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Jury of the Damned

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You've heard of hung juries, but have you seen a hanged jury?
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.
The Devil and Daniel Webster by Stephen Vincent Benet

In The Devil and Daniel Webster, 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.

The Evil Counterpart to Celebrities Hang Out in Heaven. See also Joker Jury, Judgement of the Dead and Historical Domain Crossover. May be subject to Historical Villain Upgrade.


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    Anime & 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 are 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 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.
  • 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 court's crimes forcing them to flee from Earth as they cannot face this.

    Fan Works 
  • The Pony POV Series:
    • Fluttercruel ends 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. They 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. It's 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 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.

    Films — Animated 
  • There is an animated version of The Devil and Daniel Webster titled The Devil and Daniel Mouse. 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.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Along With The Gods: The Two Worlds: When a person dies, they're obligated to go through 7 trials judging how they lived their lives. Each trial is overseen by the god in charge of that particular section of Hell. They examine different aspects of a spirit's life as guardians and prosecutors argue for or against the spirit. In the end, the spirit's fate is completely up to the god.
  • 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.
  • 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. When the British advocate allows the jury to be replaced with Americans, each is replaced by someone of the same national origin but an American citizen, such as an Irish-American policeman and a French-American chef. The only difference, and a rather odd one, is the Indian is replaced by an African-American GI.
  • In Shortcut to Happiness (a Setting Update of The Devil and Daniel Webster), the jurors in Stone's trial are dead authors, including Truman Capote, Jacqueline Susann, Ernest Hemingway, Mario Puzo, Charlotte Brontë, and James Joyce.

  • In Danton's Death, Herman and Fouquier-Tinville choose a special jury to make ABSOLUTELY SURE Danton leaves the tribunal with a guilty verdict.
  • The originator of this trope was the short story The Devil and Daniel Webster by Stephen Vincent Benet, in which the jury consists of (as well as four unnamed and a Take That! against someone the author knew) two Loyalists, a tyrannical governor of colonial Virginia, the founder of a pagan colony in Massachusetts, and Blackbeard; the judge comes straight from the Salem Witch Trials.
  • The Dream Park novel The Barsoom Project features a sequence in which the Player Characters are put on trial by the manifestations of humanity's sins and crimes as defined by the literal theme park version of the Eskimo religion.
  • Implied to be the case in Joseph Sheridan 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.
  • 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.

    Live-Action TV 
  • A Father Dowling Mysteries episode had Father Frank Dowling being the defending counsel in such a situation.
  • The Ghost and Mrs. Muir episode "Not So Faust". After Claymore tries to cheat Mrs. Muir, the captain decides to teach him a lesson by giving him a dream about an old enemy of his, the Devil, who puts him on trial before a panel of three judges: Nero, Blackbeard, and Jesse James.
  • The Monkees episode "The Devil and Peter Tork". When Peter unwittingly sells his soul to Mr. Zero for the ability to play the harp, the band challenges whether the contract is valid. The Monkees' beach pad becomes a bizarre underworld courtroom, where Hanging Judge Roy Bean presides with a jury consisting of 12 condemned men from Devil's Island. All of the witnesses Zero summons are also damned souls: Billy the Kid, Blackbeard, and Attila the Hun.
  • Swamp Thing (2019): Anton Arcane complains that the jury is not impartial, as they all know him well.

    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, give them authority to make judgments, so those who are convicted tend to give them a wide berth.

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

  • 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. Or did they?

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons episode "Treehouse of Horror IV" ("The Devil and Homer Simpson" segment), in which Homer sells his soul for a doughnut, includes a jury consisting of John Wilkes Booth, Lizzie Borden, John Dillinger, Blackbeardnote , 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 yet!note  In fact, I just wrote an article for Redbook. Anybody see it?
    Satan (Flanders): Hey, I did a favor for you!
    Nixon: Yes, master...
  • In The Smurfs (1981) 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.
  • Tiny Toon Adventures episode "Night Ghoulery" ("The Devil and Daniel Webfoot" segment). Consisting of pirates, thieves, traitors, Network Executives...
    "I still say The Chevy Chase Show could work".
  • 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 Emmanuel Lewis (a.k.a. Webster). Incredibly, he still manages to win the case. They would have still been off by about 50-60 years anyway.


Video Example(s):


Jury of the Damned- Simpsons

Flanders the Devil presents his personally selected jury to decide whether he gets possession of Homer's soul.

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