Trial by Publicity: Some of the Most Controversial Courtroom Cases in History

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Controversial court cases always have a way of captivating people, especially the ones where the rich and famous are involved.

Whether it’s a glove that doesn’t fit, or a very shady alibi given to slither away from a criminal charge, these cases always have the public following every detail.

It may be because of the public thirst for outlandish stories and tales of treachery. You have law and court reporters to thank for the stories that you’ve read about different cases. There are many cases that have become famous over time — some ended in acquittals while most ended in convictions.

Recall the best courtroom dramas through this list. Let’s start off with a few famous names.

The Trial of O.J. Simpson

It was called “the trial of the century” and had the former NFL running back front-and-center on all news channels and broadsheets. It turned the courtroom from hallowed halls of justice into a sensational almost-circus. O.J. Simpson’s trial set the bar for how publicized a courtroom trial was to be.

Simpson was charged with two counts of murder — he was the prime suspect for the 1994 deaths of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her close friend Ron Goldman. Simpson had the power of his hard-earned income at his side and hired a team of defense lawyers that was dubbed the “Dream Team” back then.

The months-long trial ended with the controversial acquittal of Simpson.

Ted Bundy’s Trial

The trial of serial killer Ted Bundy is another controversial case that captured the collective consciousness of the American public. It wasn’t because of the gruesome nature of his kills, but that was a huge part of why he was controversial. The other part was because of his dangerous charisma, his movie-star looks, and his courtroom appeal.

Bundy defended himself while on trial and famously proposed to his top defender, Carole Anne Boone. Boone was only one of the many girls that fell for Bundy because of his looks — another reason he was able to murder the many women he tricked into accommodating him.

The 2020 Netflix series, starring Zac Efron, is the latest to document his series of murders.

George Zimmerman on Trial

The shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin catapulted George Zimmerman into the television screens and into history. The neighborhood where both lived was famous for its reputation for petty crime, which Zimmerman used as a defense for doing what he did.

During the trial, Zimmerman claimed he did what he did in self-defense. There were even accusations that the murder was a racial killing, but in the end, the all-female jury in the case judged that Zimmerman as innocent of all charges. This sparked a slew of protests that happened nationwide.

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The Trial of John Gotti Jr.

John Gotti Jr. was a former mob boss with connections with the infamous Gambino crime family. When the federal government finally had their mitts around Gotti Jr., they slapped him with multiple cases and charged him with murder conspiracy as well as racketeering. This followed the 1992 charges slapped on his father, Gotti Sr., who died in prison.

Gotti Jr. was very a very charismatic mob boss who loved the limelight. The Gambino crime family was also infamous because they managed to evade charges racked against them. Viewers love charismatic crime lords, and so they’ll surely love any film or series about the mob family.

The Menendez Brothers on Trial

Jose and Mary “Kitty” Menendez were normal parents, or so it seemed, who had the misfortune of being murdered. The trial gripped public attention because the Menendez’ murderers were said to be their college-aged sons, Lyle and Erik.

The defense team that handled the case argued that the parents were abusive, which led to their murders. The trial was aired nationally, where the first one ended in hung juries. In the second trial, the judge saw no reason to acquit the brothers. They were found guilty of murder and sentenced to life in prison with no possibility for parole. The case was also famous for the number of documentaries made about it.

When someone says that crime doesn’t pay, they surely haven’t watched these infamous trials that caught the imagination of the public. The number of documentaries and movies made about some of these personalities have certainly made millionaires of many actors and directors. Even authors and publishers made money from books.

One thing’s for sure, though, you certainly wouldn’t want to be the subject of one of these real-life courtroom dramas.

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