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The All-Time Most Surprising Acquittals

Updated June 29, 2020 5.2k votes 1.5k voters 325.5k views11 items

While few not guilty verdicts will be remembered more than the one issued in the OJ Simpson murder trial, the most surprising acquittals include celebrities, mothers, athletes, singers, and disgruntled housewives who have escaped charges when nearly everyone thought they were undeniably guilty. From the child molestation charges against Michael Jackson to the child murder claims against Casey Anthony, to the infamous case against Lorena Bobbitt, each of these cases, many among the most famous trials, provide plenty of shock and awe, not to mention media coverage, as they played out.

Though these famous Black criminals, white criminals, and others have escaped their charges in these famous criminal acquittals, an equally notable number have been found guilty, such as the top 8 professional athletes convicted of murder and the many rappers who've spent time in prison for one reason or another.

Take a look at this list of people acquitted of murder, and other crimes, and vote up the most shocking acquittal of them all, in these cases where people "got away with it."

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  • Casey Anthony is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The All-Time Most Surprising Acquittals
    Photo: Orange County Sheriff's Office / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Described as "OJ number two," the trial of Casey Anthony shocked and divided the United States when the Florida single mother was acquitted of murdering her two-year-old daughter Caylee Anthony in July 2011. Casey Anthony failed to report the child missing, lied to investigators, and was seemingly unbothered during the months the child was missing. Despite evidence that Anthony's trunk contained human decomposition, Anthony was found not guilty for the murder, only convicted of providing false information to law enforcement officers.

    • Age: 33
    691
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  • Accused of murdering his wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman, former NFL player OJ Simpson was acquitted of murder in the "Trial of the Century" in 1995. Simpson was widely believed to be guilty, especially after leading police on a low-speed chase in his white Ford Bronco, but his dream team of attorneys, including Robert Kardashian and Robert Shapiro, convinced the jury that the evidence to convict the athlete and actor was insufficient. In 1997, Simpson was found financially liable for the deaths in a civil trial. 10 years later, Simpson released a controversial and allegedly hypothetical book titled If I Did It.

    • Age: 73
    • Birthplace: California, United States of America
    584
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  • R. Kelly is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The All-Time Most Surprising Acquittals
    Photo: Jamie Lamor Thompson / Shutterstock.com

    Right at the height of his career in 2002, R&B singer R. Kelly was charged with having sex with a minor and producing child pornography after a videotape surfaced of the singer having sexual relations with an underage girl. Other media, including photos of the acts with the minor, were found at Kelly's home. However, six years later when the case finally went to trial, the Grammy Award winner was found not guilty by a Chicago jury who cited a lack of evidence and the refusal of the alleged victim to testify as reasons for the acquittal. However, as of 2019, Kelly has been charged with several federal counts, including prostitution, child pornography, kidnapping, conspiracy to obstruct justice by destroying evidence, bribing or threatening witnesses, and sexual assault and abuse against a minor. He is currently incarcerated and being held without bond at Metropolitan Correctional Center, Chicago.

    • Age: 53
    • Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, United States of America
    338
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  • George Zimmerman is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The All-Time Most Surprising Acquittals
    Photo: Seminole County Sheriff's Office / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    George Zimmerman fatally shot 17-year-old high school student Trayvon Martin on the night of February 26, 2012, in Sanford, Florida. George Zimmerman, a 28-year-old, was the neighborhood watch coordinator for the gated community where Martin was temporarily staying and where the shooting took place.

    Following an earlier call from Zimmerman, police arrived within two minutes of a gunshot during a scuffle in which Zimmerman had fatally shot Martin. Zimmerman was taken into custody, treated for head injuries, then questioned for five hours. The police chief said that Zimmerman was released for lack of evidence and lack of legal grounds for arrest, and that Zimmerman had a right to defend himself with lethal force. However, six weeks later, amid widespread, intense, and contradictory media coverage and misleading reporting, Zimmerman was charged with murder by a special prosecutor appointed by Governor Rick Scott.

    Zimmerman's trial began on June 10, 2013, in Sanford. On July 13, 2013, a jury acquitted him of second-degree murder and of manslaughter charges.

    • Age: 36
    • Birthplace: Virginia
    334
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