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 Dan'l Webster had faced some hard juries and hanging judges in his time, but this was the hardest he'd ever faced, and he knew it. They sat there with a kind of glitter in their eyes, and the stranger's smooth voice went on and on. Every time he'd raise an objection, it'd be "Objection sustained", but whenever Dan'l objected, it'd be "Objection denied". Well, you couldn't expect fair play from a fellow like this Mr. Scratch.

Stephen Vincent Benet, The Devil and Daniel Webster

In The Devil and Daniel Webster by Stephen Vincent Benet when Daniel Webster is defending his client Jabez Stone against the Devil, he demands the right to a trial with an American judge and jury. The Devil agrees, provided he gets to choose the judge and jury. He provides a jury of traitors and murderers to sit in judgment on Stone.

This has been played with many times in homages, pastiches and parodies of The Devil And Daniel Webster, although some modern viewers may not know what the original source was.

See also Joker Jury and Historys Crime Wave.

Examples of Jury of the Damned include:

Anime and Manga

  • In One Piece, on the island where the World Government's justice is passed, the accused goes before a judge and jury. The jury is all convicts who have, so far, never passed a not-guilty verdict, on the grounds that they all want to take as many people with them as they can.

Comic Books

  • In Whiz Comics #43 Ibis defends Eric Winthrop, a friend whose acting career was due to a deal he was tricked into making with the Devil a year ago. The Devil is convinced to give a trial and summons the man's 'peers in evil'. The Judges are Nero, Brutus and Robespierre, and the Jury are 'Thieves! Sweepings of the Gutter! Renegades!' The Devil tells them he expects the verdict to be guilty. Ibis brings back memory of the courts crimes forcing them to flee from Earth as they cannot face this.
  • In The Incredible Hercules, Zeus is put on trial by Pluto with a jury of dead supervillains, including the Armless Tiger Man.
  • Superman was once put on trial by group of dead criminals raised when a magical MacGuffin fell into a prison graveyard. He had The Phantom Stranger as his defender.

Film

  • The Devil and Daniel Webster was made into a brilliant film version in 1941, also known as All That Money Can Buy, with a screenplay by Benet.
  • The 2001 film version, released in 2007, Shortcut To Happiness transfers the story to modern day Las Vegas.
  • There is an animated version titled The Devil and Daniel Mouse.
  • In the 1946 movie A Matter of Life and Death, Englishman Peter Carter is put on a trial before a celestial jury to determine whether he has the right to remain on Earth. The prosecutor is American Abraham Farlan, who hates the British for causing his death in the American Revolutionary War. Carter's defender, Doctor Reeves, challenges the composition of the jury, which is made up of representatives who are prejudiced against the British: a Napoleonic French officer, a Boer soldier from the Boer War, a Russian killed in the Crimean War, an Indian killed in the annexation of the Punjab, a Chinese man who died in the Boxer Rebellion, and an Irishman from the early 20th Century.

Literature

  • The originator of this trope was the short story The Devil and Daniel Webster by Stephen Vincent Benet.
  • The Barsoom Project, sequel to Larry Niven's Dream Park, features a sequence where the Player Characters are put on trial by the manifestations of humanity's sins and crimes as defined by the literal themepark version of the Eskimo religion.
  • In the Xanth book Heaven Cent, Prince Dolph has to protect the skeleton Grace'l Ossein from one of these, though it's less a jury of the damned and more a jury of characters met earlier in the book.

Live Action TV

  • The Monkees episode 'The Devil and Peter Tork'.
  • The Ghost and Mrs. Muir episode 'Not So Faust'.
  • Swamp Thing TV series: Anton Arcane complains that the jury is not impartial, as they all know him well. This troper thinks it was a dream sequence or something.

Theatre

  • Benet co-wrote a one-act opera based on the short story.

Web Comics

  • Richard in Looking for Group is held in court to be judged by his peers -- the damned, who don't think he's living up to his damnation. Subverted in that they don't have the power to enforce their ruling after all.

Western Animation

  • The Simpsons episode 'Treehouse of Horror IV' ("The Devil and Homer Simpson" segment), when Homer sold his soul for a doughnut, included a jury consisting of John Wilkes Booth, Lizzie Borden, John Dillinger, Blackbeard, Benedict Arnold, the starting lineup of the 1976 Philadelphia Flyers (famed for their violent play), and Richard Nixon.

 Nixon: But I'm not dead yet! In fact, I just wrote an article for Redbook.

Satan (Flanders): Hey, listen, I did a favor for you!

Nixon: Yes, master.

    • Given that Nixon has been dead for nearly 20 years, this speaks volumes as to how long the Simpsons have been on the air.
  • Tiny Toons episode 'Night Ghoulery' ("The Devil and Daniel Webfoot" segment).
  • Tripping the Rift episode "The Devil and a guy called Webster".
    • To elaborate... Chode sells his soul to Satan. To get out of paying what he owes, the crew intends to travel back in time to the 1880s to hire Daniel Webster to represent him. Unfortunately, they accidentally travel to the 1980s, and brink back Emmanuelle Lewis (aka Webster). Incredibly, he still manages to win the case.
  • In The Smurfs episode 'Harmony Steals the Show', Harmony Smurf is put on trial by a jury of (generic) ghost musicians and composers in a dispute about being in a legally-bound contract that allowed him to use a ghost's original symphony as his own in exchange for being that ghost's eternal spectral nightclub performer; only the ghost making the charge against Harmony is found guilty of plagiarism when the "original symphony" he claimed he created was revealed to be musical pieces stolen from other musicians.
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