5 Lyle and Erik Menendez
Lyle and Erik Menendez, two Beverly Hills teenage heartthrobs, were on trial for murdering their own parents, Jose and Kitty, in the summer of 1989. Court TV was new, and this real-life trial played out soap-opera style. The nation was gripped. The case had it all: greed, hatred, sex, incest, expensive cars and money. Were Lyle and Erik telling the truth that they shot their parents because they sexually abused them, making the boys fear for their lives? Or, did they just kill their parents because they were the ultimate spoiled brats who simply wanted the millions? The first trial, which lasted six months, resulted in a deadlocked jury. The Menendez boys were finally convicted in 1996 to two life sentences without parole.
4 Casey Anthony
Every parent who watched the Casey Anthony trial in the summer of 2011 hugged their children tighter each time they saw photographs of little Caylee Anthony, 2 years old, splashed across the TV screen. The nation hated Casey Anthony so much, because just days after she reported her daughter “missing,” Casey partied, danced and got a tat that read, “Bella Vita,” which means “beautiful life.” Although no one but Casey Anthony, who wanted to live “the life,” had a motive to kill Caylee, the evidence that Casey Anthony suffocated her daughter by duct taping her mouth and nose was circumstantial, and the jury found Casey Anthony not guilty. Many people were horrified by the verdict and believe Casey Anthony got away with murder.
3 Scott Peterson
Scott Peterson, a handsome man married to a beautiful woman, was about to be a father. But Peterson was found guilty of murdering his pregnant wife, Laci, on Christmas Eve 2002, because he did not want family responsibilities. People were fascinated by the TV trial that lasted for five months. It involved an attractive, young couple who were expecting their first baby, a cheating husband and a mistress. Peterson killed Laci and dumped her into the San Francisco Bay after attaching homemade weights to Laci. To explain why he was at the bay on Christmas Eve, he said he was fishing. Yeah, right. No one even knew he fished. The verdict, which was not aired on TV, was guilty, and Peterson was sentenced to death.
2 George Zimmerman
The George Zimmerman trial of 2013 was one that should never have come to trial because the prosecution did not have ample evidence, but it did, and the trial became a media circus. Zimmerman, who was patrolling his neighborhood with a concealed weapon he was allowed to carry, shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teen. Many people in the black community were outraged. President Barack Obama fueled the fire by saying, “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.” I’m not sure where that statement came from, seeing as Trayvon Martin was often delinquent from school and was suspended several times for drug paraphernalia possession and for possessing women’s jewelry along with a burglary tool. Anyway, Zimmerman was acquitted. The prosecution could not prove that Zimmerman simply wanted to kill Martin, especially because evidence showed Martin was beating up Zimmerman, and Zimmerman feared for his life.
1 O.J. Simpson
Who can forget defense attorney Johnnie Cochran’s famous line, “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit,” referring to the bloody glove the prosecution said former football star O.J. Simpson wore when he murdered Nicole Brown Simpson, his ex-wife, and her friend, Ronald Goldman, in 1994. It’s been called the “Trial of the Century,” and it was a media circus, complete with street vendors selling mugs, T-shirts and hats with images of key people involved, according to Marcia Clark, lead prosecutor from the trial. The O.J. Simpson trial lasted close to a year, and the nation waited with baited breath for the verdict. With voluminous evidence against Simpson, including DNA evidence that linked him to the crime, he was acquitted. Many people believe the verdict was based on racial issues instead of on the facts.