Site Search | Site Index

Site Search | Site Index

Law Library News

Law Library News Archive

May 10, 2004
Sarah Hollingsworth, Editor

 -- Stacy Etheredge, Reference Intern

Remember the scene in Catch Me If You Can where Leonardo DiCaprio’s character watched a Perry Mason episode on TV so he could assume the identity of a trial lawyer?  He probably watched a scene something like this:



PERRY MASON:  Isn’t it true that you're just trying to protect someone?

NEPHEW:  No!  I'm not trying to protect Aunt Agatha . . . uh . . . that is . . .

PERRY MASON (interrupting):  I submit that you are trying to protect Aunt Agatha!

AUNT AGATHA (standing up):  Oh, leave him alone!  I did it -- I shot Smith to protect my nephew.

NEPHEW:  To protect ME?   I didn’t do anything . . .

AUNT AGATHA:  But I saw you leaving his house with a baseball bat.  I shot him so no one would know you had bludgeoned him to death.

NEPHEW:  Bludgeoned him to death?  He was taking a nap when I left.

AUNT AGATHA:  Well, goodness, this is a bit of a sticky wicket.

PROSECUTOR:  Your honor, I move we charge Aunt Agatha with first-degree murder!

PERRY MASON (sighing heavily):  Dear me, once again the prosecution is completely lacking in legal acumen.  Aunt Agatha didn't murder Smith.

PROSECUTOR:  Are you nuts?  She just told the entire courtroom that she shot him!

PERRY MASON:  Oh, yes, she shot him.  But she didn’t murder him . . . because he was already dead!!

The courtroom audience lets out a collective gasp.

PERRY MASON:  Yes, already dead.  Because he had just been poisoned by . . .

Mason whirls in front of the jury and points toward the back of the courtroom.

PERRY MASON (cont.):  . . .  YOU, Mr. Jones!  Isn’t that correct?!

Jones frantically looks around for an escape, but the deputies move quickly to block every exit.  Jones sees that he is trapped.

JONES:  Yes, yes . . . I admit it.  I poisoned him . . . but how did you know?

PERRY MASON:  Because I’m me, that’s how.

PERRY MASON (cont. as he turns toward the judge):  Your honor, as it’s a legal impossibility to murder someone who is already dead, I move that the State dismiss its case.

JUDGE (groggily):  Good heavens . . . I doze off for one moment . . . oh, all right.  Case dismissed!

PERRY MASON:  Lunch, anyone?

PROSECUTOR (head slumping on desk):  I hate that man.  I really, really hate him . . .



Okay, I'm exaggerating a little, but who among us hasn't imagined what it would be like to be sitting in a courtroom with judge and jury anxiously awaiting our opening statement or cross examination?  Well, there’s no teacher like actual experience, but there is an interesting way to study the trial process that has nothing to do with the "high legal drama" for which Perry Mason became famous decades ago.


 Trial transcripts are wonderful study aids because they let you see exactly how a trial unfolded in real life.  As a general rule, however, trial transcripts are hard to come by.  One big exception to that rule involves famous or notorious cases.  And Gallagher Law Library can definitely help there as it contains an absolutely fascinating collection of transcripts from famous trials. 

What are “notorious” trials and why do they remain with us?  A lot of cases remain notorious because there is still some question, decades or even a hundred or more years later, as to whether the verdicts were just and fair.  Even though we can be a cynical lot, most people genuinely want the legal system to operate fairly, and as a result, we do not want these cases to be forgotten.  Many famous trials have had books written about them.  Some of these include summaries of the proceedings with large snippets of trial testimony, while others are composed of the entire transcript itself.  Our Library probably has partial or complete transcripts for almost any famous trial you would be interested in, including: 

§         The Lindbergh Kidnapping
(The State of New Jersey, Defendant in Error vs. Bruno Richard Hauptmann, Plaintiff in Error, KF 224 .H29 1935, at Classified Stacks)

The kidnapping and murder of Charles Lindbergh’s first child in 1932 became known as the “Trial of the Century” 60 years before O.J. Simpson.  Many people still believe that the defendant, Richard Hauptmann, was railroaded to the electric chair by a corrupt police force, a prosecutor with political ambition, a sensationalistic “yellow” press, and a public riding the waves of anti-German sentiment and hungry for vengeance for their national hero.

§         Sacco and Vanzetti
(The Sacco-Vanzetti Case: Transcript of the Record of the Trial of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti in the Courts of Massachusetts and Subsequent Proceedings
, KF224 .S2 S24 1928 at Classified Stacks)

Anarchists, definitely.  But armed robbers and murderers?  Still controversial after almost 90 years, it is generally believed that these two were condemned to death based more on their political beliefs and a rampant fear of socialism than on any real evidence.

§         Julius and Ethel Rosenberg
(Transcript of Record: Supreme Court of the United States, October Term, 1951: No. 111, Julius Rosenberg and Ethel Rosenberg, Petitioners vs. the United States of America,
KF 228 .R6 U54 1952 at Classified Stacks)

Accused of passing atomic secrets to the Soviet Union in the 1950s, the Rosenbergs were sent to the electric chair and left two young boys orphaned.  Although the evidence shows that they were probably guilty, many still question how much the hysterical “Red Scare” of the times contributed to a sentence of death rather than life in prison.

§         Patty Hearst
(The Trial of Patty Hearst
, KF 224 .H4 R43 at Classified Stacks)

Perhaps the most famous political kidnapping case of all time.  In 1974 the rich heiress of the Hearst newspaper chain was kidnapped at the age of 19 by a “social revolutionary” group, only to end up joining her kidnappers in a crime spree.  She was convicted of bank robbery, although she was later pardoned by President Carter.  Willing conspirator or brainwashed kidnapped victim?

These are just some of the trials for which Gallagher has materials.  Other trials include:  Alger Hiss (giving atomic secrets to the Soviet Union), Sam Sheppard (murder, basis for The Fugitive), Bernhard Goetz (the NYC “Subway Vigilante”), Jack Ruby (murdered Lee Harvey Oswald just days after Kennedy’s assassination), John Hinckley (shot President Reagan), the Scopes Trial (teaching of evolution and basis for Inherit the Wind), OJ Simpson, and much more.  Whether you’re interested in studying trial techniques as they played out in actual trials or you’re just a lover of history, head on over to the KF 224- KF 228 section in the Classified Stacks.  There’s a whole world of famous trials waiting to be discovered.



           -- Nancy McMurrer


If you are graduating this June and would like full access to Westlaw during the summer for bar preparation, Westlaw has a deal for you. Go to Look for the blue box on the right side of the screen that has a link for 2004 graduates. That link will take you to a Westlaw Rewards screen, where you will need to log on, using your password or customized username and password.

Once you have logged on, you will find information about a graduate survey. If you complete the survey before May 31, 2004, you will earn hours of access to Westlaw during June and July. If you have questions, email our Westlaw representative, Anna Guerra, at Remember, the survey must be completed by May 31!



 -- Nancy McMurrer

Each summer LexisNexis and Westlaw provide access for all students ONLY to job searching databases. Of course, those of you who have summer clerkships will have access through your employers. However, if you are taking a summer law school course (including an externship for which you receive law school credit), working for a law professor, serving on the Moot Court Board, or are on the law review or other journals here, you can extend your password or ID for full use of these services during the summer.

For full access to LexisNexis, go to Look in the column on the left side for the link Access LexisNexis Over the Summer. When you click there, you will see an option to extend for the summer and a list of reasons that will assure you access. If you have any questions about summer access, contact our LexisNexis representative, Ben Gresh, at Note that you can also choose to associate your academic ID with the commercial ID you might get in your summer job.

For full access to Westlaw, go to Look for the blue box on the right side for the summer access link. Click there and follow the directions. Note that Westlaw has a deadline of June 20, 2004. After that date, you will not be able to get full access to Westlaw during the rest of the summer. If you have any questions, contact our Westlaw representative, Anna Guerra, at

Remember: You may NOT use your academic password or ID for your summer job. Our contracts with Westlaw and LexisNexis limit use to academic purposes only.



What is more important in a library than anything else -- than everything else -- is the fact that it exists.

-- Archibald MacLeish