Top 10 American Trials That Gripped The Nation

The American judicial system has had countless crimes enter the public consciousness, but few have become spectacles that demanded the full attention of the media. From O.J. Simpson to Michael Jackson and Mike Tyson, these are some of the high profile trials that captivated the public and remain talking points long after the verdict had been reached and the gavel came down. Join as we count down the top 10 American trials that gripped the nation.

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Top 10 American Trials That Gripped The Nation

These are some of the most enthralling crimes ever. Welcome to, and today we’ll be counting down the top 10 trials that gripped the United States.

#10 – Scott Peterson Trial (2004-2005)

Kicking off our list is a case motivated by sex, money and murder. The heavily pregnant Laci Peterson went missing on Christmas Eve 2002. Soon, her husband Scott was the prime suspect, after his multiple affairs were revealed. Peterson was sent to Death Row in early 2005 after his sensational trial fascinated the public. Some assert the media coverage led to unfair sways in public opinion.

#9 – Mike Tyson Rape Trial (1992)

Like his boxing career, Tyson’s trial kept audiences hooked – but for all the wrong reasons. Fans watched feverishly as graphic accounts of sex and violence hit the front pages, telling the story of beauty queen Desiree Washington’s rape. Tyson’s overconfidence and thuggish responses turned off the jury, and he was eventually sentenced to 10 years, though some thought the case reeked of racist stereotypes.

#8 – Trial of Clay Shaw (1969)

Lee Harvey Oswald died before his day in court, but that only thickened the plot. District attorney Jim Garrison wasn’t the last to claim conspiracy in JFK’s death – but he was the only person ever to bring a trial for the assassination. Clay Shaw was charged with conspiring with Oswald and others to kill Kennedy, but was quickly acquitted. Oliver Stone was so compelled; he used the case as the basis for his film.

#7 – Casey Anthony Murder Trial (2011)

Some labeled this another case of “missing white woman syndrome” due to the interest that surrounded this Florida mom when she was charged with murdering her two-year-old daughter. News organizations and social media followed the trial closely, and fueled a televised spectacle that captivated the nation with numerous twists. This case was compared to O.J. Simpson’s murder trial due to the intense public outcry following the not-guilty verdict.

#6 – People v. Jackson: Michael Jackson Child Molestation Trial (2005)

With the 1993 child abuse accusations behind him, the King of Pop was charged with molesting teen Gavin Arvizo thanks to a scathing Martin Bashir documentary. Those close to the case claimed media bias sensationalized the trial and did not inform the public of evidence that cleared the star. Though he was found not-guilty on all charges, the unwanted press from this trial irrevocably tarnished Jackson’s reputation.

#5 – Charles Manson, et al: Tate-LaBianca Murder Trial (1970-1971)

One of the strangest trials in American history focused on how the leader of a quasi-commune convinced his followers to commit murder. The media circus convened when his high-profile victims were found slaughtered in their LA mansion. The public was captivated by the bizarre Helter Skelter motive, and by Manson Family attempts to disrupt the trial. But, the psychopath and his followers were locked up for good.

#4 – Impeachment of Bill Clinton (1998-1999)

The second-ever impeachment of a U.S. president came as the result of perjury allegations and repeated sexual misconduct between Clinton and White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Political double-talk peppered the proceedings, and the media filled the 24-hour news cycle with commentary and gossip rather than facts. Clinton was acquitted and allowed to finish his second term, but was forced to apologize to the nation for his misdeeds.

#3 – Timothy McVeigh: Oklahoma City Bombing Trial (1997)

U.S. Army vet McVeigh perpetrated the deadliest attack on American soil prior to 9/11 by planting a truck bomb in the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in 1995. By killing 168 people and injuring over 680 others, McVeigh hoped to shed light on what he considered excessive government reach. The emotional trial riveted the country, and led to a guilty conviction and McVeigh’s execution in 2001.

#2 – Rodney King Trial (1992)

After citizen-filmed footage surfaced of Rodney King’s brutal beating by a group of LAPD cops, the excessive force trial against those officers was considered an open-and-shut case of police brutality and racism. The LA population was so angry when the primarily white jury acquitted most of the cops, they rioted for six days. Over 50 people died, thousands were arrested and over a billion dollars in damage occurred.

#1 – O.J. Simpson Murder Trial (1995)

Taking the top spot on our list is the “Trial of the Century.” Following the famous slow-speed chase, the former NFL star was charged with the murders of his ex-wife and her friend. 95 million viewers watched the televised media circus, where Judge Lance Ito, defense attorney Johnnie Cochrane and witness Kato Kaelin became celebrities, and the notorious line “if it doesn’t fit, you must acquit” became legend.

Do you agree with our list? Which American trial captivated you the most? For other Top 10 lists, visit us at

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