Being a celebrity has its perks. Like the ability to hire the best lawyers when you’re in trouble. Or being given the benefit of the doubt from the outset. These shocking celebrity trial verdicts are all instances where celebrities have proven almost bullet proof in the face of accusations – and even evidence – of committing a crime. Oxygen’s The Jury Speaks, premiering Saturday, July 22 at 9/8c, will take a closer look at some of these cases. By interviewing jurors about their decision making process, The Jury Speaks will unpack and attempt to understand some of these controversial decisions. In the meantime, here are some of the most shocking celebrity trial verdicts for you to ponder.
1. Robert Blake
Former TV star Robert Blake was charged with the murder of his wife, Bonny Lee Bakley, in 2001, after she was found dead in their car following a restaurant dinner the couple had together. The pair had a fraught relationship, and after their dinner, they went to their car, when Blake apparently doubled back to get a gun he’d left in the restaurant. When he returned, he found his wife dead in the car, a bullet wound in her head. At trial, it was revealed by witnesses that Blake had not returned to the restaurant at all, and hadn’t left a gun there. The circumstantial evidence suggested Blake had killed his wife, but with no forensic evidence to prove it, Blake was found not-guilty of murder. The verdict shocked the public, but in a civil trial a few months later, he was found guilty of intentionally causing Bakley’s death – and ordered to pay millions to her children. Justice was – sort of – served.
2. O.J. Simpson
A case that rings through the annals of history as one of the most shocking verdicts ever given. The entire nation debated former football pro O.J. Simpson’s guilt when his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman, were found brutally murdered at her home. Despite DNA evidence at the scene, and Simpson evading police in a now iconic high speed car chase, he was acquitted of the murder, thanks in part to the media circus and lawyer Johnnie Cochran’s expertise. Like Robert Blake, Simpson was later found financially liable for the two deaths in a civil case.
3. R. Kelly
We might love getting down to “Ignition (Remix)” on a Friday night, but R. Kelly is a controversial dance floor hero. In 2002 a video of Kelly having sex with a minor surfaced, in which he infamously also urinated on the girl. Under investigation, police found images amounting to child pornography in Kelly’s possession. Kelly was arrested, but didn’t face the court until 2008 due to poor health. The case lasted for two weeks and after only a day of deliberation the jury found him controversially not guilty, despite the physical and incriminating evidence.
4. Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson’s iconic career was plagued by child abuse allegations that went public in 2003. He was accused of molesting a young boy after giving him alcohol on a stay at his Neverland ranch, where Jackson often preferred to entertain children over adults. The ensuing trial became something of a media circus, and Jackson behaved erratically in court, one time even appearing in his pajamas. He was eventually acquitted, but the public was divided in opinion, many shocked that the Kind of Pop was allowed to return to Neverland, given the severity of the accusations, which followed him throughout his career and prompted many to take a “where there’s smoke, there’s fire” stance.
5. Snoop Dogg
In 1993, rapper Snoop Dogg, along with his bodyguard, McKinley Lee, were arrested and charged with the murder of Phillip Woldermariam, a rival gang member. Snoop hired Johnny Cochran, who most famously represented O.J. Simpson, and despite evidence against them – including witness testimony that Lee fired that fatal shot, and that Snoop was driving the car that got them too and from the crime scene – both men were acquitted of the crime, although it took Snoop three years of lengthy court battles to be entirely free of the allegations. Many shocked observers believed it was Snoop’s star power that exonerated him.
6. William Kennedy Smith
Nephew to Ted Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy, and JFK, William Kennedy Smith, was charged with rape in 1991. A 29 year old woman alleged that she met Kennedy in a bar and went home with him. She spent time with him in his house, but during a walk on the beach late one night, she said he raped her. Kennedy said the sex was consensual, but the public was divided. When Kennedy was exonerated, many believed that the Kennedy name and family wealth ensured his innocence, and that he was guilty. He was again accused of sexual assault by another woman in 1999, and was again exonerated. In 2005, he settled out of court with a third woman who accused him of sexual assault.
[All photos: Getty Images]