The Most Infamous Trials to Ever Happen in America
America has a rich history of infamous trials. The goings on during court proceedings provide the American public with a fascinating look into the justice system. Many high-profile cases involve murderers and serial killers. Ahead, discover the most infamous trials to ever happen in America.
The story of Casey Anthony remains fresh in many Americans’ minds. In 2008, Anthony’s mother reports her granddaughter Caylee Marie Anthony, 2, missing. Unbeknownst to her, Caylee is already gone. Casey goes on trial for her daughter’s homicide and is found innocent amid public outrage.
Hint: This married couple sold secrets.
Espionage trial of the Rosenbergs
In 1951, Ethel and Julius Rosenberg are “tried, convicted, and executed for conspiracy to commit espionage by selling nuclear secrets to the USSR,” according to Mental Floss. They’re the only American citizens to be executed for espionage during the Cold War. Their trial is credited for fueling Cold War paranoia among the American people. It’s no question the trial remains infamous to this day.
Hint: Abuse is a major topic in this case.
The Menendez brothers
Brothers Lyle and Erik Menendez brutally kill their parents in their Beverly Hills mansion in 1989. The public thinks the boys kill their parents to inherit their sizable fortune. However, during their trial, they confess to years of abuse at the hands of their parents. They’re on trial the same time as O.J. Simpson, cementing both cases as infamous. Lyle and Erik are serving life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Hint: This infamous case involves a former president.
Unlike other trials on our list, this is not a murder trial. Instead, this is a trial involving the president of the United States. In 1998, President Bill Clinton is impeached by the House of Representatives following a sex scandal with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Then in 1999, the Senate acquits Clinton, according to Mental Floss.
Hint: Curiosity and thrill drive these two to commit murder.
Leopold and Loeb
Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb, obsessed with committing the “perfect crime,” kill 14-year-old, Bobby Franks on May 21, 1924. The crime isn’t perfect because the young men end up on trial for Franks’ homicide. What makes this case infamous is that their defense attorney, Clarence Darrow, keeps the pair from getting the death penalty with a 12-hour-long closing argument, according to Mental Floss. Loeb is killed by an inmate in the shower at the age of 30 and Leopold is paroled 34 years later.
Hint: Looking good is this murderer’s concern.
The brutal murder of Jodi’s ex-boyfriend, Travis Alexander, her dynamic personality, and a Mona Lisa-esque mugshot photo makes Jodi — along with her trial — infamous. Arias is currently serving a life sentence “after two juries deadlocked on whether to impose the death penalty,” according to Biography.
Hint: Haircuts and singing occur during this trial.
Charles Manson, leads a cult-like group to murder eight people in 1969. The trial is littered with unusual events, cementing the case as infamous. For instance, Manson’s followers sing on their way to court and shave their heads. Manson uses similar tactics in the courtroom to distract from his case. In the end, the court sentences Manson and his followers to death, which later becomes life in prison.
Hint: Movies, TV shows, and books are created about this case.
The trial of football star O.J. Simpson is historic. The trial’s infamous for O.J.’s acquittal. In the court of public opinion, views are split on his innocence. The statement, “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit,” goes down in history for defense attorney Johnny Cochran. Decades later, the case is still infamous.
Hint: This murderer’s number of victims is likely in the triple digits.
Believed to have killed more than 100 women in his lifetime, is serial killer and rapist, Ted Bundy. He appeals his death sentence for years, according to Biography. The number of victims and the way in which Bundy kills them makes his trial particularly infamous. So much so, actor Zac Efron is playing him in a movie.
Hint: A kidnapping becomes a murder case.
Murder of Lindbergh baby
On March 1, 1932, the son of famous pilot Charles Lindbergh is discovered missing. Two months later, the baby’s remains are found, marking the start of a two-year investigation, according to Mental Floss. Bruno Richard Hauptmann goes on trial for the child’s murder, where the press use sound cameras for the first time during a criminal trial. The press surrounding the case is unlike anyone has ever seen.
Hint: This church-going serial killer evades capture for decades.
Dennis Rader, better known as the “BTK Killer,” kills 10 people in Kansas over the course of 17 years, according to Biography. He leaves clues to taunt authorities along the way. Finally caught and on trial in 2005, Rader pleads guilty to 10 counts of first-degree murder. During the trial, Rader speaks of the gruesome murders with no emotion, clearly not remorseful.
Hint: A man’s missing wife leads to an explosive trial.
Another recent trial, is that of Scott Peterson. Peterson’s unusual behavior following his wife’s disappearance is scrutinized by the public. We soon learn Peterson is having an affair, telling his mistress his wife is deceased. His trial in the court of public opinion is soon underway. A jury convicts him of killing his wife, Laci, and their unborn child. Peterson is currently serving a life sentence and maintains his innocence.
Hint: 29 needles are found in this serial killer’s stomach.
The trial of cannibal and serial killer, Albert Fish, starts with him implicating himself in other homicides. Then, a victim’s parent raises his fist at Fish in the courtroom. All this happens in the early 1930s with press capturing photographs of the defendant before and after court proceedings, according to the Daily News.
Hint: 10 hours is all it takes for a jury to convict this serial killer.
Serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer trial includes 8 feet of bulletproof glass surrounding him because of tension among the public at the time, according to Biography. Dahmer changes his plea during the trial, ultimately receiving a guilty verdict after 10 hours of jury deliberation. While serving his prison term of 16 life sentences, an inmate beats Dahmer to death.
Hint: Insanity is the crux of this serial killer’s case.
John Wayne Gacy
Better known as the “serial killer clown,” John Wayne Gacy murders 33 (that we know of) young men in Cook County, Illinois, burying the majority under his home, according to Biography. Gacy’s trial is memorable because of his crimes and because he’s already confessed to the police before his trial begins. Once underway, arguments are about whether or not Gacy is insane. The court deems Gacy fit to stand trial, and he ultimately receives 12 death sentences and 21 natural life sentences.
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