1, O.J. Simpson
June 1994 – October 1995
The trial that set the bar for round-the-clock media coverage, and the case that made one network–Court TV (now truTV)–a household name. This wasn’t just the O.J. show, kicked off by a low-speed police chase with the Juice lying in the back of the infamous white Ford Bronco. This case was full of characters good, evil, and devious, from Johnnie Cochran to Judge Ito, Kato Kaelin to Mark Fuhrman–even a certain black leather glove got its fifteen minutes, and then some. Today, the O.J. Simpson trial is still the standard bearer when it comes to sensational court cases. Indeed, seemingly the entire country gasped on October 3, 1995, when the jury returned its verdict: not guilty. What other trial can say it sucked the air out of a nation?
2, Martha Stewart
June 2003 – July 2004
Martha Stewart’s crime wasn’t particularly heinous–charges related to insider trading of ImClone Systems stock–but with her squeaky clean image newspapers and television news shows jumped over themselves to provide wall-to-wall coverage of her fall from grace. Who could have that imagined America’s perfect hostess, who built a media empire out of how to make ordinary twigs into a lovely centerpiece, would ever end up in prison duds? That’s what happened in July 2004, when Stewart was sentenced to five months in the big house.
3, Michael Jackson
November 2003 – June 2005
For all of Michael Jackson’s talent and hard work, his legacy will forever be tainted by one ugly and recurring storyline. The first allegations of child molestation against the King of Pop arose in 1993, though charges fell apart under scrutiny. Nearly a decade later footage taken for a documentary by Martin Bashir had enough questionable content that Jackson was arrested in November 2003 and indicted on seven counts of child molestation and other charges. Jackson was acquitted on all charges less than two years later.
4, Timothy McVeigh
August 1995 – June 1997
America’s most notorious homegrown terrorist, Timothy McVeigh was one of the masterminds, along with co-conspirator Terry Nichols, behind the Oklahoma City bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal building, which killed 168 people in April 1995. Until the attacks of September 11, 2001, it was the deadliest terrorist act on U.S. soil.
5, Rod Blagojevich
December 2008 – June 27, 2011
Former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich found out the hard way that the grease-palmed politics of yesteryear just don’t fly anymore. In June Blagojevich was found guilty of 17 corruption charges, including soliciting bribes to fill Barack Obama’s senate seat.