The law may be hopelessly complicated, yet legal trials are popular for a very simple reason – we want justice. Sensationalism and scandal can transform any trail into the live spectacle journalists dream of.
This following list looks at the ten most widely reported court cases of all time.
10. William Kennedy Smith, 1991
Few people today may actually know just who William Kennedy Smith is, but in 1991 the nephew of ex-president John F. Kennedy was embroiled in a trial that could have upended the entire Kennedy dynasty. Accused of rape by a woman he’d met after a night out drinking with his uncle, Senator Ted Kennedy, he was brought before judge and jury in Palm Beach, Florida, where the attack was alleged to have occurred. He was also brought before a media circus, which reported on each stage of the ten-day trial with relish, and which happily snapped photos of any Kennedy who came to support their wayward “Willie.” This circus stood back and watched as he claimed that his interactions with Patricia Bowman were entirely consensual, and as his attorney, Roy Black, bit chunks out of Ms Bowman, who Kennedy Smith described as a “real nut.”
Even with its sexually explicit discussion of the encounter between the two, the trial is just as memorable for what it left out as what it included. Namely, three other women had made police statements testifying to having been sexually assaulted by Kennedy Smith, yet the presiding judge, Mary E. Lupo, decided to exclude them from proceedings. It was perhaps because of this exclusion that JFK’s nephew was found “not guilty” of the crime, although it was reported by the Washington Post that his smooth testimony before the court was also a major factor in his acquittal. So too, no doubt, was his membership in the all-but royal Kennedy family, which according to some sources had known about his tendencies for quite some time before 1991.