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Michael Stoff, Director 305 East 23rd St, CLA 2.102, (G3600) Austin, TX 78712-1250 • 512-471-1442

Fall 2008

T C 357 • Famous Trials in American History - W

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
43840 M
2:00 PM-5:00 PM
CRD 007A

Course Description

Every decade seems to bring a new "Trial of the Century." Trials typically catch the public imagination because of the celebrity of the participants (O.J. Simpson, the Lindberg kidnapping), the nature of the activity (grisly serial murders), or some fascination with either the perpetrator or the victim (Leopold and Loeb). Occasionally, a case may be famous because it involves an important legal principle. But the trials that remain fascinating are most often those that capture a moment in our political and cultural life. They may galvanize a political or cultural movement (John Brown and the abolitionists), serve as a lightning rod for political debate (Alger Hiss), or even reveal deep truths about American society (O.J. Simpson and racial relations). This seminar will explore famous trials that fall into this last group.

The seminar will begin with discussions about how and why trials come to play such a role in our society. We will then examine on such trial in depth - Tennessee v. Scopes, the famous "Monkey Trial"  in which the defendant was charged with violating a Tennessee statute prohibiting the teaching of evolution. The remainder of the semester will be devoted to discussing the trials that individual students are researching for their term paper.

Grading Policy

Class participation and Presentation: 25%
Essay: 20%
First Draft of Term Paper: 30%
Rewrite: 25%


Robert Ferguson, The Trial in American Life
Edward Larson, Summer for the Gods Inherit the Wind (read play or watch movie) Other readings will be determined in accordance with paper topics chosen by class members.

About the Professor

A member of the University's Academy of Distinguished Teachers, Steve Goode teaches Evidence, Criminal Law, and Professional Responsibility. He served as Associate Dean for Academic Affairs from 1998 to 2006 and as Dean ad interim in 2006.

Goode is the author of several books on the law of evidence and served as a reporter to the committees that drafted the Texas rules of evidence. He is currently serves on both the Court of Criminal Appeals' Rules Advisory Committee and the State Bar Advisory Committee on the Rules of Evidence. He lectures on evidence extensively throughout the state, and teaches frequently at the College of Advanced Judicial Studies of the Texas Center for the Judiciary. He is a Life Fellow of Texas Bar Foundation.

A graduate of Williams College and Yale Law School, Goode practiced law with the Children's Defense Fund in Washington, D.C. before joining the Texas faculty in 1977.


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