When it seems that barely a week goes by without a celebrity pitching up in court to fight a custody battle, divorce hearing or even compensation claim, it’s easy to forget the times when certain cases have actually held the world in a vice-like grip. Here is a look at a few of the most famous and controversial cases that still get people talking today.
Michael Jackson 2005
Wherever he went a media circus followed Michael Jackson, not to mention thousands of fans and general hangers on. Never was this more evident than when the self-proclaimed King of Pop appeared in court in California, in June 2005. Denying charges of child molestation Jackson’s every appearance at the courtroom and in the witness stand made headline news. Thousands of people were present outside the building on every day of the trial and the star drew on the large following for support. At one point he stood on top of the car that had brought him to court to soak up the adoration and wave to his fans. Jackson was eventually cleared of all charges.
Lee Harvey Oswald 1964
Everyone says they remember where they were when they heard that JFK had been shot in November 1963. The trial that followed wasn’t short of incident either. Having been charged with murder, after his fingerprints were found on a rifle at the Texas Book Depositary in Dallas, Lee Harvey Oswald was shot and killed on his way to court by Jack Ruby, in front of millions of viewers on TV. Ruby was later sentenced to death for the killing but never faced the electric chair, as it was deemed he was never able to receive a fair hearing due to high amount of publicity that surrounded the case. He died of cancer in 1967.
Charles 1st of England 1649
The English civil war, which took place from 1642 to 1649 between the parliamentarians and those faithful to the crown, resulted in a trial unseen anywhere in the world. Having been captured by the parliamentarian leader Oliver Cromwell’s forces, King Charles was tried for treason and subsequently executed in Whitehall, London, in front of a crowd of thousands. The execution briefly meant England became a republic, with Cromwell placing himself as the role of Lord Protector instead of a monarch. Several years later the monarchy was restored, when Charles’ son returned to take the thrown in 1660, taking the title of King Charles II. The country has maintained its monarchy ever since.
Lizzie Borden 1893
When Andrew and Abby Borden were found murdered in their Massachusetts home there was only one suspect, their 33 year old daughter Lizzie. After the pair were found butchered with over 40 axe wounds each, the prosecution based their case on the fact that Lizzie was the only other person in the house at the time and there was no evidence of a struggle. Despite overwhelming circumstantial evidence, those prosecuting could not prove Borden and no one else had killed her parents and she was subsequently found not guilty. The case sent shock waves around America and a nursery rhyme about Borden still exists.
OJ Simpson 1995
Following a Police chase that was watched by millions, former football superstar OJ Simpson was arrested and charged with the murder of his wife, Nicole Brown and friend Ron Goldman. Despite strong evidence from the prosecution, that suggested Simpson’s guilt, the case rumbled on for months. Defended by the charismatic Johnnie Cochrane, Simpson’s legal team turned the focus of the trial proceedings to alleged racism amongst some of the top Police officers involved. Simpson was found not guilty, but was later found liable in the resulting, wrongful death civil law suit, that was brought by the Brown and Goldman families.
Mark Hinckley Jr 1981
In March 1981 President Ronald Reagan was paying a visit to the Park Central Hotel in Washington D.C. As he entered the building shots rang out and the President hit the floor, everyone fearing the worst. The man responsible for firing the bullet that missed Reagan’s heart by an inch was no political activist; he was simply a man with a fascination with actress Jodie Foster, who saw this as a chance to impress her. At his trial John Hinckley Jr’s defence team claimed their client was insane and suffering from schizophrenia. An argument that the jury agreed with and meant Hinckley Jr was found not guilty. Though never having been convicted, he remains under psychiatric care to this day.
This article was written and researched by Matthew Crist on behalf of Minnesota personal injury lawyer TSR.