A Timeline of Real Trials Shown on TV

TV Insider Staff
OJ Simpson trial
AP Photo/Nick Ut

Compiled by: James Bufalino and Ashley Moran

Over the past two decades, no trial airing on TV has captivated audiences as much as the O.J. Simpson trial. The FX series The People v. O.J. Simpson brought the case back into the limelight, casting well-known actors in the roles of real people and offering (mostly accurate) details about the case. As Season 1 comes to a close on Tuesday, April 5, we look back at when some of the biggest trials involving absurd celebs, alleged murderers and accused terrorists were shown on TV.

RELATED: 9 Surprising Facts About The People v. O.J. Simpson


1935

Bruno Richard Hauptmann
The first major trial covered by newsreel cameras is that of Bruno Richard Hauptmann, the kidnapper/murderer of the Lindbergh baby. Film footage plays—TV-like—in 10,000 of the nation’s 14,000 movie theaters.

Bruno R Hauptmann, Charles Lindbergh trial

Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Bruno Richard Hauptmann, later convicted of kidnapping and murdering Charles Lindbergh Jr.

1953

Cameras Allowed in Courtrooms
Cameras allowed in an Oklahoma courtroom; edited footage aired.

1954

Amry-McCarthy
Nation riveted by the political circus known as the Army-McCarthy hearings.

1955

First Trial Televised Live
First live TV broadcast of a trial takes place in Waco, Texas.

1957

Robert F. Kennedy vs. Jimmy Hoffa
All eyes are on the Senate’s McClellan committee hearings featuring Robert F. Kennedy’s accusations of corruption against Jimmy Hoffa’s Teamsters Union.

Senate McClellan committee hearing

Hank Walker/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Robert F. Kennedy and Sen. John L. McClellan

1973-74

Watergate
Ongoing coverage of the congressional investigation into Watergate.

Watergate Hearings

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The Senate Watergate Committee investigation.

1979

Ted Bundy
Serial killer Ted Bundy foes on trial with extensive television coverage.

1982

Claus von Bulow
Claus von Bulow’s first TV trial ends in his conviction for the attempted murder of his now-comatose wife, Sunny. CNN broadcasters his 1985 retrial, in which he is acquitted.

1984

Trial That Inspired The Accused
CNN carries live coverage of a Massachusetts gang-rape trial, the case that became the basis for the movie The Accused.

1987

Judge Robert Bork
Televised coverage of the Supreme Court confirmation hearing of Judge Robert Bork.

Iran-contra/Oliver North
TV coverage of the congressional investigation into the Iran-contra affair. Featuring testimony by Oliver North.

Iran-Contra hearings, Oliver North

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Lieutenant Col. Oliver North

1991

Pamela Smart
Gavel-to-gavel coverage of the trial of Pamela Smart, a New Hampshire teacher accused of having her student/lover murder her husband.

Christian Brando
Court TV covers the hearing of Christian Brando, son of Marlon, accused of the murder of his half-sister’s boyfriend.

Clarence Thomas
Recently-nominated Supreme Court judge Clarence Thomas is accused by former assistant Anita Hill of sexual harassment.

Clarence Thomas

DAVID AKE/AFP/Getty Images

Clarence Thomas

1992

Rodney King
Riots ensue shortly after the TV trial of L.A. policemen accused of beating Rodney King.

Amy Fisher
Cameras converge on the pretrial hearings and sentencing of Amy Fisher, who copped a plea to the charge of shooting the wife of her body-shop mechanic/lover Joey Buttafuoco.

Jeffrey Dahmer
Coverage of the pretrial hearing for serial killer/cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer to determine whether he was competent to serve a life-term prison sentence or should be sent to a psychiatric hospital.

Amy Fisher

Dan Farrell/NY Daily News Archive/Getty Images

Amy Fisher

1993

Reginald Denny
Riots revisited during the trial of the men accused of beating Reginald Denny, a truck driver caught in the middle of the Rodney King melee.

Menendez Brothers
Court TV makes it big with the trial of the Menendez brothers.

Heidi Fleiss
Cameras swarm the arraignment of alleged Hollywood Madam Heidi Fleiss.

Heidi Fleiss trial

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Heidi Fleiss

1994

Lorena Bobbitt
Americans take sides while watching testimony of Lorena Bobbitt, accused of cutting off her husband’s penis.

O.J. Simpson
O.J. Simpson’s pretrial hearing is one of the most-watched television events of the century.

1995

Timothy McVeigh
McVeigh is put on trial for one of the the worst terrorist bombings in the U.S., the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

1999

Jack Kevorkian
Controversy surrounds Dr. Kevorkian (aka. Dr. Death) for assisting several terminal patients in committing suicide (euthanasia) between May 1994 and June 1997.

2000

Rae Carruth
The Carolina Panthers football player is accused of hiring someone to kill his girlfriend, going so far as to stop his car in front of hers so the gunman got a clear shot.

2003

Martha Stewart
Charges were made against the lifestyle maven for insider trading related to ImClone Systems stock.

Martha Stewart

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Martha Stewart

2004

Scott Peterson
Suspicion surrounded the husband for killing pregnant wife, Laci, over money and self-interest.

2005

Robert Blake
The Baretta actor was charged with murdering his wife, the mother of his two children, but was found not guilty.

Michael Jackson
Despite numerous allegations of child molestation, Jackon is acquitted by the jury.

Saddam Hussein
After years of eluding the law, the ruthless former Iraqi dictator found himself in court; he was eventually served the death penalty.

2006

Kenneth Lay and Jeffery Skilling
In one of the biggest embezzlement scandals, the two Enron leaders were tried for fraud that bankrupted the company.

2007

Lisa Nowak
Former flight officer and NASA astronaut charged with the attempted kidnapping of Colleen Shipman, who was involved with Nowak's former lover, astronaut William Oefelein.

Phil Spector
Record producer and musician sentenced for the homicide of actress Lana Clarkson.

Lindsay Lohan
After spiraling out of control, the actress got mandated jail and rehab time after repeatedly violating her probation for multiple DUI charges.

Lindsay Lohan

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Lindsay Lohan

2008

Rod Blagojevich
The former Illinois governor was found guilty of 17 corruption charges, including soliciting bribes to fill Barack Obama’s vacated senate seat.

2010

Paris Hilton
Charged with possession of cocaine. The hotel heiress accepted a plea bargain with a small fine and no jail time. (She served reduced jail time in 2007 for violating probation.)

Paris Hilton

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Paris Hilton

2011

Casey Anthony
Accused of murdering her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee. The child's remains were found with a blanket inside a trash bag near her home.

Dr. Conrad Murray
After Michael Jackson died from an overdose of general anesthetic, the doctor who tended him was charged with involuntary manslaughter.

Dr. Conrad Murray

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Dr. Conrad Murray

2013

Amanda Knox
After spending four years in an Italian prison for the murder of her roommate Meredith Kercher, a retrial overturned the charges.

2015

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev
Sentenced to death after being found responsible for collaborating with his deceased brother to bomb the 2013 Boston Marathon.

James Holmes
Despite an insanity plea, James got life imprisonment without parole after the Aurora, Colorado mass shooting at a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises.