Top 10 Most Famous Not Guilty Verdicts
10. William Kennedy Smith
William Kennedy Smith, the wealthy and handsome nephew of Senator Ted Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy, and JFK, found himself on trial for rape in 1991. The accusations against him came from a 29-year old woman who met Kennedy, as well as his Uncle Ted and his cousin Patrick in a Miami bar. The accuser admitted that she went home with him that evening and agreed to spending time with him both inside and outside of his house. During a late night walk on the beach, the woman said that Kennedy raped her. Kennedy, however, denied the charge and said the pair had consensual sex.
Nonetheless, he went on trial in Florida after the March 1991 incident, but was soon found not guilty by the jury. The trial itself made front page news around the world; as the public watched the dark-haired young Kennedy nephew defend himself in court, people everywhere almost immediately took sides about whether or not he was guilty. Many said after the trial that he escaped punishment merely because of his family’s name and wealth. Despite being found not guilty in criminal court, Kennedy still faced a civil lawsuit levied by another accuser. Again, he was exonerated on that case and a later case brought by yet another accuser in 1999. He received his medical degree from Georgetown University in 1992 and now specializes in rehabilitative medicine for victims of landmines. He has slowly regained his professional reputation and now is considered to be a well-respected physician in Florida.
9. Lorena Bobbitt
Lorena Bobbitt grabbed international headlines after she cut off her husband’s penis with a kitchen butcher knife. An immigrant from Ecuador, Bobbitt married her husband John Wayne Bobbitt, but by her own words, endured a stormy relationship with her husband. After fighting with her husband and, according to her, being sexually, physically, and emotionally abused, she used the knife to sever his penis while he slept. She then escaped the couple’s house, driving along a Virginia highway where she threw her husband’s maimed penis out the car window.
The penis was found, however, and her husband was able to undergo successful reattachment surgery. Lorena herself was charged with malicious wounding. While the international media followed her ensuing trial, she became a fragile symbol of domestic violence and victimized women everywhere. The jury was sympathetic to her plight and found her not guilty by reason of insanity. During the trial, Lorena accused her husband of being unfaithful and forcing her to undergo abortions. Her lawyer argued that she was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and therefore could not be found liable for her actions. She did, however, undergo a mandatory 45-day psychiatric evaluation after the trial ended.
8. John Hinckley, Jr.
John Hinckley, Jr’s name will forever be infamous because of his attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan in March 1981. Hinckley enjoyed a privileged childhood that stemmed from his father being a high-ranking oil executive in Texas. Despite playing sports like football and hockey, he developed an anti-social outlook on life. By the time he dropped out of Texas Tech in the late 1970s, Hinckley was taking medications for depression, anxiety, and personality disorder. He tried his hand at professional songwriting, only to be met with failure. He returned to live with his parents and inexplicably developed an obsession with then-teenage actress Jodie Foster.
So deep was his fascination and obsession for Foster that Hinckley concocted a plan to exhibit what he later coined as “the greatest love offering in the history of the world.” To show Foster how much he loved her, he planned to kill the president of the United States. He purchased a .22 caliber Rohm RG-14 and traveled to Washington, D.C. where he stood outside the Hilton Hotel and awaited the president. As soon as Reagan emerged from the meeting he was attending, Hinckley fired six times, hitting a police officer, a Secret Service agent, press secretary James Brady, and as he planned, the president. He was immediately arrested and faced trial, only to be found not guilty by reason of insanity. After the trial, he was committed to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington, D.C. where he still resides today. The outrage of his acquittal resulted in Congress changing the rules for the insanity defense, making it more challenging for defendants like Hinckley to use this argument.
7. Robert Blake
Tough guy actor Robert Blake faced murder charges after his second wife, Bonnie Lee Bakley, was shot and killed in 2001. Bakley was a known con artist who by her own admission used older men for money and favors. She targeted Christian Brando, Marlon Brando’s son, prior to her involvement with Blake. While she was romantically involved with both men at the same time, she became pregnant and initially named Brando as the father. However, a DNA test proved that Blake was the father of her daughter, leading to the pair getting married in November of 2000. By May 2001, Bakley was dead from a gunshot wound to the back of her head. Blake found himself accused of her murder and was put on trial.
During the televised trial, two former stuntmen testified that Blake tried to hire them to kill Bakley. Both stated that they turned down the Baretta actor, but believed that he had a direct hand in killing his wife on his own. Blake said in pre-trial interviews that he took his wife out to dinner that evening and then walked her to their car. However, he left his gun in the restaurant and went to retrieve it. During the time he went back into the restaurant, Bakley was killed by an unknown assailant. The stuntmen who were called to the stand admitted to using drugs and having mental health challenges. Blake’s defense deftly called their testimony into question, leading to Blake’s acquittal and the jurors being called stupid by the district attorney. Despite being found not guilty by a court of law, the actor never recovered his former reputation as a respected actor. Moreover, he faced civil action in court after Bakley’s three children filed suit against him for their mother’s wrongful death. He was ordered to pay $30 million in restitution, but later was given a lesser penalty of $15 million.
6. R. Kelly
Hip hop artist R. Kelly found himself in legal turmoil in 2002 when a video showing him having sex with a minor made its way to the mainstream media. In the video, he engaged in intercourse and also urinated on a female reportedly less than 18 years of age at the time. Police investigated Kelly and found numerous photos of the girl, as well as other images that law enforcement deemed child pornography. The hip hop star soon was arrested and charged with sexual misconduct with a minor and distribution of child pornography.
Despite the charges, Kelly would not face trial until 2006. During the early onset of legal proceedings, the trial was delayed because of Kelly’s ruptured appendix and his resulting surgery. However, after he was released from the hospital and physically capable of standing trial, his case once again was delayed while attorneys argued over when the tape was actually made. The case finally went to court in 2008 and lasted for two weeks. It took the jury less than a day to find him not guilty on the 14 counts levied against him. Nonetheless, Kelly’s reputation has never rebounded. He is still known by and large as the hip hop artist who had sex with and urinated on a teenage girl, all the while taping the encounter. He has diehard fans who follow his music regardless of his reputation. However, the public as a whole seems unwilling to forget or forgive the matter entirely.