Trial of the century
Trial of the century is an idiomatic phrase used to describe certain well-known court cases, especially of the 20th century. It is often used popularly as a rhetorical device to attach importance to a trial and as such is not an objective observation but is the opinion of whoever uses it. As attorney F. Lee Bailey and The Washington Post observed in 1999 on the eve of the closing century:
- Calling court cases "the trial of the century" is a traditional bit of American hyperbole, like calling a circus "The Greatest Show on Earth." Nearly every juicy tabloid trial in our history was called the "trial of the century" by somebody. "Every time I turn around, there's a new trial of the century," says defense attorney F. Lee Bailey. "It's a kind of hype," he says. "It's a way of saying, 'This is really fabulous. It's really sensational.' But it doesn't really mean anything."
The first trial to be called the "trial of the century" was in 1907 when Harry K. Thaw was tried for the murder of Stanford White. Irvin S. Cobb, a contemporary reporter, explained why the trial fascinated the country so much:
- "You see, it had in it wealth, degeneracy, rich old wasters, delectable young chorus girls and adolescent artists' models; the behind-the-scenes of Theatredom and the Underworld, and the Great White Way.... the abnormal pastimes and weird orgies of overly aesthetic artists and jaded debauchees. In the cast of the motley show were Bowery toughs, Harlem gangsters, Tenderloin panderers, Broadway leading men, Fifth Avenue clubmen, Wall Street manipulators, uptown voluptuaries and downtown thugs."
List by legal scholars
There are countless trials that have been labeled the trial of the century by the press; it is beyond the scope of this article to list them here. However, some legal scholars have labeled a few trials as trials of the century. These cases are useful in this context for listing some of the most important trials, which include:
- Harry Thaw murder trial for victim White (1906)
- Sacco and Vanzetti murder trial (1920–1927) 
- Leopold and Loeb murder trial (1924)
- Scopes Trial (1925)
- Gloria Vanderbilt custody trial (1934)
- Lindbergh kidnapping trial (1935)
- Nuremberg Trials (1945–1946) 
- Adolf Eichmann trial (1961)
- Klaus Barbie trial (1987)
- Trial of Nicolae and Elena Ceaușescu (1989)
- Vizconde massacre (1991)
- O. J. Simpson murder case trial (1995)
- Trial of Slobodan Milošević (2002–2005)
- Trial of Saddam Hussein (2004–2006)
- Trial of Michael Jackson (2005)
- Death of Caylee Anthony (2011)
- Bo Xilai trial (2013)
- "(The Last) Trial of the Century!" by Peter Carlson via The Washington Post, January 4, 1999; Page C01
- "Trial of the century". Crime Library. Retrieved 2008-06-13.
Even though the twentieth century had only begun, newspapers dubbed Henry K. Thaw’s murder trial 'The Trial of the Century.'
- Davis, John (2004). Sacco and Vanzetti: Rebel Lives. p. 1. ISBN 1-876175-85-0.
Within a year it was going to become the 'trial of the century.'
- DOUGLAS O. LINDER. "THE LEOPOLD AND LOEB TRIAL: A BRIEF ACCOUNT", Law Faculty, University of Missouri-Kansas City, 1997. "..the Leopold and Loeb trial has the elements to justify its billing as the first "trial of the century."
- Law professor Doug Linder's discussion on which trial was "the trial of the century", January 28, 1999
- 1934 Gloria Vanderbilt Custody Trial: 1934 'trial of the century' by Bernard Ryan, Jr.
- The Trial of Richard "Bruno" Hauptmann: An Account by Douglas Linder. "The "trial of the century" (or at least one of them) was underway."
- Kanon, Joseph (June 9, 2002). "The Real Trial of the Century". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-06-13.
- Michael P. Scharf; Gregory S. McNeal (2006). "Saddam on Trial: Understanding and Debating the Iraqi High Tribunal 229". Case Western Reserve University. Retrieved November 13, 2012.
- Hilary Whiteman (August 23, 2013). "Bo Xilai trial analysis: How and why Chinese politician veered off script". CNN. Retrieved August 23, 2013.