For nine months Lindy Chamberlain bore inside her the weight of her baby Azaria before giving birth to her on June 11, 1980. For about 30 years she bore the weight of the charges that she had killed that child, till on June 13 2012 a coroner confirmed Lindy’s and husband Michael’s version that she was taken away by a dingo. There have been similar cases that have caught the attention of the world. Court is now in order
Erin Brokovich vs Pacific Gas and Electric Company
Erin Brokovich, a Miss Pacific Coast in 1981, had no legal education whatsoever. Yet that did not stop her from pursuing ecological issues and was instrumental in making a case against the Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) of California in 1993 for contamination of drinking water. The wastewater from one of its facilities was let out into ponds on the site. Some of the wastewater percolated down and got mixed with the groundwater affecting the quality of water in a nearby area of 2 by 1 miles. The case was settled in 1996 for $333 million — the largest settlement ever paid in a direct action lawsuit in US history.
Roe vs Wade
This 1973 case has been hailed as a landmark case. It legalised abortion in America. The Supreme Court ruled that a woman is entitled to have an abortion until the end of the first trimester of pregnancy without any interference by the state. Jane Roe a single pregnant woman challenged the constitutionality of the Texas abortion laws. These laws made it a crime to obtain or attempt an abortion except on medical advice to save the life of the mother. The defendant was county district attorney Henry Wade. Roe vs Wade prompted a national debate that continues today, about issues including whether and to what extent abortion should be legal, who should decide the legality of abortion. In a long and detailed opinion, the Court specified the points during a woman’s pregnancy when the interests of the state in the health of the mother and of the fetus emerge.
Movies were made about it, books were written about it, but the greatest fallout of the Nanavati case was the scrapping of the jury system in India. The case is simple: Kawas Manekshaw Nanavati, a Parsi and a commander with the Indian Navy, comes back from an assignment to find his English-born wife Sylvia in love with his friend of 15 years Prem Ahuja. Nanavati drops Sylvia and their three kids at a cinema hall and goes to his base, collects his firearm and ammos on false pretext, goes to Ahuja’s residence and confronts him and asks if he intended to marry his wife and look after their kids. The answer is no, and Nanavati shoots him three times and kills him. When the case was tried at Greater Bombay sessions court, the jury pronounced Nanavati as not guilty, with an 8–1 verdict. The case was referred to the High Court where Nanavati was awarded life imprisonment, which was later upheld by the Apex Court. The Centre abolished the jury system after it became obvious that the jury can be influenced.
In the 1950s, to be suspected of being Communist was bad enough, to be a suspected of being a Communist spy meant certain death. Especially if you were accused of passing on classified military and industrial information about the atomic bomb to the Soviet Union. Julius Rosenberg and Ethel Greenglass Rosenberg were found guilty on all charges. Julius (with the aide of his wife) was convicted of espionage; acting as a courier recruiter for the Soviets. David Greenglass, Harry Gold, Klaus Fuchs and Morton Sobell who were also accused of being spies received prison sentences. But calling their crime “worse than murder” and blaming them for 50,000 American deaths in Korea, Judge Irving Kaufman sentenced the Rosenbergs to death. A two year long battle for clemency, including protests, pleas and walks by Rosenberg supporters on both continents poured into the White House, with no effect. The Rosenbergs were the first American civilians to be executed on June 19, 1953.
Jessica Lal trial
On April 30, 1999 Jessica Lal was working as a celebrity barmaid at a private party in Tamarind Court, Delhi when she refused to serve liquor to Manu Sharma and his friends— Amardeep Singh Gill, Vikas Yadav, and Alok Khanna. In front 32 witnesses, Manu Sharma shot Jessica Lal to death. However, due to hostile witnesses and shoddy investigation, snail-paced convictions, the case dragged on its feet until 2006 when nine out of 12 accused were acquitted. The judgement led to a huge hue and cry from the media and the public, upon which the Delhi High Court had to conduct proceedings on a fast track with daily hearings conducted over 25 days. At the end of it, Manu Sharma was found guilty of having murdered Lal and sentenced to life imprisonment. Denying an appeal, the SC upheld its judgement in 2010. For once, the trial by media ensured that Jessica Lal’s case was one of justice delayed but not denied.
Jeffrey Wigand vs Brown and Williamson
Jeffrey Wigand is the man who dared who oppose the tobacco industry. He is the former vice president of research and development at Brown & Williamson in Louisville, Kentucky. He became known as a whistleblower regarding the company’s decisions involving the selection of ingredients in their cigarettes when on the CBS news programme 60 Minutes, he stated Brown & Williamson intentionally manipulated the tobacco blend to increase the amount of nicotine in cigarette smoke, thereby increasing the ‘impact’ to the smoker. B&W immediately began a campaign to malign him and sued Wigand for theft, fraud, and breach of contract after a non-edited version of the CBS interview was aired. Nothing worked in their favour and forty-six states ultimately filed a Medicaid suit against the tobacco industry which led to a $368 billion settlement in health-related damages by the tobacco companies.
The Leveson inquiry has been entrusted with looking into the ethics of the British press following the News International phone-hacking scandal which also involves its sister concern News of the World. In 2006, reporters at News of the World used private investigators to illegally gain access to hundreds of mobile phone voicemail accounts held by a variety of people of interest to the newspaper. In 2007 the paper’s royal correspondent, Clive Goodman, pleaded guilty to illegal interception of personal communication and was jailed for four months; the paper’s editor, Andy Coulson, had resigned two weeks earlier. In 2009/2010, further revelations emerged on the extent of the phone hacking, and how it was common knowledge within the News of the World and its News International parent. The newspaper printed its final edition on July 10, 2011. The paper announced that all profits from the final edition – 74 pence out of the £1 cover price – would go to “good causes”.