in secret, without indictments or witnesses, and only accepted written evidence. One abusive process the Star Chamber enforced was the so-called "cruel trilemma". All defendants were made to swear that they would answer any question truthfully. It thus trapped them between three options: lying while under oath, viewed as a mortal sin, not just perjury (a capital crime by itself); self-incrimination or incriminating others such as family or friends; and contempt of court if they refused to swear the oath or remained silent. Over time it led to the right against self-incrimination being established in The Common Law, which became part of the Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution. It could not sentence people to death, but anything below that was permitted (branding of cheeks and cropping ears was frequent). Defendants were required to have counsel, who signed all answers (which were required to be written) by the defendant to charges against them. If their counsel would not sign it, for any reason, the defendants were held to have confessed.
  • Basically every British court had aspects of this by modern standards prior to the 18th century at least. Defendants had no right to counsel, to call witnesses, to remain silent if asked any question, or to speak in their own defense (there is a reason those were in the Bill of Rights). The jury could be punished if they brought in a verdict the judge disliked. Naturally, this was the case in a lot of countries, not just there.
  • The French Revolution had a lot of these once Robespierre took power. People were sentenced to the guillotine for such paltry offenses as not giving soldiers discounts in the name of "liberty". The trial of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette turned out this way as well. The revolutionaries even accused the latter of having sex with her seven-year-old son. The jurors said that simply being a king made Louis XVI guilty. Other victims of the Terror were condemned in trials before tribunals in which they had even less chance to defend themselves than the King and Queen. Robespierre himself eventually wound up on the receiving end after he was overthrown in the Thermidorian Reaction of 1794.
  • The trials during the Red Scares, particularly during the McCarthy era. They sometimes didn't need to be, as being accused of being a communist, or being associated with communism, or being associated with anyone who's associated with communism in any way would probably destroy your reputation beyond repair anyway. A lot of these weren't even trials, just Congressional hearings where people had their past associations grilled with the concluding Armor-Piercing Question: "Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?" Refusal to answer meant they would be held in contempt (for which you'd be tried), since it was not a “crime” to be a communist, so they couldn't take the Fifth, even when answering "yes" inevitably led to them being blacklisted from their jobs. Of course, anything but full cooperation would lead to blacklisting anyway.
  • Only slightly less notable, but completely related, was the Lavender Scare instigated by Dwight Eisenhower against homosexuals with Executive Order 10450. Generally, those swept up in the Lavender Scare were simply accosted by a brace of FBI agents, questioned about their private lives, and blacklisted—and at least one, Drew Ference, was executed via suicide by gas poisoning in France—all without even the appearance of fairness, and all because they were homosexual.
  • Witchcraft trials (the Salem Witch Trials, for example) were real and their effects cannot be discounted. Yet they were always worse where there were no senior church authorities to rein in the clergy or court of appeals to enforce basic rules of procedure. The trials in Salem were at the tail end of the witch hunt era when in most of Europe it was winding down, with the judges and juries having become increasingly suspicious of witchcraft accusations. Strangely enough, the judges actually showed mercy in one way — they were the only English witchcraft court in which if the defendants confessed, they would be spared a death sentence. The nineteen people hanged were those who had refused and staunchly professed innocence.
    • Subverted and inverted with Loophole Abuse in the execution of Giles Corey. He was accused of witchcraft and halted his trial by refusing to plea. If he pled not guilty, he would be executed and his property forfeited to the state. If he pled guilty, his life would be spared, but he would be excommunicated and, again, all property would be forfeit. By refusing to plea, the trial could not begin. So in accordance with the laws at the time, he was stripped naked, tied to the ground, and had heavy rocks placed on him until he died in an effect to coerce a plea. His only words during the entire session? "More weight."
  • Marcus Tullius Cicero, most famed orator and lawyer of the late Roman Republic, lost only one case (that we know of). He lost that case because the man on trial accidentally-on-purpose murdered his political rival in full view of hundreds of witnesses, and more importantly (for he had gotten people off worse), at the trial there were a great many armed soldiers wanting a conviction and looking at him meaningfully throughout the proceedings. Cicero's defense in this case, Pro Milone, could not even be completed, because Clodius (the victim, and a very popular man against whom many knew Cicero held a personal grudge) still had many living supporters, all of whom showed up on the day of the trial and caused a riot in the middle of Cicero's speech. Cicero was never even offered the chance to finish arguing his case. Milo, Cicero's client, is said to have later read the oration and said: "If you'd finished reading this, I'd have won." The Roman court system was not known for its unshakable impartiality.
  • The Athenian Republic's courts could be like this as well since they were entirely drawn from laymen selected by lot as judges who had basically total discretion in accepting or rejecting evidence and sentencing defendants. Attorneys did not exist at the time, and thus both sides had to represent themselves (though they could hire a speechwriter). Socrates' trial is usually held up as a prime example, and the man himself was recorded to complain over this in the Apology. Particularly, along with the above, there was no public prosecutor, so cases (except for matters of public safety) had to be brought by the alleged victim or their next of kin (if dead, a child, or woman), meaning that more frivolous charges were often laid. Both sides proposed a punishment, and Socrates angered the judges by proposing only a small fine for himself. They then sentenced him to death. Since he was well-known as a critic of Athenian democracy and the charges against him likely stemmed from that, there was probably a lot of bias against him to begin with, but that sure didn't help.
    • Socrates' trial is actually somewhat of a subversion. Trials were more or less Strictly Formula back then, with families of the accused asking for leniency, standardized speeches being read out, etc. Had Socrates stuck to the speech written for him, he would have likely gotten away with a fine at the most. Instead, his action was basically Throwing Out the Script and reading out his own improvisation full of Trolling. It ended with him claiming that he would be willing to pay a fine (not that small, actually; most estimates put thirty minae above 100,000$ in modern money - well outside Socrates' modest finances, but his friends would have been more than happy to pay ten times as much), but he would have preferred the right to eat in the Prytaneum (For a modern analog: imagine a person tried for leaking out sensitive data claiming he did the public a service and therefore deserves a tax exemption). A more appropriate example would be the Trial of Generals a few years previously when the victors of a major naval battle against Sparta were tried for failing to rescue the sailors from their own lost ships. A bit of Blame Game later, two commanders fled, six were executed, Socrates being one of the few trying to stop the blatantly unconstitutional case, and actually somewhat succeeding before they were executed regardless. A few months later, the Athenians had a collective My God, What Have I Done? moment, and the prosecutors were forced to run for their lives. Athens never recovered from the loss and was forced to surrender next year.
  • This has been done in professional sports clubhouses for years, right down to using the Trope Namer. Players who make stupid plays in a game are brought before a "trial" of their teammates to be ridiculed and fined; the money is kept in a collection used to fund some type of party or event at season's end. One of the most famous examples was the Baltimore Orioles of the 1960s, where Frank Robinson was appointed the team judge and went so far as to wear a barrister wig during the proceedings.
  • Almost every sports club/association will have some form of fines system or Kangaroo Court. Used to mock not only poor gameplay, but weird behavior on tours/transport to games or off-field gatherings, a sentence might involve paying money, a number of drinks for each offence, or ritual humiliation such as wearing silly clothes during the next game, having to carry around and look after a stuffed toy, or performing a song and dance in the middle of a crowded bar.
  • In some cases, the legal proceedings of involuntary commitment follow the Kangaroo Court format. As the blog writer of Crazy Mermaid details here: "Devon said that I had the option of not attending the hearing at all and just allowing her to represent me. I declined her strange offer. In retrospect, that should have been my first clue that the hearing was simply a formality, nothing more than a 'Kangaroo Court'. Its purpose was to fulfill the letter of the law but not the intent. My fate was already sealed."
  • Sir Walter Raleigh fell victim to one of these when he was charged with treason. The only material evidence presented against him was a signed statement from one of the conspirators of the Main Plot that planned to assassinate King James I. The Court denied his attempts to call the author of this letter for cross-examination. In spite of an excellent defense in court and essentially no evidence against him, he was convicted and sentenced to death. James spared his life in spite of the sentence and imprisoned him for thirteen years. He was released to lead an expedition once again. That expedition went poorly, and the Spanish demanded his execution. He was executed in 1618 on the basis of his prior conviction.
  • It is believed by many that J. Robert Oppenheimer's security clearance hearing was one of these. Oppenheimer was the leader of the Manhattan Project that developed the Atomic Bomb, but earlier in life, he had some friends and family members that were associated with the Communist Party. No one really made an issue of it during the war, but during the Second Red Scare in the early 1950s, some of his political and scientific rivals used his former communist sympathies as an excuse to paint him as a traitor and a Soviet spy and end his career in government work. The Kennedy and Johnson administrations later attempted to publicly rehabilitate him shortly before his death in 1967. He was later Vindicated by History when extensive analysis of KGB records proved he never betrayed the United States and rebuffed all of their many attempts to recruit him. That said, he did do some pretty scummy things. Oppenheimer was sort of "felt out" by a Soviet agent acting through one of Oppenheimer's friends; Oppenheimer, afraid that anyone looking into the matter too closely would turn up his former Party association, reported to his higher-ups (who actually were suspicious of him for just that reason) that Soviet spies had approached "some people" in the project, but then got coy and wouldn't say who "some people" were (because it was him). He had intended to allay suspicion but wound up just adding fuel to the fire and making the investigators think the situation was much worse than it actually was. The resulting investigation led back to Oppenheimer's friend, who lost his job over it and was then forced to leave the country. It wasn't until years later that the friend found out about Oppenheimer's involvement in the whole thing.
  • During the rule of Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran, hundreds of people who were accused of being potential threats to the regime were put on trial in the Islamic Revolutionary Courts. There were no juries and only one judge, and the defendants didn't get a chance to defend themselves. It didn't matter to them if the defendants were guilty or innocent - if they really were guilty, then their sentences would rid Iran of bad elements, whereas if they were innocent, then they would be expected to consider themselves lucky to be martyrs. Many of these "trials" lasted only forty minutes or less.
  • Inverted during the Eulmi incident in 1895. Korean Empress Myongseong was murdered by Japanese assassins led by Miura Goro, Japanese Ambassador to Korea. As this was one of the events intended for the Japanese invasion of Korea, Korea had to turn the assassins over to Japan due to extraterritoriality, and Japan set up a kangaroo court to acquit the assassins. After the incident, Japan went on to annex Korea in 1910.
  • During the Song Dynasty, fearing that his throne would be lost, Emperor Gaozong did not want Yue Fei to retake the empire's former capital Kaifeng, to save his brother Qinzong. Gaozong then sent 13 orders in the form of 13 gold plaques to Yue Fei to send him back. Later, Gaozong's chancellor, Qin Hui accused him of "perhaps there is"note  and had Yue Fei executed.
  • Subverted in the case of Andrew Johnson, the first U.S. president to be impeached, for firing Secretary of War Edwin Stanton in violation of the Tenure of Office Act. He wasn't so much impeached for violating the act, as the act was designed so that he would violate it: Congress knew that the Tenure of Office Act—which made it illegal for the President to fire most federal officials, including members of his own Cabinet, without the Senate's approval—was almost certainly unconstitutional, but they realized that they'd be able to kick him out of office long before the issue ever hit the Supreme Court.note  This suited them mightily well, as Congress had had enough of him trying to block their Reconstruction programs and devised the Tenure of Office Act specifically so that they could impeach Johnson for violating it—they knew he would immediately try to fire Stanton (an ally of Congress) as a test. This was because while Johnson was a pain in the rear politically, he hadn't done anything illegal—they needed him to commit some illegal act to get rid of him, so rather than wait for him to do something that was already illegal, they just decided to figure out something he was going to do anyway and make that illegal.note  As one critic of Johnson said, "You can't impeach someone for general cussedness." He was acquitted in the Senate (by one vote), but his reputation never recovered.
    • That being said, Congress seemed to attempt to make it a Kangaroo Court; for instance, the defense requested 40 days for evidence collection and witness prep (the same amount of time the prosecution got) but was granted only ten. Also, the presiding judge, Chief Justice Salmon Chase, tried to make rules for the court, but the Senate seemed to challenge them every single time, ostensibly because they were too fair. According to Wikipedia, when Chase said that President Johnson "should be permitted to present evidence" that Johnson was trying to test the constitutionality of the Tenure of Office Act, the Senate merely reversed it despite the fact that the Senate pretty much WAS the prosecution.
  • The trial of the Duke of Enghien (kidnapped from a neutral country) before a special military tribunal appointed by Napoleon is a famous example. It is for instance mentioned at the beginning of War and Peace.
  • Mata Hari's trial had an outcome that was very much a foregone conclusion; her defense attorney, veteran international lawyer Edouard Clunet, faced impossible odds; he was denied permission either to cross-examine the prosecution's witnesses or to examine his own witnesses directly (unfortunately unlike many such victims who are Vindicated by History, German documents unsealed in the 1970s proved her guilt pretty clearly).
  • The Hundred Flowers Campaign in China was an attempt by the Communist government to get the people's opinion on how things could be improved. Special mailboxes were placed all over the country where people could put their opinions or criticisms and were actively encouraged to do so. Fast-forward several years. The same letters are used as damning evidence in these sort of courts that the people who wrote them were "rightists". Even tiny suggestions were used to this effect.
  • The 2006 documentary This Film Is Not Yet Rated shows that the MPAA's appeal board for ratings acts like this, since past rulings on a movie with similar content cannot be used to appeal your movie's rating, leaving it less as an appeal and more like a hearing.
  • The Comics Code. Many believe it was started with the specific intention to drive EC Comics (known for its bloody and gory horror comics) out of business and ruin Bill Gaines' reputation. While it failed in that regard (he later founded MAD, a much greater success) the Code was regarded as a tyrannical Moral Guardian for years. That is until Stan Lee failed to gain permission from them to bend the rules and publish an anti-drug issue of a Spider-Man comic, in spite of the fact that the story portrayed drugs extremely negatively, and that Lee was asked to write the story on behalf of the United States government. Lee took a risk and published the story without the Comics Code approval. It ended up being a smash hit, making the people in charge of the Code look like fools. From that time, the Code's influence steadily declined, and by the 2000s, it had no real power; most mainstream titles could choose to publish a title without its approval with little fear of repercussion. By 2010, only three companies (DC Comics, Bongo Comics, and Archie Comics) still adhered to the Code; Bongo broke away in 2010 and the other two companies did so the next year, rendering the Code defunct.
  • Many years after when the trial of Jesus probably took place, Pilate was recalled to Rome on nothing more than the word of the Syrian governor Vitellius after putting down a Samaritan rebellion and summarily executing a number of its participants. On the day Pilate was to answer the charges the aggrieved Samaritans had lodged against him in court in front of Emperor Tiberius, Tiberius died. What became of Pilate after that is lost to posterity: while he may have had his day in court under the newly inaugurated (and not yet criminally insane) Emperor Caligula, we have no historical records of a conviction; neither was he ever restored to his post in Judea. In any event, he never got to face his accusers in any historical record, which is why the secular histories are so heavily biased against him (Philo, who made a lot of the accusations, was not exactly a reliable historian).
  • The trial of Marshal Ney (1769-1815) was described as a "parody of justice" by everyone involved, including the ultra-Royalists who were looking for a scapegoat after the Hundred Days. Most notably, the prosecution outright forbade the defense from using its strongest argument in favor of Ney,note  and dismissed the defense's main witness, Marshal Davout. Louis XVIII later admitted that he had no desire to see Ney go down like this (and become a martyr-like figure for the Bonapartists), but that his most virulent relatives, including his own brother and nephews, all but forced him to this extremity.
  • Possibly topping Ney's trial was the post-WWII Soviet war crimes trial of Luftwaffe flying ace Major Erich "Bubi" Hartmann. The most successful fighter pilot in history, Hartmann was well-respected in the West, but hated by the USSR (who, in fairness, had contributed most of his three hundred and fifty-two aerial victories). Refusing orders to surrender to the British and leave his men behind, he was taken to the USSR and interrogated for information on German fighter tactics and the Me 262 Schwalbe jet fighter. He refused to divulge any information and went on a hunger strike. Determined to break him, the Soviets charged him with "strafing 760 civilians near Bryansk",note  deliberately destroying "a bread factory",note  and destroying 345 "expensive" Soviet aircraft.note  Hartmann conducted his own defense (not that he really had any choice - the Soviets refused him any legal assistance) - which the judge informed him was a "waste of time" before sentencing him to 25 years of hard labor. He was finally freed from Soviet captivity in 1955, though it was not until the late 1990s that the Russian Federation exonerated him.
  • While Venezuela's courts, in general, can be considered examples after coming under government control, taking the government's side 100% of the time, the trial of Leopoldo López, Venezuela's then-most prominent opposition leader, is a particularly blatant example. For example, while the prosecution was allowed to present over 100 witnesses against him, he and his defense were, out of 63 available witnesses, only allowed to present 1. He was ultimately sentenced to almost 14 years in prison.
  • Vichy France sat up sections spéciales to try "terrorists" and others, and the two first guys to have been sentenced by such courts (they got death sentences) were already sentenced to small prison terms for exactly the same acts.
    • The Milice had courts whose the judges were to give only one sentence (death by the hands of the nearest collaborator) and whose verdicts were without appeals.
  • Australian tourist Schapelle Corby was arrested in Indonesia for drug smuggling in 2005. During her trial, the judges would ignore her defense, read or chat. News and current affairs ran stories that amounted to Indonesia being disinterested in guilt or innocence to the point of suggesting disposing of the evidence for crimes rather than let the police know. Indonesia had even made threats against Australia and had committed acts such as flooding the country with asylum seekers much like Fidel Castro did during the Mariel boatlift, and had made their feelings and racism in response to bids for a fair trial very clear.
  • "Bills of attainder" were so bad, they were specifically banned after the American Revolution. A bill of attainder was Parliament declaring someone guilty of a crime and punishing them without trial. So even if there was nothing you did wrong and no evidence of you doing anything wrong, if Parliament didn't like you, they could just have an up or down vote and have you executed (although lesser punishment was also used, such as confiscating property). No wonder that they were last used on a large scale during the English Civil War which ended with the King's head being chopped off (see above) and included open warfare between King and Parliament.
  • Downplayed with the "Kafka trap" argument, which is an interpersonal version of this. It involves making an Abomination Accusation Attack, and when the person denies it, saying that "Only a[n abomination] would say that."
  • Whether the Nuremberg trials qualify as this trope has been argued up and down the aisle, and a lot of serious legal ink has been spilled on either challenging or justifying the proceedings. To avoid going down a deep scholarly rabbit hole, nobody disputes the fact that Those Wacky Nazis were very bad people who did very bad things; the arguments normally hinge on whether the Nazis received a fair trial, or whether what they did was actually illegal at the time, and if not, whether it was morally justified to go ahead and execute them anyway. It should be noted here, however, that the Nuremberg trials did hand down acquittals and some verdicts - particularly the twenty years in jail against Albert Speer - are actually seen as too mild by critics. It has also been objected that the Allies lacked any legal jurisdiction over the defendants (the trials had not been authorized by the newly formed United Nations for instance, unlike more recent international tribunals). However, the legal basis rested in the instrument of surrender by Germany, which had given (temporary) control over the country to the Allies, which chose to try violations of international law and the laws of war (it only applied to crimes committed during World War II). Other criticisms include that it upheld a double standard (as the Allies had in some cases also committed violations similar to the charges made against some Germans, especially the USSR). For instance, one charge was that Germany violated international law by conspiring to commit aggression against Poland. Yet the USSR had been a part of this conspiracy (the Allies claimed that the secret protocols of their alliance with Germany planning this were a forgery), and no Soviet citizen was ever charged (naturally enough, as the USSR would not have allowed it). At the same time, Soviet sovereignty over the Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania) was based on aggressive war as well. All Soviet leaders were relieved from being charged with war crimes. Moreover, some of the charges (such as "crimes against humanity") were undefined before the London Charter which authorized the tribunals, thus raising criticisms that they were "ex post facto" (i.e. retroactive) laws. The tribunals also used their own laws of evidence, rather than the generally accepted rules, widely admitting hearsay as one example. In some cases here, the criticisms are of being overly lenient: Admiral Dönitz was acquitted of his war crimes charges for having waged unrestricted submarine warfare on the grounds that the Allies had done it too, for instance, avoiding the accusation of hypocrisy if they had.
  • On a related note, the far less-known trials of Finland's wartime leaders for allying with the Axis were viewed at the time (and now) by many as totally unjust. Initially, Finland only agreed to try the same charges as at Nuremberg that any Finns committed. Yet this soon grew into charges of getting into a war with the USSR, the UK, and for "preventing peace", due to a law passed by the Finnish parliament under pressure from the Allies. It was viewed as a violation of the Finnish constitution and mockery to the rule of law because the charges were retroactive. Finland officially was at war with the UK, but never fought against them directly then. Ironically, in the Winter War American and British volunteers fought along with the Finns. Some taken prisoner were later returned by Stalin after he allied with the US and UK. The leaders of Finland were therefore essentially punished for retaliating against the Soviet aggression, while the USSR was completely unpunished. However, none received more than ten years in prison, and all were paroled or pardoned before serving the entirety due partly to the backlash against this.
  • As mentioned before, the USSR did not go in for very fair trials. Thus in the wake of their independence there has been a push in the Baltic States to rehabilitate people who were convicted by the Soviet government. This has stirred controversy however as some of the convicts did commit crimes, for instance, murders of Jews and Roma while aiding the Nazis during World War 2. While they still probably got unfair trails, rehabilitating them doesn't seem right either.
    • A lot of the people rehabilitated after Stalin's time were a part of the Purge itself. Others tended to be part of earlier purges or the Civil War (which was full of war crimes and massacred villages on all sides). You'll be hard pressed to find an actually innocent person among Soviet officials of that time.
  • After driving out the Islamic State from their country, the Iraq government has been extremely ruthless in persecuting captured members through show trials, which are often described as 10 minutes hearings with the accused given no chance of defending themselves or granted leniency. While it's understandable considering the sheer horror the terrorist group inflicted on its people, human right activists rose concerns that several members were strong-armed into joining them such as medical staff, jihadi brides and other members that didn't necessarily commit the same crimes as its leaders and fighters. Concerns were also raised that these trials would further stigmatize the Iraqi Sunnis who were already oppressed by Shias since Saddam Hussein's fall and were often accused of being ISIS collaborators.
  • The Incan emperor Atahualpa was executed by the Spaniards after a mock trial charging him of revolting against them and practicing idolatry... Even though they captured him after inviting him for parley and he never converted to Christianity. He would have been burned on the stake if Friar Vincente de Valverde hadn't intervened in his behalf to commute the sentence and allowed Atahualpa to chose the way he'd died on the condition he became Roman Catholic.


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