What Is the Longest Court Trial in American History?

The American justice system is known for its lengthy trials, but what is the longest court trial in American history? Let’s take a look at the case that holds this record.

The Case: United States v. Shipp

The case of United States v. Shipp is the longest court trial in American history. It began in 1906 and lasted for a total of six years, finally ending in 1912. The case was heard by the United States Supreme Court and involved a group of men who were accused of lynching a black man named Ed Johnson.

The Lynching of Ed Johnson

Ed Johnson was a black man who had been accused of raping a white woman in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He was arrested and charged with the crime, but before his trial could take place, he was taken from his cell by an angry mob and lynched.

The Trial

In response to the lynching, the federal government decided to prosecute those responsible. They charged a group of men with contempt of court for interfering with Johnson’s right to a fair trial.

The trial began in Chattanooga in 1907 but was moved to Nashville after it became clear that an impartial jury could not be found in Chattanooga. The trial lasted for six years and involved numerous appeals and legal challenges.

The Verdict

In the end, five men were convicted of contempt of court and sentenced to prison terms ranging from one to three years. However, their sentences were later commuted by President William Howard Taft.


The case of United States v. Shipp is not only the longest court trial in American history but also serves as a reminder of the injustices that have occurred throughout our nation’s history. While six years may seem like an extreme length for a trial, it shows that justice should never be rushed and that every person deserves a fair trial, no matter their race or background.