Sean A. Berman


This Note describes how criminal trials for prominent criminal acts contribute to the collective memory of the underlying offense. Hannah Arendt once argued that the purpose of criminal trials is to “render justice, and nothing else.” Unlike criminal trials, political trials strive to produce collective memory. This Note utilizes political trials as a foil to criminal trials to identify the ways that criminal trials succeed (and fail) to produce collective memory. Several features of the criminal trial— namely, the trial’s unique narrative form, constituent storytellers, capacity to capture the gravity of the offense, and jury—add to society’s shared narrative of the offense. By developing and utilizing a framework for how criminal trials manufacture collective memory, this Note considers how the trial of Derek Chauvin adds to the collective memory of George Floyd’s murder.

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