Famous Trials in American History

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This course is an examination of a number of the most famous trials of the past century, focusing on the legal significance, historical and political context, social implications, and media coverage surrounding each case. Course materials shall include selected readings from a number of texts and actual trial transcripts, together with a series of videos providing extensive archival footage of the specific trials studied. Class sessions shall include discussions of the facts of each case, the manner and impact of the media coverage, and the social, political, and legal consequences of the trial. The lead scholar for this course is Jack Ford, JD, Lecturer at Yale University.

Emmy and Peabody Award–winning journalist, documentary producer, prominent trial attorney, author, and teacher, Jack Ford has had a unique and remarkably successful career. Raised by a single parent, his journey has taken him from a small town in New Jersey to Yale University, where he was a scholarship student and three-year starter on the varsity football team, to the Fordham University School of Law, where he helped finance his legal education with winnings from three appearances on the television quiz show Jeopardy, to courtrooms and classrooms throughout the country, and, ultimately, to the upper echelons of television journalism.

Currently a CBS news correspondent for 60 Minutes Sports and host of MetroFocus on PBS (WNET-New York), he is also the co-founder and chief anchor of the American Education Network and a consultant for the NCAA. Mr. Ford began his television news career in 1984 with WCBS-TV in New York. In 1991, he was an original anchor at the launch of Court TV. He also appeared in Fred Friendly’s award-winning PBS Media and Society broadcasts, serving as moderator for “That Delicate Balance II: The Bill of Rights.”

During his legal career, he also served as an adjunct professor of law at the Fordham University School of Law. He is currently a visiting lecturer at Yale University, New York University, and the University of Virginia and speaks frequently at colleges and professional schools across the country. He is the author of two critically acclaimed novels, The Osiris Alliance and The Walls of Jericho.

Course Section Numbers (CRNs) for this course, HI 579

Use these CRN codes to register for this course, HI 579, on the Adams State University web page starting July 1.

CRN 12220, Instructor: Dr. Rhonda Jones
CRN 12221, Instructor: Dr. Rhonda Jones
CRN 12222, Instructor: Dr. Kimberly Fabbri
CRN 12223, Instructor: Dr. Kimberly Fabbri

Course Structure

The course syllabus and readings will be made available when the course site opens, shortly before the beginning of the semester. Check your ASU Blackboard page for that information.  

Readings for this course will include chapters from Crimes and Trials of the Century edited by Frankie Y. Bailey and Steven Chermak and chapters from The Press on Trial: Crimes and Trials as Media Events by Lloyd E. Chiasson Jr, as well as transcripts from relevant trials. Readings will be provided on the course site.

The course will run from August 21 to December 15. It includes 12 pre-recorded lecture sessions of approximately one hour each and two live Q&A sessions of one hour each with the lead scholar. Q&A sessions will run from 7 to 8 p.m. Eastern Time and will be recorded and archived so that those who cannot participate live can watch later.

Each Gilder Lehrman Online Course has a Lead Scholar and Instructors. Frequently, courses also feature guest speakers. Instructors, each of whom has earned a PhD in American history, are responsible for all grading and for facilitating discussion.

The typical workload for online courses is 8 to 10 short response papers and one longer project completed in stages during the semester. Reading assignments are 150-250 pages. Students will also be required to participate in online discussion forums each week.