Famous Arizona Trials

The OK Corral Trial — The Life and Trial of Wyatt Earp

This proceeding arose out of the famous gunfight at the O.K. Corral. The gunfight was important because it came to symbolize the struggle between law-and-order and open-banditry and rustling, in frontier towns of the Old West. In towns like Tombstone, Arizona there was often insufficient law enforcement and some. Some of the urban-vs.-rural and North-vs.-South tensions of the American Civil Ware were still very prevalent.

The actual gunfight occurred on Wednesday afternoon, October 26, 1881 in a vacant lot, known as lot 2, in block 17, behind the corral in Tombstone. Some thirty shots were fired in thirty seconds and three people were killed.

After the gunfight, Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday, the two men not formally employed as law officers, and also the two least wounded were charged with murder. Extensive testimony was offered at the preliminary hearing to decide whether there was enough evidence to bind the men over for trial. The presiding Justice of the Peace, Hon. Wells Spicer, ruled that there was not enough evidence to indict the men. Two weeks later, a grand jury followed Spicer's finding, and also refused to indict. Spicer, in his ruling, criticized City Marshal Virgil Earp for using Wyatt and Doc as backup temporary deputies, but not for using Morgan, who had already been wearing a City Marshal badge for 9 days.

Trial of Pearl Hart — Lady Bandit of Arizona

Superior Court Judge Howard C. Speakman presided at two of the most spectacular trials in Maricopa County history, both of which occurred in the 1930s. The first was for Winnie Ruth Judd, a clinical nurse accused of murdering two women friends, carving up the body of one, and shipping the remains of both in trunks by train to Los Angeles. The second was for Maricopa County Sheriff Roy Merrill, who was accused of offering a bribe to County Attorney John Corbin to open the county to gambling. Judd's trial, unlike Merrill's, drew national and international attention. Judd, nicknamed the "Tiger Woman," was convicted on February 8, 1932 and was sentenced to death, but was later adjudged insane. She was transferred from death row at the state penitentiary to the Arizona State Hospital in Phoenix. She escaped from the hospital seven times. Her death sentence was eventually commuted to life imprisonment in 1952. She was paroled from prison in 1971 and moved to California.

Other famous trials, not necessarily in order of importance:

Trial of John Henry Carpenter for the alleged murder of Robert Crane, American disc jockey and actor on June 29, 1978. Crane's life and murder were the subject of the 2002 film Auto Focus.

Trial of John Harvey Adamson and Max Dunlap for the murder of Don Bolles on June 2, 1976. Bolles was a reporter for the Arizona Republic. Bolles' car was destroyed by a bomb as it sat in a parking lot in Phoenix. The exact motive for the crime remains a mystery, but many believe the Mafia was responsible. Bolles had written stories about organized crime; he had also attacked a powerful businessman named Kemper Marley.

Impeachment Trial of Evan Meacham . Meacham became known as the Harold Stassen of Arizona before he became the 19th governor of Arizona in 1987. While governor, he was plagued by controversy and became the first U.S. governor to simultaneously face removal from office through impeachment, a scheduled recall election and a felony indictment. He was removed from office following conviction in his impeachment trial of charges of the obstruction of justice and the misuse of government funds. A later criminal trial acquitted Meacham of related charges.

Trial of John Fife Symington III , 21st governor from 1991 until his resignation in 1997. H e was indicted on charges of extortion and making false financial statements, and of bank fraud. He was convicted of bank fraud in 1997 and forced to resign. The conviction, however, was overturned in 1999 by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. He was subsequently pardoned by President Clinton near the end of his presidency in January 2001. The pardon terminated the federal government's seven year battle with the former governor.

Trial of Bishop Thomas O'Brien — February 17, 2004, Bishop O'Brien, the former head of Arizona's largest Roman Catholic diocese, was convicted of a hit and run making him the first Catholic bishop in the United States to be convicted of a felony.

Tovrea Murder Trial

Newspaper Chronicle of the Jeanne Tovrea Murder — Information on Web Page 1 and Web Page 2

Buddhist Monk Trial

Poland Brothers Trial

Steven Steinberg Trial

Scott Falater Trial

We are working to compile a list of the fifty most famous trials in Arizona history. We have listed several above, but our list is incomplete. Can you help? If you are familiar with Arizona legal history, please give us your ideas on the list and tell us which trials we have overlooked. A brief description of the trial and why it was noteworthy would be appreciated. If possible, tell us the names of the parties, the judge who presided over the trial and why it was interesting.

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