Three Famous Law Cases That Captured the Public’s Attention
Each year in the US, more than 100 million cases are filed in state trial courts, with around 400,000 cases filed in federal trial courts. The works out as nearly 4000 court cases per day.
Most of these cases barely break into the local news, with many going unreported on outside of the work of the court stenographer.
However, some cases are so sensational that they capture the attention of the entire nation and, in this article, we’ll be looking at some of the cases that captivated the attention of the American public.
The Trial of O.J. Simpson – 1994
In a similar manner to the moon landings, most Americans of a certain age will be able to tell you where they were when former NFL running back Orenthal James Simpson, better known as O.J, appeared on the TV being pursued down the highway in his signature white Bronco.
Simpson was wanted by the police in connection with the murder of of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ron Goldman. When he was eventually apprehended, he was charged with two counts of murder and his trail would go on to become a media circus.
Such was the fury of the media coverage around O.J’s case that it took 11 months to complete, several witnesses were disqualified from testifying because they had already sold their story to the press, and selecting a jury that could remain impartial, despite the amount of coverage the trail had garnered, was almost impossible.
The case is further remembered for defense attorney Johnnie Cochran’s famous line “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit,” related to the gloves that Simpson was alleged to have worn during the murder, and the shocking not guilty verdict.
The Trial of Ted Bundy – 1979
Serial killer Theodore “Ted” Robert Bundy was famous for being handsome and charismatic, which were traits that he exploited to kill more than 30 women during the 1970s.
After he was eventually caught in Florida, his trail was covered by 250 reporters from five continents and was the first to be televised nationally in the United States.
Bundy sabotaged much of his own defense through his grandstanding and, during one memorable but surreal moment, took advantage of an obscure Florida law providing that a marriage declaration in court, in the presence of a judge, constituted a legal marriage, to propose to former coworker Carole Ann Boone while she was acting as a character witness on his behalf.
Bundy was eventually convicted on three separate counts of murder, sentenced to death, and executed by the electric chair in 1989.
The Trial of Timothy McVeigh – 1996
Timothy James McVeigh was a domestic terrorist who perpetrated the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.
Unlike O.J. or Ted Bundy, McVeigh was not charismatic and did not have a team of celebrity lawyers. What makes the case of great interest was that this was one of the first cases of significant domestic terrorism.
Initial news reports had suggested that the bombing was connected to Iran, but McVeigh was a 29-year-old Gulf War veteran who had set of the explosion that killed 168 people because he believed the federal government was tyranny.
McVeigh was largely emotionless during the trial, addressing the court only once, just before he was sentenced to death, to quote Justice Brandeis, an American lawyer and associate justice on the Supreme Court of the United States.
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Lisa Myers, J.D., L.L.M.
Legal Studies Department Director
J.D. L.L.M. Campbell University
B.A. Corllins University