Massie Trials (1931 & 1932)

Two dramatic criminal trials, one for rape and one for murder and both involving multiple defendants, forever changed the nature of Hawaiian race relations and politics. Filled with twists and turns and unanswered questions, the trials have all the elements of a good mystery. The second of the so-called "Massie Affair" trials also closes out the courtroom career of America's greatest defense attorney, Clarence Darrow. No trials ever had a more significant effect on a state's history than those that shocked and shook Hawaii in 1931 and 1932.

An Allegation of Rape

The plan was to spend the evening of Saturday September 12, 1931 at a nightclub on the outskirts of Honolulu's Waikiki district. Thalia Massie, with a blueblood background and a belief in her own sophistication, was much less enthusiastic about the prospect than her husband of four years, naval officer Thomas Massie. She anticipated the night would include another night of heavy drinking for Tommie and his submarine buddies. Her marriage, however, was on the rocks. She decided that joining the party beat the alternatives. After an hour of chatting over bootleg liquor with two other officers and their wives, the Massies left their bungalow in the Manoa Valley about 9:30. They pulled up in their Model A Ford in front of the two-story Ala Wai Inn, a framed building advertised as having "the largest open-air pavilion in Honolulu." Saturday night was dubbed Navy night--fifty cents bought four hours of dancing until 1:00 a.m.

Around 11:30, Thalia was in an upstairs room, agitated over the fact that Tommie had spent most of the previous two hours ignoring her. She slipped into the seat of a drunken submarine skipper....