This morning, it was announced that Oscar Pistorius will serve a five-year prison sentence for the death of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, on Valentine’s Day 2013. He was also given a three-year suspended sentence for a firearms charge.
The trial, which lasted for seven months, was widely televised, giving it added immediacy and allowing people to watch chilling details unfold from the comfort of their own homes. Already, a backlash against the sentence – handed down by female judge Thokozile Masipa – has been sweeping through Twitter, with the hashtags #ThingsLongerThanOscarsSentence and #NoJustice trending within two hours of the sentencing.
Notorious Pistorius he is, but take a look at these other trials which have sent shockwaves through the Western world.
Dubbed ‘Foxy Knoxy’ by an outrageously inappropriate media, American Amanda Knox continues to fight for her freedom after being twice convicted of the murder of her friend and house mate, British student Meredith Kercher.
Knox and Kercher were living together in Perugia, Italy on an exchange programme in 2007. Meredith’s body was discovered one morning in the bedroom of their shared house, having died of knife wounds; Knox and her boyfriend, along with another man, were convicted of her murder, although the two maintain their innocence. After serving four years in prison they were released, and have faced subsequent retrial in Italy’s court system.
As of January 2014 the pair have once again been found guilty, but they intend to appeal the decision. Italy’s court system allows those prosecuted to remain free until they have exhausted all possible appeals processes.
The case has attracted intense scrutiny in the USA, and to this day no one has uncovered the full truth around the mysterious, brutal murder. Rather tastelessly, a film is being released starring Cara Delevigne as Knox, showing how the media continues to inappropriately obsess over Knox’s sex appeal.
This teen from Georgia, USA, was sentenced in September last year for the fatal shooting of a 13-month-old baby. The case attracted so much attention that the trial had to be moved to 300 miles away to avoid the extensive publicity.
The baby’s mother, Sherry West, had been pushing him in his stroller as she walked home from the post office, when she was confronted by two teenagers, Elkins and Dominique Lang, who demanded money from her. When she refused and said she didn’t have any money, Elkins threatened to shoot before counting down from five. After he shot West in the leg, he turned on the baby, Antonio, and shot him straight in the face.
Because Elkins and Lang were only 17 and 15 at the time, they cannot receive the most drastic sentence – the death penalty. Elkins was instead handed life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, while Lang is yet to be sentenced.
Anders Behring Breivik
The ‘Oslo shooter’ shocked the world in 2011 when he went on a rampage in Norway’s capital city, killing 69 people. Many of them were children, as the scene of the crime was a Norwegian Youth Labour Party Summer Camp.
Declared sane and fit for trial, which ended in August 2012, the mass murderer showed no remorse throughout, making him all the more chilling for the cameras. After putting across an unsettling defence in which he outlined his Extreme Right manifesto opposing Islam, Feminism and Zionism, he was sentenced to indefinite incarceration by Norwegian authorities.
The now 74-year-old music producer, famous for his ‘Wall of Sound’ technique and for working with high-profile artists like John Lennon and the Ronettes, was convicted of the murder of actress Lana Clarkson. Because of his fame, the case attracted a lot of media attention.
Clarkson had been shot in the mouth at Spector’s mansion in Los Angeles in 2003, but Spector said it had been an ‘accidental suicide’. He pleaded not guilty to second degree murder of the 40-year-old and, controversially, he remained free on $1 million bail while awaiting trial.
He was found guilty of second-degree murder upon his second trial in May 2009, and received a sentence of 19 years to life in the California state prison system.O J Simpson
In perhaps the most infamous trial in US history, O J Simpson, a former American football player and actor, was acquitted of the murder of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and waiter Ronald Lyle Goldman, in Los Angeles in June 1994.
The trial lasted almost a year, and attracted vast amounts of worldwide media attention. One of the main reasons for this is because the entire thing was televised, making it accessible to almost everyone – an estimated 142 million people listened on radio and watched television as the verdict was delivered in October 1995.
Another reason the trial lingers in public consciousness today is because of Simpson’s wealth and high status in society, and what this afforded him. Robert Kardashian – Kim’s father – and a team of other expensive defence lawyers put together a convincing enough case that Simpson got away without imprisonment, something which has been the subject of intense debate since.
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