In December 2015, Netflix released a ten episode docu-series recounting the past decade surrounding the life of Steven Avery – a local Manitowoc County, Wisconsin man who spent 18 years in prison for a wrongful conviction of attempted murder and sexual assault. Two years after his exoneration and in the midst of winning a civil lawsuit for these false accusations, Avery was once again the target of another murder investigation . Filmmakers Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos capture many key points during the investigation, sparking national debates from social media to water-cooler work talk all the way to the White House a la Petitions.WhiteHouse.gov The fascination surrounding this case mimics the hype and eerie attraction homicide cases tend to bring. For whatever reason this may be, the general public and media find a macabre draw to these dark and unfortunate events. ( I’ll let psychology answer this for you). While Avery’s case following certainly is the latest in this mysterious draw to murder, his follows a slew of other frenzy fed courtroom dramas we all are guilty (beyond any reasonable doubt) of psyching out over:
1. State of California vs. O.J Simpson
Former professional football player, actor, and relatively household name during the late 80s-early 90s, Orenthal James “O.J” Simpson was tried before the jury on two counts of murder for two victims – former wife Nicole Brown Simpson, and her suspected new boyfriend Ron Goldman. Brown and Goldman were found near the gates of her condo, a scene riddled with an utter amount of evidence pointing towards Simpson. After three days of thorough investigation, police issued a warrant for his arrest. Thousands of reporters gathered to witness his turning himself in, but Simpson never showed, thus began the infamous white Bronco chase down the California highway. Long-time fans of Simpson gathered on overpasses with signs that read “Please turn yourself in”, nearly two dozen helicopters joined the chase, and a slew of news media and radio stations provided live coverage of the slow-pursuit chase. Cutting to the “chase” – that was just the beginning of the media storm. Simpson gathered himself a high profile crew of lawyers, notably the late Johnnie Cochran and Robert Kardashian, to defend his plea of innocence. Key moments in the trial dubbed as “the first reality TV show” include Brown’s sister taking the stand, and Cochran’s “if the glove don’t fit, you must acquit” in which Simpson tried on the very glove submitted into evidence at the scene. The true shocker came when the jury decided on a “not guilty” verdict.( You can view this pivotal moment of trial here. ). More than twenty years later, Simpson sits in jail now for an unrelated incident.
2. State of Florida vs. George Zimmerman
On February 26th, 2012, Zimmerman allegedly fatally shot and killed 17-year old African American Travon Martin in what he claims was self defense. According to police reports, an altercation went down between the two, causing Zimmerman to reach for his gun. Zimmerman was taken into custody that night, but lack of evidence called for his release. Once investigators acquired enough evidence, the call for his arrest was declared during a live press coverage, charging him with second degree murder. Widespread media coverage ensued, while social media erupted in racial driven debates, citing Zimmerman had profiled Martin. After 15 days of being sequestered, the jury deliberated for 16 hours, and the verdict was read – not guilty. Youtube flooded with live reactions of rage, feeling that the court system had failed them yet again. Days after his acquittal, the storm continued, fueling the fire in debates – “had he shot a white man, he would have gone to jail.” Zimmerman welcomed his new infamy, and celebrated with a slew of more run-ins with the law. He was seen making a visit to the gun shop where he bought the gun that killed Martin, arrested twice more for aggravated assault in which both were dropped, citing himself a “celebrity” he signed up to participate in a boxing mach against rapper DMX, signed autographs, and even took to Twitter to caption a picture of Martin’s body – “Z man is a one-man army”. In May of 2015, Zimmerman was the center of another altercation in which he was shot and suffered minor injuries. It is unknown what Zimmerman is currently doing to provide himself a living, but rest assured we have not heard the last of him.
3. State of Florida vs. Casey Anthony
In the summer of 2008, young mother Casey Anthony spoke with police to admit her daughter, 2 year old Caylee Anthony, had been missing for the past 30 days. Almost instantly, Anthony was subject to suspicion for having waited an absurd amount of time to file a missing child report. In the call placed, distressed grandmother Cindy Anthony notes to dispatchers that Anthony’s impounded car had an odor of human decomposition. During investigation, Anthony leads police on an imaginary goose chase for a supposed nanny who took Caylee from her. When police tracked down the nanny’s home, it was discovered the nanny hadn’t ever lived in that complex. When asked for place of employment, Anthony stated she worked at Universal Orlando.In verifying her claims, the police come to find Anthony had been terminated from Universal years prior. As a result, Anthony is arrested on child neglect, lying to an officer, and obstruction of justice. Anthony was later indicted on a charge of first degree murder, aggravated manslaughter, child neglect and four counts of providing false information to a police officer; held without bond. As the investigation continues, bones of little Caylee Anthony is found scattered in the nearby woods, and the media turns to accuse Anthony of killing her own daughter. It would be two years later when Anthony’s case goes to trial – an event so magnanimous it was broadcast live. The evidence presented against her included macabre Google searches such as “neck breaking”, “suffocation”, and “how to make chloroform” – a substance that was found in the back of her car allegedly used to knock Caylee unconscious. However the most damning evidence presented itself in the form of party pictures taken while Caylee was missing, and a tattoo Anthony got during that time, which read “bella vita” ( beautiful life). In spite of the bold evidence against her, after a lengthy trial, Anthony was found “not guilty” in the summer of 2011.The backlash of injustice was immediate, and citizens took to social media to vent their anger. Anthony has since then been virtually unseen (it was reported last she was spotted in NYC heading to the NBC headquarters to negotiate a televised interview), and her now nation-known attorney, Jose Baez, has reportedly retired after he won the case.
Check out these other high profile cases notable of mention which did NOT see an acquittal:
State of Arizona vs Jodi Arias
State of Ohio vs Ariel Castro
State vs Oscar Pistorius