Criminal Trials

10 Most Famous Criminal Trials In US History

The American criminal justice system is one of the best in the world, but that doesn’t mean it’s perfect. In fact, many famous trials have been riddled with controversy and even outright corruption. These are ten of the most famous criminal trials in US history, from murder trials to spy rings and everything in between:

1. Scopes Monkey Trial

The Scopes Monkey Trial was a famous court case that took place in Dayton, Tennessee. The trial lasted over 8 days and was held in 1925 from July 10th to 21st. The trial is also known as the “John Scopes Trial” or simply “The Monkey Trial”. It is famous for being the first trial to be broadcast on radio and it has been dramatized numerous times since then.

John Thomas Scopes, who was a teacher at John Tresvant High School, taught evolution which violated Tennessee’s Butler Act, which prohibited the teaching of evolution. This act was sponsored by William Jennings Bryan (1860-1925), a three-time presidential candidate from Nebraska and former US Secretary of State under President Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924). After being charged for violating this act he decided not to stand trial but his friend Clarence Darrow (1857-1938) took up his cause anyway because he thought there should be freedom when it comes to religious beliefs or scientific theories like Darwinism and evolutionism. However, after eight days of testimony before Judge Raulston expunged all references to religion from his instructions given before closing arguments began; then after deliberation found Scopes guilty as charged: one day jail time plus $100 fine plus court costs totaling $100 plus court costs totaling $100 — which John Thomas’ father paid out before sentencing took place so that he wouldn’t have any consequences beyond those already awarded by Judge Raulston

2. The OJ Simpson Murders

The OJ Simpson murder trial was a major news story that captivated the nation in 1994 and 1995. The defendant, former football player OJ Simpson, was accused of murdering his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman. The case became a media sensation with over 150 reporters covering each day of the trial. During this time, 24% of Americans were following news about the case on television or radio every day.

The trial ended with Simpson being found not guilty on October 3rd after 9 months of trial proceedings that were televised live across America by all major networks (upwards of 90 million viewers). Many people believed that there had been some kind of conspiracy within law enforcement agencies to prevent justice from being served due to jury tampering or other forms of corruption involved with this verdict’s deliberation process (which took only four hours).

3. Watergate

The Watergate Scandal was a political scandal that occurred during the administration of US President Richard Nixon in the 1970s. A burglary at the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate office complex in Washington, D.C., was investigated by an ad hoc group of journalists, lawyers and law enforcement personnel known as the “Watergate investigative unit”. In 1972, their investigation revealed that President Nixon had been secretly recording conversations he had in his offices and elsewhere using an elaborate system of taping devices. The tapes revealed that Nixon had attempted to cover up illegal actions taken by members of his administration and campaign staff, including illegal money laundering, break-ins and wiretapping against political opponents.

4. The Rosenbergs Spy Trial

In the 1950s, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were convicted of spying against the United States. They were executed in 1953.

The trial that followed was one of the first to be televised in US history, and it became a landmark event in American history.

5. The Chicago Eight

The trial of the Chicago Eight began on November 6, 1969. It was a landmark case that culminated in the conviction of eight men for their part in protests at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. The defendants were charged with conspiracy, inciting to riot and other crimes. While seven of them were found guilty, two were acquitted. All eight appealed their convictions but all were denied except former U.S Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara’s appeal which was upheld by an appellate court but ultimately overturned by the Supreme Court who refused to hear his case further (he had already been freed).

6. The Lindbergh Kidnapping

Charles Lindbergh is one of the most famous aviators in history. He became a household name after becoming the first person to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean on May 20–21, 1927. In 1932, his son Charles Jr., nicknamed “Babe” was kidnapped and held ransom for $50,000.

Bruno Hauptmann was accused of kidnapping and murdering Babe Lindbergh Jr., but he maintained that he had nothing to do with it until his execution in 1936. During the trial, Hauptmann’s lawyer introduced evidence from handwriting experts who suggested that Hauptmann couldn’t have written some of the ransom notes because his penmanship didn’t match those on them perfectly enough—which was later proven false once new technology allowed experts to more closely analyze lettering styles by comparing each word written by hand against every other one (something impossible back then).

The trial took place at New Jersey’s Flemington State Prison where Hauptmann was convicted by an all-male jury based on overwhelming circumstantial evidence: The prosecution argued that Hauptmann had been captured on surveillance footage purchasing wood for making small boxes like those used to transport kidnapping victims during their escape; they also claimed that one particular piece of lumber found inside Mr Lindberg’s home matched up perfectly with two pieces found near where Babe’s body had been discovered; finally they brought forth several witnesses who claimed that they’d seen their neighbor “Mr Landis” frequently visiting their apartment building while no one else lived there at all!

7. Sacco and Vanzetti Trial

The trial of Sacco and Vanzetti was a landmark case in American history. It is remembered to this day as one of the most famous criminal trials in history. The two Italian immigrants were convicted of robbery, murder, and conspiracy on August 23, 1920. They were executed for their alleged crimes on August 23, 1927.

8. 9/11 Terrorist Attacks

The 9/11 terrorist attacks were a series of four coordinated terrorist attacks by the Islamic terrorist group al-Qaeda on the United States on September 11, 2001. The attacks killed 2,996 people and injured over 6,000 others.

9. The JFK Assassination

The trial of Lee Harvey Oswald is perhaps the most famous criminal trial in American history, owing to the murder of JFK and the resulting conspiracy theories that have followed. It’s also a case worth studying because it shows how much power and influence the CIA, FBI, and Mafia had during that time period. The assassination itself wasn’t technically part of this trial – instead, it focused on Oswald’s guilt or innocence when it came to being involved with other people who were allegedly involved with JFK’s assassination (i.e., he was tried for being part of a larger conspiracy).

The Warren Commission was tasked with investigating these claims after JFK’s death; they concluded that Oswald acted alone when he killed Kennedy at Dealey Plaza in Dallas on November 22nd 1963 by firing three shots from his perch at nearby schoolbook depository building. However, there are many who still believe there was more going on than what was revealed through official government reports – including some members of Congress!

10. The Sam Sheppard Murder Case

  • The Sam Sheppard Murder Case

In 1954, Dr. Sam Sheppard was acquitted of murdering his wife Marilyn in their Ohio home. The case is still debated today, with some believing Sheppard to be innocent and others convinced that he was guilty. What’s not up for debate is how this case captivated the nation during its trial: It was broadcast on television—making it one of the first trials ever televised in America—and there were even cameras set up outside the court house so people could watch as they walked by. Today we might think this behavior would seem strange, but back then it was normal for families to gather around televisions at night to watch their favorite programs or sports events together after dinner and before bedtime (or possibly just because there wasn’t much else exciting going on).

These are the most infamous trials in US history

  • The Trial of the Chicago Seven (1969)

The Chicago Seven was a trial that took place in 1968 and 1969 for seven defendants who were part of the protest against the Vietnam War at the Democratic National Convention. They were charged with conspiracy and inciting to riot, among other crimes. While ten people were originally indicted, two were acquitted before reaching trial, one had his charges dropped when he left the country and another died while awaiting trial. The remaining six went on to be convicted after an eight-month process that resulted in four acquittals and two convictions – no verdicts or charges against any of them led to a prison sentence but they did have to pay fines ranging from $5,000-$10,000 each.


That’s all the time we have for today. We hope you enjoyed our list of the top 10 most famous criminal trials in US history. Now go out there and be a good citizen!