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Justice as Reality: 5 Famous Televised Trials

Regarding the trial of Johnny Depp vs. Amber Heard, we bring you this compilation of 5 famous televised trials that have caused a stir in the United States and the world .

Amber Heard and Johnny Depp, Ted Bundy and OJ Simpson

Photos: Law&Crime

LatinAmerican Post | Juliana Rodríguez Pabón

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Leer en español: La justicia como reality: 5 famosos juicios televisados

In the United States, it is very common for televised trials to be held. Justice has been a part of American entertainment since the turn of the millennium with all the trial series and movies portraying the American judicial system. This may also be due to how theatrical the trials are: interventions by lawyers, seducing the popular jury, cornering the defendant or the accused, etc. This theatricality has given way, not only to the production of series and movies that follow trials, but also to real-life trials becoming a visual product to be consumed on television and, now, on social networks.

To think about this American trend that turns trials into an entertainment product so that viewers find out how defendants are sentenced, we have brought to LatinAmerican Post a compilation of 5 famous televised trials of recent decades.

Johnny Depp vs. Amber Heard (2022)

The most recent of all is taking place right now. These are the actors Johnny Depp and Amber Heard, who have been in a legal battle for years. Depp had already left his trial vs. The Washington Post, due to the publication in which Heard had published the column accusing him of domestic violence and sexual abuse. Now, the ex-partner is confronted in this new trial in which they have had to give testimony and have exposed the physical and emotional violence that both exerted on the other, in what would be a very problematic relationship.

This trial has been seen on YouTube and has been highly commented-on on social networks and the media. It is, of those that we list here, perhaps the most viral and the one that has already taken place in the era of social networks, in which everyone has an opinion. This week, for example, mocking Heard for her testimony on the stand has been trending on TikTok and there is already talk of a Snap Chat filter that mimics her crying face. The trial continues to this day.

Also read: Amber Heard is the mockery of TikTok: What does this say about the macho culture?

Conrad Murray vs. The People (2011)

In 2011, Dr. Conrad Murray, Michael Jackson's personal physician, was put on trial for the involuntary manslaughter of the King of Pop. As it was the death of one of America's most beloved entertainers, this trial was watched by millions of people two years after Michael Jackson's death. Murray was charged with medical malpractice for prescribing the singer a lethal dose of propofol that caused his death in June 2009. Murray was found guilty by the jury after pleading not guilty himself.

Years later, the documentary "Leaving Neverland" would premiere on HBO, giving voice to survivors of sexual abuse by Michael Jackson as children. The documentary also highlights the paradox that the singer has never gone to trial for charges of sexual abuse.

OJ Simpson vs. The People (1995)

American football player OJ Simpson was accused of murdering his wife Nicole Brown Simpson and their friend Ron Goldman. The defendant was at the peak of his sports career, so this trial was very attractive to Americans. In addition, the theatricality of his attorney, Johnnie Cochran, the bloodiness of the crime scene, and the racial tension in Los Angeles at the time, made it an attractive trial for the media and relevant to the city and the country. The trial lasted eight months and the final verdict was innocent, given Cochran's defense, which alleged racism in the prosecution and mishandling of the evidence.

In 2016, the second season of "American Crime Story" was released: "OJ Simpson vs. The People", which was based on his trial. In addition to this Ryan Murphy production, there are several documentaries that closely follow the theatricality of this trial on the stand, but also the racial tension in Los Angeles in the 1990s, which had a hand in the jury's decision.

William Kennedy Smith vs. Patricia Bowman (1991)

Another case of alleged gender violence in which a powerful man is accused. In this case, it is the case of a member of the Kennedy clan, William, nephew of former President John F. Kennedy, and Senators Ted and Robert F. Kennedy. William was accused of raping Patricia Bowman. The defendant pleaded not guilty to the charges and argued that the sex with Bowman was consensual. Although three other women also wanted to testify about other alleged violations committed by the accused in the 1980s that were not reported to the police, their testimonies were not taken into account.

Being the case of a member of the Kennedy clan, the trial was televised and widely watched by Americans, due to its proximity to the political scene. The defendant was found not guilty of the charges by a jury that debated for less than 75 minutes to reach its verdict.

Ted Bundy vs. The People (1979)

Perhaps the first televised trial in US history. And perhaps one of the most viewed. Ted Bundy, the famous serial killer, was accused of having murdered 30, but possibly more, women in different states of the United States. The defendant undoubtedly enjoyed the coverage of his trial and it was also very theatrical: in addition to being handsome and taking advantage of it to seduce the victims and the jury, he decided to be his own defense. This attracted the interest of many media outlets and American viewers. He was finally found guilty and sentenced to two death sentences. He died in the electric chair in 1989.

There are several documentaries that follow this trial and that study the mind of Ted Bundy. In the latest production of this killer, Bundy is played by actor Zack Efron.