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Aquittals

by Brian Clarey

Casey Anthony

Last week in Orlando, Fla. Anthony stood accused of the murder of her daughter, 2-yearold Caylee. A jury acquitted her of all charges.

A miscarriage of justice? I don’t know. I do know this kind of thing happens all the time.

OJ Simpson

Evidence against former footballer OJ Simpson included traces of Goldman’s and his wife’s blood on OJ’s clothes, car and driveway, along with bloody footprints from OJ’s shoes. Still, an LA jury acquitted Simpson: “If the glove don’t fit, you must acquit.”

The Rodney King episode

Despite video footage showing four white police officers beating the holy hell out of African- American citizen Rodney King while other officer stood by watching, a Los Angeles jury acquitted three of the officers and reached no verdict for the fourth. The verdict kicked off the 1992 LA riots, which killed 53 people and causing upwards of $1 billion in damages.

The Arthur McDuffie trial

Before Rodney King there was Arthur McDuffie, a 33-year-old African American who in 1979 led Miami, Fla. Police on an 8-minute high-speed chase on his motorcycle. Upon his apprehension, McDuffie was beaten to death by four white cops, who were then indicted for manslaughter and evidence tampering. Still, lead prosecutor and future US Attorney General Janet Reno was unable to obtain convictions, and the ensuing riots killed three and caused the city to be named a national disaster area.

The Greensboro Massacre

Also in 1979, Nazis and Klansmen opened fire on protesters in Greensboro, killing five of them, with law enforcement nowhere in sight. Prosecutor Jim Coman — then with the DA’s office and now with the NC Dept. of Justice — couldn’t get a guilty verdict. The entire episode and its aftermath was revisited by the Greensboro Truth & Reconciliation Commission in 2005, which cited the lack of law enforcement as a causal factor.

Scott “Scooter” Sanders

The trial of Greensboro police officer Scott “Scooter” Sanders in 2009 was the only criminal legal action to come out of a complicated scandal that saw reputations ruined, careers ended and mistrust of the department sewn. Sanders stood accused of accessing officer Julius Fulmore’s laptop without permission, a BS charge considering all that had transpired. Scooter’s acquittal came after prosecutor Jim Coman — yep, same guy — failed to convince a jury that the defendant was acting outside the chain of command.

Fatty Arbuckle

In 1921, silent film star Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle threw a party at the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco, where a guest, Virginia Rappe, fell ill in a back room. She died two days later, and Arbuckle was charged with rape and manslaughter despite scant evidence. Arbuckle was acquitted after three trials but by then his name had been vilified and his films banned.

The David Henessey trial

In New Orleans in 1891 NOPD Police Chief David Hennessey was murdered on his front lawn before testifying against the Provenzano crime family. After the murder, Mayor Joseph Shakespeare had some 250 Italians arrested and brought 19 of them to trial. All were acquitted, but 11 of them were lynched by a mob at the jailhouse the next day.

Benny Kauff

Benny Kauff was a professional baseball player from 1912-1920. I his last season, with the New York Giants, he was implicated in a car-theft ring with his brother. He was tried and acquitted, but league Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis, a federal judge, banned him from the game for life anyway. He remains the only player to be banned from baseball without reinstatement for reasons other than gambling.

Emmett Till trial

Fourteen-year-old Emmett Till, an African American from Chicago, was visiting relatives in Mississippi in 1955, when he was accused of flirting with a white woman at a store. He was abducted from the home where he was staying, beaten and then shot on the banks of the Tallahatchie River before being weighted down with a piece of industrial equipment and tossed into the river. Roy Bryant, owner of the store, and his half-brother JW Milam were tried and acquitted, a contributing factor to the Civil Rights Movement.

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