A kangaroo court is a form of public trial that is, from the outset, an inside sham as the outcome is fully known before the trial begins.
Generally, kangaroo courts will limit the defendant's rights to witnesses, limit his time with his attorneys, provide him with inept attorneys (in situations where the state provides the attorney), or generally deny him the civil rights of due process.
Notable kangaroo courts include:
- The European witch-hunts and Salem witch trials.
- Sharia trials on issues such as adultery in Islamic fundamentalist nations.
- Political trials under dictatorships and totalitarian regimes.
- Pretty much any trial in North Korea.
- Trials in which a regime rids itself of associates who have become inconvenient, such as Josef Stalin's Great Purge of the Soviet Union's Communist Party in the late 1930s (the "Moscow Trials").
- Most every trial against a black man in the South from 1900-1960s (unless you were Lead Belly).
- From the opposite direction in the same time and place, in the very rare case that a white person was actually on trial for lynching, their acquittal was never in question, especially when there was enough evidence to find the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
- Senate hearings on the partial birth abortion ban, in 2003.
- Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination hearing, in the sense that it was clear that the Senate was going to ignore the damning evidence against him and approve his appointment no matter what.
- The 2014 trial of three Al Jazeera journalists in Egypt.
- The so-called Cadaver Synod, in which the Pope put his dead predecessor on trial.
Just like The Boy Who Cried Wolf, the existence of known show trials, like the Moscow Trials, will cloud the external view of all trials within closed societies. In the case of the Soviet Union's 1949 Khabarovsk trial of Japanese war criminals from Unit 731, real criminals were tried on real charges and convicted. At the time, the United States government successfully portrayed the Khabarovsk trial as a show trial (though it was known not to be) in an attempt to thwart further prosecutions at the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal (because they wanted to recruit surviving 731 members). Later evidence has shown that the report on the trial was almost completely factual.
- Materials on the Trial of Former Servicemen of the Japanese Army Charged with Manufacturing and Employing Bacteriological Weapons. Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1950, 535 pp.
- Unit 731: Japan's Secret Biological Warfare in World War II by Peter Williams & David Wallace (1989). Free Press. ISBN 0029353017.
- Gold, Hal. Unit 731 Testimony, Charles E Tuttle Co., 1996. ISBN 4-900737-39-9.