10 Famous Acquittals That Surprised the Public

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A Brief History

Earlier today, you read about “Old Bacon Face” being acquitted, well, here are the top 10 famous acquittals!

Digging Deeper

10. John Hinckley (1981)

The man who attempted an assassination of President Reagan was Obsessed with actress Jodie Foster.  Hinckley tried to kill the president in order to get her attention.  Although found not guilty by reason of insanity, he will probably be in psychiatric custody for life.  This case spurred debate over the insanity defense.

9. Lorena Bobbit (1993)

This woman cut her husband’s penis off, and then fled with the severed member, later throwing it out the car window!  She was bafflingly acquitted by reason of insanity.  Her husband, John Wayne Bobbit, incredibly had his organ reattached!

8. George Zimmerman (2012)

His claim of self defense in shooting death of unarmed 17 year old Trayvon Martin created enormous debate over carrying guns by citizens and the wording of self defense statutes.

7. Former Vice President Aaron Burr (1807)

Although acquitted for treason and never tried for killing Alexander Hamilton in a duel, his career was ruined.

6. 4 Los Angeles Police Officers (1992)

The first trial of the policemen accused of beating Rodney King ended in acquittals that resulted in large riots in LA and other places.  Police were tried again in Federal Court for civil rights violations as a rather corrupt excuse  to get around the double jeopardy clause, and were then convicted.

5. President Andrew Johnson (1868)

Charged with trying to fire his Secretary of War that refused to leave, Johnson won the power struggle between congress and the president in the first time a president was impeached.

4. Slave Ship La Amistad (1839)

African slaves who revolted on an illegal slave ship killedsome crew and took over the ship.  They were found to be within their rights to use force, even murder, to escape illegal captivity.  The US Supreme Court upheld the rights of the rebellious slaves.

3. Lizzie Borden (1892)

Although found not guilty of ax-murdering her parents, many people then and now think there are no other plausible explanations.

2. President “Bill” Clinton (1998)

Impeached for Perjury and Obstruction of Justice, the Senate acquitted him by the unconvincing margin of 50-50, although 67 guilty votes were required for a guilty verdict.

1. O.J. Simpson (1995)

Accused of the murder of Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman, Simpson’s acquittal is by far one of if not the most famous in history.  Much of the public and certainly most comedians believe Simpson was somehow fraudulently found not guilty just to prevent race riots.  If so, Karma is a stinker because he was later found liable for the murders in a civil trial and is sitting in prison for armed robbery and kidnapping.

Question for students (and subscribers): Do you disagree with any of the above acquittals?  Please let us know in the comments section below this article.

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Historical Evidence

For more information, please see…

Gabriel, Richard.  Acquittal: An Insider Reveals the Stories and Strategies Behind Today’s Most Infamous Verdicts.  Berkley, 2014.

Koon, Stacey.  Presumed Guilty: The Tragedy of the Rodney King Affair.  Regnery Publishing, Inc., 1992.

Simpson, O. J.  If I Did It: Confessions of the Killer.  Beaufort Books, 2008.


About Author

Major Dan is a retired veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He served during the Cold War and has traveled to many countries around the world. Prior to his military service, he graduated from Cleveland State University, having majored in sociology. Following his military service, he worked as a police officer eventually earning the rank of captain prior to his retirement.