In the next week, four criminal trials will begin for events that have captured the nation’s attention. Events that happened two, four and and even forty years ago.
Already starting this week is the espionage trial of Bradley Manning. Private First Class Manning, of the United States Army, was arrested in May of 2010. He’s the intelligence analyst who smuggled classified documents from Iraq to Wikileaks. The documents — and a video called “Collateral Murder” — endangered U.S. soldiers in the battlefield, so say the prosecutors, who charge that Manning aided the enemy. But, wait — Manning is a whistleblower who chose his conscience over orders, so his supporters say. He’s being court-martialed at Fort Meade in Maryland. Read our Bradley Manning biography and follow the links for more.
Also beginning this week is the trial of another U.S. Army member, psychiatrist and Major Nidal Hasan. He’s facing the death penalty, if convicted of pre-meditated murder and attempted pre-meditated murder. He’s the guy who in November of 2009 opened fire at Fort Hood, Texas, shouting “Allahu Akbar!” (“God is great!”), killing 13 people. He wounded another 32 people. Hasan is paralyzed from the waist down, the result of injuries when he was captured at the scene. He’s been judged mentally competent, and he’s representing himself at his trial at Fort Hood. Read more in the Who2 biography of Nidal Hasan.
James “Whitey” Bulger has been accused of crimes going back to 1973. He was one of the most wanted fugitives in the country for a time, second only to Osama bin Laden, on the lam from 1995 until captured in California in June of 2011. During the 1970s and ’80s Bulger was a Boston crime boss. As he was about to be arrested, he skipped town, warned by a sympathetic F.B.I. agent. Wanted for 19 murders and a gnarly roster of other crimes, he was 81 years old when the law finally caught up to him. That was two years ago. Now he’s on trial in Boston, and it should be interesting. On the one hand, Whitey claims he had immunity all these years (he’d been an informant for the F.B.I.), and there have been questions over the years about whether he’d had protection from law enforcement. On the other hand, prosecutors say he’s a mean gangster, and they’ve got a long line of other gangsters who will get up and say so. Read more in our biography of James “Whitey” Bulger.
And lastly, next week the trial finally begins for George Zimmerman, who’s been charged in the death of Trayvon Martin. Remember that one? Trayvon Martin was a teenage kid — a black kid — who crossed paths with Zimmerman, a self-proclaimed neighborhood activist. Trayvon Martin bought some Skittles, then walked through the wrong neighborhood at the wrong time. Thanks to the glory of guns, Trayvon didn’t end up bruised, he ended up dead, shot by George Zimmerman, a wanna-be cop and a not-quite-member of the local neighborhood watch. Zimmerman shot Martin on 26 February 2012. His trial starts next week. For more, see the Who2 profiles of Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman.