Published On: Jul 15 2013 11:09:04 AM CDTUpdated On: Jul 15 2013 11:14:22 AM CDT
George Zimmerman's acquittal on murder charges in the shooting death of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin is one of the more controversial verdicts in recent history, sparking protests nationwide. Here's a look at that case and others that captured the public's attention:
In what's been called the trial of the 20th century, former NFL superstar O.J. Simpson was found not guilty of the murders of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman, outside Nicole's house in Los Angeles in June 1994. Simpson showed signs of joy and relief when he was found not guilty, but reaction was deeply divided among Americans, some of whom thought he, literally, got away with murder.
Rioting in Los Angeles followed the acquittal in 1992 of police officers charged with excessive force in the beating of Rodney King. Widespread looting, assault, arson and murder took place during the three days of riots before soldiers from the California Army National Guard and U.S. Marines were able to restore control over the city. In total, 53 people were killed during the riots and more than 2,000 people were injured. Hundreds of buildings were destroyed, with estimates of property damages topping $1 billion.
Casey Anthony wept in July 2011 as she was acquitted of first-degree murder charges in the death of her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee, in July 2008. But the not guilty verdict was widely greeted by public outrage, and was both attacked and defended by media and legal commentators.
Protests broke out across the country when former neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman was acquitted of murder charges in the February 2012 shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla. Martin was black and unarmed, and many felt Zimmerman had targeted him that night because of his race.
Child molestation allegations again surrounded pop superstar Michael Jackson in 2005, resulting in a criminal trial. While some were surprised the King of Pop was found not guilty, his enthusiastic fans rallied behind him, cheering his victory. One person even released a white dove for each not guilty verdict.
Actor Robert Blake, best known for his role as a child actor in the "Our Gang" shorts and as an adult for "In Cold Blood" and the TV series "Baretta," was acquitted in 2005 of the 2001 murder of his wife, although he was later found liable in civil court for her wrongful death.
American student Amanda Knox was convicted in 2009 of the murder of her roommate, Meredith Kercher, in Perugia, Italy. She served four years of a 26-year sentence before her conviction was overturned in 2011. But in a retrial, Knox and Raffaele Sollecito, her then-boyfriend, were found guilty. Both are preparing to appeal the murder convictions.
Bay Area Transit Officer Johannes Mehserle was accused of shooting and killing unarmed train passenger Oscar Grant, who was on the ground in handcuffs, on New Year's Eve in 2009. Mehserle would be found not guilty of second-degree murder and voluntary manslaughter, but was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter. He only served one year in prison.
New York City police fired a total of 50 shots into a car of unarmed men outside a club in Queens in November 2006, injuring two of them and killing a third, Sean Bell. Three of the five detectives involved in the shooting went to trial on charges ranging from manslaughter to reckless endangerment, and were found not guilty of all charges.