A milestone in legal history fell on this day, July 21, 1924. In what U-Missouri Law Professor Douglas Linder convincingly argues was the real trial of the century, a teacher by the name of John T. Scopes was convicted of sharing scientific theories with his students.
The lead on the story in the New York Times went like this:
The trial of John Thomas Scopes for teaching evolution in Tennessee, which Clarence Darrow characterized today as "the first case of its kind since we stopped trying people for witchcraft," is over. Mr. Scopes was found guilty and fined $100, and his counsel will appeal to the Supreme Court of Tennessee for reversal of the verdict. The scene will then be shifted from Dayton to Knoxville, where the case will probably come up on the first Monday in September.
You can read the front page coverage of the Monkey Trial in the Times here.
Professor Linder has written a terrific summary of Tennessee v. Scopes which is found here, complete with photos.
And in an excellent essay, Linder says the real "trial of the century" was not the murder trial of Bruno Hauptmann, despite the breadth of coverage; it wasn't judgments at Nuremberg, despite their significance; it wasn't the Rodney King debacle, in which the outcome led to rioting and the killing of 58 people; it wasn't O.J. -- too pedestrian, too common a crime; it wasn't the Scottsboro trials, in which brave men faced racism in many forms.
Professor Linder says it was the Monkey trial that "was about much of what the twentieth century was about." Read the professor's arguments in full here.