The public seems fascinated by crime. News and popular media sources provide a steady diet of stories, footage, and photographs about the misfortunes of others in order to satisfy this appetite. Murder, rape, terrorism, gang-related activities, and other violent crimes are staples. Various crime events are presented in the news every day, but most of what is covered is quickly forgotten. In contrast, some crimes left a lasting impression on the American psyche. Some examples include the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the bombing of the Murrah building in Oklahoma City, and the September 11th attacks. These events, and other significant cases, are immediately or on reflection talked about as crimes of the century. They earn this title not only because they generate enormous publicity, but because of their impact on American culture: they help define historical eras, influence public opinion about crime, change legal process, and focus concern about important social issues. They seep into many other shared aspects of social life: public conversation, fiction and nonfiction, songs, poems, films, and folk tales.
This set focuses on the many crimes of the century of the last 100 years. In vivid detail, each crime is laid out, the investigation is discussed, the media reaction is described, the trial (if there was one) is narrated, the resolution is explored, and the significance of the case in terms of its social, political, popular, and legal relevance is examined. Illustrations and sidebars are scattered throughout to enliven the text; print and electronic resources for further reading and research are offered for those wishing to dig deeper. Cases include the Scopes Monkey trial, Ted Bundy, Timothy McVeigh, O.J. Simpson, Leopold and Loeb, Fatty Arbuckle, Al Capone, JonBenet Ramsey, the Lacy Peterson murder, Abu Ghraib, Columbine and more.