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04 juin 2008

100 Years of Trials



As in all democratic countries, French justice is rendered before a public audience, and everyone is free to attend the trials. The justice dealt out each day attracts various segments of the population. Under the Third Republic, the civil chambers of the tribunals and of the court of appeal were frequented first and foremost by practitioners of the legal profession. The tribunals become quite busy places when the parties involved were artistic and literary celebrities.

president-delegorguePresident Delegorgue
In 1880, Sarah Bernhardt was found guilty of breaking her contract with the Comédie-Française. As it is with all court buildings, the Law Courts in Paris have seen a long line of murderers and crooks: Campi the assassin (1884); Pranzini, dubbed the "magnificent charmer", killer of women (1887). The trial of the anarchists: Ravachol received a life sentenced to forced labor for having set off several bombs in a barracks and in the homes of the magistrates (1892); Vaillant, found guilty of an attack on the Chamber of Deputies, was sent to the gallows (1893). The Law Courts are sometimes the theater of trials that attract nation-wide attention: the Panama Canal scandal (1893); the indictment of Zola before the Assize Court (1898); Thérèse Humbert (1903); Dreyfus was pronounced innocent in 1906; Madame Steinheil was suspected of having murdered her husband (1909); Madame Caillaux, the wife of the Minister of Finance, who killed Monsieur Calmette, the director of the Figaro newspaper, was acquitted in 1914; the famous spy Mata-Hari was sentenced to death in 1917; the trial of Raoul Villain for the murder of Jean Jaurès was held in 1919; Stavisky was sued in 1926 for having orchestrated the theft of titles from securities brokers, and after his death in 1934, twenty of his alleged accomplices passed before the Assize Court; the Russian Gorguloff, murderer of the President of the Republic Paul Doumer (1932); Violette Nozières, who was found guilty of having poisoned her father, is sentenced to death (1934); Charles Maurras was sentenced to eight months in prison for having incited to the murder of Léon Blum (1936); the trial of Marshal Pétain was held from July through August 1945. The first chamber of the court of appeal is then used as audience room of the High Court of Justice. Violette Nozières was freed in 1945. Doctor Petiot, accused of killing twenty-seven people, was sentenced to death in April 1946. In 1961, the first chamber of the court of appeal of Paris was used to house the High Military Tribunal instituted to judge Generals Challe and Zeller for their participation in the putsch in Algiers.



Emile Zola


Maître Labori



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