3 of the Most Famous Trials in US History

Trials have been taking place for thousands of years. And ever since the first judges were appointed in the early 12th century, there has been a countless number of trials they have presided on. Some of these trials shaped the U.S legal system while some shaped America’s history. Some of these landmark court rulings are subject to debate to date. A good example is the Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka case of 1954 where the court declared public schools that were racially segregated as not being consistent with or according to the U.S. Constitution. That ruling formed the basis of the Civil Rights Movement, which rewrote the country’s history. However, some of these historical trials have been marked by controversies. Some of the rulings made left many people stunned. Below are some of those cases:


1. O.J. Simpson Murder Trial

This case had so many Americans glued to their TV sets for months. O.J Simpson was a favorite pro-NFL player who was charged with the murders of his ex-wife Nicole Brown and her friend Ron Goldman. Many people thought that the athlete would be found guilty of the charges since all evidence pointed towards him but that was not the case. The bodies of Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman were found outside the home of Ms. Nicole Brown on the night of June 11, 1994. Both Mr. Simpson and Ms. Brown had attended their daughter’s play that evening and went separate ways after the play was over. That night, Simpson was expected to fly out to Chicago. During the trial, the limo driver that was supposed to pick him up from his home and drive him to the airport bore witness that Mr. Simpson did not answer the door that night. However, when he was just about to leave he saw a man fitting Simpson’s description in dark clothes go into the house from the back. A few moments later Mr. Simpson answered the door. The prosecution also provided evidence of clothes that were stained with blood that belonged to Mr. Simpson. The trial officially begun on January 24, 1995, and Mr. Simpson pleaded not guilty to the two counts of murders. His lawyer, Johnnie Cochran, was able to shift the attention of the jury, which was mostly comprised of blacks, to alleged racism by the lead detective in the case. The Jury acquitted Mr. Simpson after about four months of court proceedings.


2. Sam Sheppard Murder Trial

On the morning of July 4, 1954, Marilyn Sheppard was found on the floor of her bedroom brutally murdered. She was pregnant at the time of her death. The police arrested her husband, Sam Sheppard, who had claimed that he was asleep on a daybed on the first floor of their home and was woken up by his wife’s screams that came from the second floor of the house. Sam claimed that there had been an intruder in the house whom he had tried to subdue, but his efforts were fruitless. However, the police reported that there were no signs of forced entry. The police couldn’t locate the murder weapon either. The prosecution provided evidence of an extra-marital affair by Sam, which they claimed to be the basis of the killing. Sam Sheppard pleaded not guilty but was convicted by the jury. Sheppard was, however, acquitted in 1966 after he was retried.


3. Attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan

On March 30, 1981, President Ronald Reagan was shot at by John Hinckley Jr. Outside the Park Central Hotel in Washington D.C. John Hinckley came close to shooting the president in the heart. The Secret Service responded quickly and wrestled him to the ground.

John Hinckley was obsessed with the 1976 film “Taxi Driver” actress Jodie Foster. In an attempt to win her heart, John wrote to her numerous times but, unfortunately, the actress never responded to any of his letters. In his moment of desperation, John wrote the actress another letter detailing how he was going to assassinate the president to prove that he was serious about her. During his trial, John Hinckley pleaded insanity. His psychiatrist was among other mental health experts his defense brought in to testify to his state of mind. However, the prosecution was adamant in proving that his mental state was stable enough for him to have been able to plan and carry out his plan. In the end, the jury found him not guilty and cited that his insanity was the reason. This verdict was not taken well by many Americans. ABC News conducted a poll a day after the conclusion was made. Three-quarters of the people who were interviewed disapproved the jury’s decision saying that John Hinckley should have been jailed. In 2003 John Hinckley was sent to St. Elizabeth Hospital. Hinckley is only allowed to have unsupervised visits with his family.

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