Sunday, February 16, 2014

Ten Top TV Trials of the Modern Era in America

The OJ Simpson Murder Trial
Dubbed the case that changed modern courtroom coverage, over a 100 million people tuned in on October 3, 1995, to watch Simpson receive an acquittal verdict for the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman. It was the trial that Lawyer Jonnie Cochran coined the phrase, “If the glove don’t fit, you must acquit.” 
The Menendez Brothers

In 1993, in one of Court TV’s first high-profile broadcasts, millions of viewers tuned in to the t trial of Erik and Lyle Menendez for the shotgun slayings of their parents. On January 13, 1994, after jurors could not agree on a manslaughter or first-degree sentence, the judge ordered a mistrial. The second trial, however, returned a guilty verdict for both brothers for murder in the first-degree and two consecutive life-in-prison terms.

Jeffrey Dahmer

Over 60 news organizations from around the world, including Britain, France and Australia were present for the February 17, 1992, verdict of serial killer and cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer. He was found sane and guilty on 15 counts of murder and sentenced to 957 years in prison. Dahmer was later murdered in prison by another inmate.

Aileen Wuornos

On January 27, 1992, Wuornos was found guilty of first-degree murder for the murder of truck driver Richard Mallory, and was sentenced to the death in the electric chair. As she was led out of the courtroom after the verdict, Wuornos shouted, “I’m innocent! I was raped! I hope you get raped! Scumbags of America!” Charlize Theron later starred in the movie Monster, based on the Wuornos case.

Rodney King

The not-guilty verdict for King’s beating case against the LAPD was broadcast April 29, 1992, and immediately incited riots around South Central Los Angeles. In the end, 54 people died and over 7,000 fires had been set. The riots prompted King to go on television and utter the famous phrase, “Can’t we all just get along?”

Anna Nicole Smith Custody Trial

Causing months of fodder for Nancy Grace, the custody hearing for Smith’s daughter Dannielynn after the model died of a drug overdose in 2007 sparked national interest. Ex-boyfriend Larry Birkhead was found to be the father on April 11, 2007 after both he and Smith’s boyfriend at the time of her death, Howard K. Stern, took paternity tests.

Ted Bundy

Bundy’s trial holds the distinction of being the first to be televised nationally. Dubbed the Chi Omega murder case because of his brutal attacks on four of the Florida State University sorority’s members, it was covered by 250 reporters from five continents in 1979. Bundy, who later confessed to committing at least 30 homicides from 1974-1978, was convicted of three death sentences in two separate trials and executed in the electric chair in 1989.

Casey Anthony

Ratings have yet to be released, but Anthony’s July 5th verdict stands to be one of the most widely viewed in recent history. CNN’s website reported a 30 percent spike in traffic with 1.9 million viewers tuning in to its live video stream from the courtroom. Despite overwhelming public opinion that she killed her two-year-old daughter, Caylee Marie Anthony, Casey Anthony was found not guilty for all three counts: first-degree murder, aggravated child Abuse, and aggravated manslaughter of a child. She was convicted of counts 4, 5, 6, and 7: Providing False Information to Law Enforcement (two convictions were thrown out in January 2013). Labeled “Tot Mom” by Nancy Grace, Anthony was released soon after on time served and has recently filed for bankruptcy.

Robert Chambers

Nicknamed the “Preppie Killer” by the media, Robert Chambers pled guilty to manslaughter in the death of 18-year-old Jennifer Levin. The two left a bar together and were getting hot and heavy in New York’s Central Park during the early morning hours of August 26, 1986.Chambers’ defense was that Levin’s death had occurred during “rough sex.” With the jury deadlocked for nine days, a plea Bargain was struck in which Chambers pleaded guilty to the lesser crime of manslaughter in the first degree, and to one count of burglary for his thefts in 1986. He was sentenced to serve 5 to 15 years, with the sentence for burglary being served concurrently.

Jodi Arias

Arias gave several different accounts about her involvement in her on-again off-again boyfriend’s (Travis Alexander) death, including that she was not there during the time of the murder and that two intruders had broken into Alexander's home, murdering him and attacking her. Two years after her arrest, however, Arias told police that she killed Alexander in self-defense, claiming that she had been a victim of domestic violence. In a bizarre and salacious trial, Jodi Arias was convicted of first-degree murder that gained international attention over several months. Alexander sustained multiple stab wounds, a slit throat, and a gunshot to the head. Arias is still waiting for sentencing, which is scheduled to occur on March 17, 2014.

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