Real Trials With Mind-Bending Twists
Despite the gripping drama of shows like Law & Order and Matlock, there's a reason most people dread jury duty: real-life court proceedings are as boring as watching mushrooms fight. Usually, anyway -- every now and then, our normally mundane courtrooms will explode with Hollywood spectacle, resulting in real-world cases that seem more like the plot of a John Grisham movie:
The Trial for an Attempted Murder Reveals an Intricate Plot by the Victim to Get Himself Killed
Two British teens we'll call John and Mark met in an alleyway by a Manchester mall one day in 2003. By all accounts, the two friends were tighter than stone butt cheeks, which is why everyone was surprised when Mark stabbed the everloving shit out of John in a vicious murder attempt. Investigators couldn't make any sense of the incident, least of all John, who told police so many different stories about why his friend might have tried to kill him that it began to sound like a Hollywood pitch meeting.
"... and then twist, he thought he was murdering my evil twin and then twist,
his mom's yoga instructor was faking the coma and then twist ... "
The Plot Twist:
That's actually not too far from the truth. After being fed multiple different stories by John and spending months in the dark, prosecutors finally uncovered the monkey-jugglingly insane truth behind what happened: John had tricked Mark into trying to murder him by posing online as a middle-aged female spy in the British Secret Service, who promised Mark sex, a multimillion-dollar job, and the entire DVD set of James Bond Jr. if he could prove his willingness to kill for the organization by stabbing his friend John to death. And that's only a taste of the crazy. Not only had the 14-year-old John turned Mark's life into a Shyamalan spy thriller but he had been duping Mark for some time with other online aliases and looney-tunes schemes. Why? Because John was hopelessly in love with Mark.
"I'm telling you: when I'm with him, I just feel the L-word."
Before getting Mark to stab him, John romanced him vicariously through a fake Internet girlfriend named Rachel, for whom Mark fell with the intensity of Manti Te'o. John then introduced himself to Mark as the nonexistent Rachel's brother, and the two became friends. As if that weren't crazy enough, John then pretended to be a psychotic stalker named Kevin, who threatened to murder John and Rachel (who, remember, is a person who does not exist) unless Mark performed sex acts in front of a webcam, which Mark did. Finally, realizing that Mark would never love him the way he loved John's pretend sister, John cooked up the spy story -- because if you can't make someone love you, tricking them into murdering you is apparently the next best thing.
"See, Paul? Didn't I say we should add 'Love does not stab people'?"
Mark, who at this point was running uncontested in the "Most Gullible Human Being to Have Ever Existed" competition, didn't know about any of this until the evidence was presented in court and John admitted to it. Hopefully, someone thought to record his facial expression at the exact moment of John's confession.
For some inexplicable reason, the judge let John off the hook, although he banned the two teens from ever interacting with each other again and prohibited John from having unsupervised Internet access ... because he likely would've pretended to be Mark's long-lost cousin or something within a few weeks.
But John will return in: License to Catfish.
A KKK Leader Hires a Black Civil Rights Lawyer to Defend His Right to Be Racist
In the 1990s, Michael Lowe, the grand dragon of the Texas KKK, was determined to keep the tiny town of Vidor whiter than an albino snowflake on Steve Martin's head. Unsurprisingly, he flipped out when a desegregation project introduced black residents, so Lowe and the other evil Caspers protested the project until their new non-white neighbors relocated. In response, the Texas Commission on Human Rights sought a court order to obtain the KKK's membership list in hopes of finding and prosecuting the Klansmen suspected of racial intimidation. Lowe believed that the court order was a constitutional no-no and sought out the American Civil Liberties Union, because civil rights suddenly became important to him when white people's right to be racist assholes was called into question.
"Hey! We Klansmen have the right to exist without being harassed for the color of our robes!"
The Plot Twist:
The Texas ACLU asked an attorney named Anthony Griffin to take the case, and Griffin dutifully accepted. However, for some reason, nobody realized that Griffin was the chief counsel for the Texas NAACP, which just so happened to be a longtime champion of racially integrated housing. Adding to that acrid irony, Griffin's legal argument would hinge on a Supreme Court ruling that protected the NAACP from having to disclose its membership lists. It was like the "Mirror, Mirror" version of Matthew McConaughey's speech at the end of A Time to Kill -- instead of racists imagining a black victim as white, opponents of blind prejudice needed to imagine the KKK as a black civil rights group.
Pictured: The Matthew McConaughey for Klansmen.
Some of the Texas NAACP's leadership angrily urged Griffin to drop the case, while media outlets such as the Houston Chronicle were going apeshit with the headline "Black Lawyer Giving His All to the Klan." Lowe, the king of Texas racism, had inadvertently orchestrated a gripping drama about a civil rights lawyer asked to choose between an organization that embodied his values and achievements as a lawyer and defending a bunch of white supremacists against a legitimate civil rights violation. We should mention that Lowe and his cohorts heroically made zero effort to hold back their racial slurs, even though Griffin was defending them.
Griffin somehow managed to wolf down that steaming plate of shit-storm, certain that the "rights of people we hate" were worth defending, even at the risk of alienating his colleagues, who booted him out of the NAACP for his troubles. But Griffin successfully defended Lowe and only ever regretted that people had focused so much on the color of his skin and not the quality of his lawyering.
"YES, THEY DESERVE A TRIAL, AND I HOPE I DO IT WELL!"
A Gangster's Trial Turns Into a Web of Sexual Intrigue
In the 1990s, the city of Los Angeles was trying to crack down on the problem of Asian gangs peddling bootlegged Microsoft products to finance massive, way more serious criminal undertakings. Among the people facing prosecution were Ming Ching Jin and his wife, Pifen Lo, who, in addition to selling pirated software, also dabbled in money-laundering, kidnapping, illegal explosives, and probably the Asian mob. Presiding over their case was Judge George W. Trammell III, who promised to utterly wreck their shit if they were convicted, which they were.
He replaced his gavel with Mjolnir, just for the sentencing hearing.
The Plot Twist:
Normally, we're fine with bomb-hoarding gangsters getting the book thrown at them, but Judge Trammell wasn't interested in punishing Jin and Lo with jail time. No, Judge Trammell saw the conviction as a golden opportunity to blackmail Lo into having sex with him.
According to Lo, soon after Jin was convicted, Trammell asked her to explore the fleshly contents of his amicus briefs in exchange for not issuing her husband a life sentence without parole. What ensued was months of judicial house calls, detailed plans for numerically coded sex messages from Trammell, and a laundry list of legal leniencies for Lo, who was given a feather-light five years' probation after pleading no contest to charges of money-laundering, child endangerment, and counterfeiting (you may recognize these as charges that normally land you in a federal prison). Trammell even returned the Mercedes-Benz that had been confiscated when Lo and her husband were arrested, along with a mountain of other ill-gotten luxury items.
"He also returned all of our explosives and the person my husband had kidnapped."
While the judge conducted himself like the villain of a Lifetime movie, Lo was secretly getting the drop on him. She recorded four separate conversations with Trammell, but law enforcement was hesitant to intervene because there didn't seem to be sufficient evidence to prove Lo's claims that her interactions with Trammell were forced. However, when it was revealed that Trammell had hired a private attorney on the public's dime to get Lo's confiscated valuables returned to her and had paid the attorney by mailing him a check, federal prosecutors nailed him on mail fraud, because defending the mail is a higher national priority than preventing judicial officials from blackmailing defendants into having sex with them.
Despite damning evidence of misconduct, Trammell tried to weasel his way out of a serious sanction by arguing that he needed to get close to Lo in order to keep himself safe from her gangster associates. However, precisely zero people bought that story, and Judge Boner was sentenced to prison and banned from practicing law.
"Sorry, getting disbarred excludes you from courtroom porn parodies, too."
A Teenager Is Arrested, Triggering a War With a Mob Boss
Back in 1997, 13-year-old Lenard Clark ventured from the predominantly black neighborhood of Bronzeville in Chicago to the predominantly not black Bridgeport to find a service station that offered free air for his bike tires. Unfortunately, Bridgeport was not only home to free air but also to 18-year-old Frankie Caruso, a thundering racist who took Clark's appearance in Bridgeport as an affront to his whiteness. So, Caruso and a few of his friends viciously stomped Clark into a two-week coma. This is spectacularly illegal, so Caruso was arrested.
And from that day forward, all crimes against minorities were properly handled and prosecuted. The end.
The Plot Twist:
If Caruso was a scumbag cocktail, his father, Frank "Toots" Caruso Sr., was a bucket full of cigarette butts and old mayonnaise. Toots was an organized-crime boss, hellbent on doing his mob-bossiest to make sure his son didn't go to prison. Like a hardcore method actor prepping to star in a Scorsese film, Toots employed a barrage of transparent pandering, heart-shriveling intimidation, and maybe even outright murder.
One witness (the son of another mobster, because apparently there's approximately two career paths in Bridgeport) disappeared to avoid testifying. Another witness mysteriously wound up dead. And a third witness caught a case of courtroom amnesia and completely forgot everything about the incident, a fact he mentioned more than 125 times on the stand. In the meantime, Toots began schmoozing with black preachers in Bronzeville and gave a televised speech about racial togetherness, while his son suddenly had a black best friend (this is the guy on trial for beating a 13-year-old kid into a coma for the crime of being black).
Despite the chaotic intervention of Toots, the jury convicted Frankie and sentenced him to eight years behind bars. However, the hilariously criminal hijinks didn't stop there. Frankie tried to get his sentence reduced, aided by the testimony of Clark's surprisingly compassionate (a phrase here meaning "almost certainly coerced") mother. Meanwhile, Daniel Locallo, the presiding judge, learned that a contract had been put out on his life, and he had to be placed under government protection until the FBI tracked down the hitman.
"I know my life is in imminent danger and all, but it's hard to be upset about a federally sponsored paid vacation."
Ultimately, the sentence stuck without any more terrifying shenanigans, but it's probably best for everyone to just stay the hell out of Bridgeport.
A St. Louis Court Forgets to Send a Man to Prison; He Then Turns His Life Around
In 1999, 23-year-old Cornealious "Mike" Anderson held up a St. Louis Burger King, despite the argument that he was merely taking the "Have It Your Way" slogan too literally. Anderson was convicted and was dealt a 13-year prison sentence for attempting to usurp the Burger Kingdom.
Thankfully, the House of Whopper line endures to this day.
The Plot Twist:
Evidently, the trial and conviction were more about the journey than the destination, because nobody bothered to pay any attention as to whether Anderson actually made it to jail. Whoever was supposed to issue the official order for him to report for incarceration after sentencing simply forgot to do it. And since prison isn't the kind of thing you volunteer for, Anderson wasn't about to just waltz into the warden's mansion without a formal invitation -- he skipped the whole incarceration thing altogether, assuming that if he was supposed to be somewhere, someone would come tell him.
However, rather than taking his newfound freedom as a sign from Valhalla to start raiding Burger Kings with reckless abandon, Anderson completely turned his life around.
"I got a job at McDonald's as the Hamburglar."
The former fast-food bandit founded a construction company, got married, and had a bunch of kids. In addition, Anderson devoted his free time to coaching a youth football team and helping out at the local church, all things that sound like way more of a societal contribution than spending 13 years in prison, collecting tattoos and bitter resentment.
But just as Anderson's prison term had technically expired, the long overlooked error was finally discovered, and authorities promptly hauled the business-owning family man off to the big house. His lawyer appealed the arrest on the legal grounds that it was kind of a shitty thing to do.
"I cite Devenanzio v. Ellin, where the court ruling stated, 'Dude. Don't be a dick.'"
Luckily, the presiding judge recognized that Anderson had taken what was ultimately a clerical screw-up beyond his control and made the absolute best of it, demonstrating his undeniable ability to benefit society as a business owner with a social conscience and a loving family. So Anderson got to skip prison again -- this time for good.
"You see? All you need is a total rehabilitation of yourself coupled with
a 50-leaf-clover level of luck, and everything will turn out fine."
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For more criminal drama fit for Hollywood, check out 7 Ridiculous Cases Where Animals Were Put On Trial and 5 Shockingly Crazy Judges Who Presided Over Modern Courts.
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