Tuesday, August 5, 2003
Updated: June 11, 6:33 PM ET
Court is in session
By David Schoenfield
Page 2 Staff
The O.J. Simpson murder trial took 133 days to conduct, produced 150 witnesses and cost $15 million to try.
The jury took three hours to deliberate the case.
When the verdict was announced at 10 a.m. PT on October 3, 1995, 91 percent of all viewers watching television were tuned into O.J.
If the Kobe Bryant sexual assault ever gets to trial, it won't match O.J. for "Trial of the Century" status. But it should crack the top 10 sports trials of all time:
1. O.J. Simpson murder trial
The charge: The former NFL star, TV announcer and B-movie actor was accused of murdering his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman.
The trial: O.J. had the "Dream Team" defense trio of Johnnie Cochran, Robert Shapiro and F. Lee Bailey. We had bloody gloves and Bruno Magli shoes, Kato Kaelin and Mark Furhman.
The verdict: Not guilty
The ramifications: The trial symbolized America's polarization of racial issues - in a 1995 Gallup-CNN/USA Today Poll over half of whites thought the Simpson verdict was incorrect, while most blacks (73 %) thought the outcome was accurate. Simpson did later lose a civil trial (which relies only on a preponderance of the evidence) and was ordered to pay $8.5 million in compensatory damages and $25 million in punitive damages.
Bonus: "If it doesn't fit, you must acquit."
2. Pittsburgh drug trials
|This Dream Team is a must-have when going on trial ... their bench is too deep.|
The charge: Curtis Strong, former caterer for the Philadelphia Phillies, accused of 11 counts of cocaine distribution. But it was Major League Baseball who was really under the microscope.
The trial: Over 20 current and former major leaguers, including Keith Hernandez, Dave Parker, Lonnie Smith, Vida Blue and Tim Raines, were called to testify in the September, 1985 trial. Ex-Pirate John Milner told of getting amphetamines from Hall of Famers, Willie Mays and Willie Stargell, Hernandez revealed he'd used coke for three years and Raines told how he'd keep a gram in his uniform pocket.
The verdict: Strong went to jail and baseball had a PR disaster with innuendo of rampant cocaine use that took place in the early '80s and cocaine sales taking place in the Pirates' clubhouse.
The ramifications: Several players were suspended for 60 days and some were fined 10 percent of their base salary. Parker, a borderline Hall of Famer, may have cost himself any chance at a Cooperstown plaque. Rod Scurry, a Pirates pitcher who testified in the case, would later die of a cocaine-related death at 36.
Bonus: The Pirate Parrot was implicated for buying cocaine and introducing players to Strong.
3. NFL vs. USFL
|Tim Raines had over 2,600 hits and 800 stolen bases, but the Pittsburgh drug trials bring a grey cloud over his career.|
The charge: The USFL sued the NFL for $600 million for violation of antitrust laws.
The trial: In the summer of 1986, the USFL made its case before a federal jury in New York that the NFL had conspired to monopolize professional football.
The verdict: The USFL won & but was awarded just $1 in damages by the jury (trebled to $3 in accordance with antitrust law).
The ramifications: The USFL folded, appeals failed, the check was never cashed and the NFL monopoly rolled on.
Bonus: The NFL was forced to pay $5.5 million in attorney fees (apparently making the lawyers big winners as well).
4. The Black Sox
The charge: Eight members of the Chicago White Sox, including Shoeless Joe Jackson, accused of conspiring to fix the 1919 World Series.
The trial: In September 1920, Jackson and Eddie Cicotte signed confessions before a grand jury saying they had taken money to throw the World Series (you can read Jackson's confession here), but once the trial began in June of 1921 (the players had been suspended by then by White Sox owner Charles Comiskey), shocking news was revealed: the signed confessions had been stolen! Without the confessions, and a judge who told the jury that a guilty verdict must find the players conspired "to defraud the public and others, and not merely throw ballgames," the jury only needed two hours to deliberate.
The verdict: Not guilty!
The ramifications: But Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis quickly banned the players for life anyway.
Bonus: "Say it ain't so, Joe. Say it ain't so."
"Yes kid, I'm afraid it is."
5. Mike Tyson rape trial
|This is old-school "Mike Tyson's Punchout" Mike Tyson. After his rape conviction, the outlandish quotes started flying.|
The charge: Former heavyweight champ Mike Tyson accused of raping a beauty pageant contestant.
The trial: Tyson's defense team contends the victim, Desiree Washington, is upset that she was used for a one-night stand. The prosecution goes after Tyson's character and his history of violence against women.
The verdict: Guilty of one count of rape and two counts of deviate sexual content.
The ramifications: Tyson enters the Indiana Youth Center in March of 1992 and spends three years there.
Bonus: Eleven years later ... "She's a lying, monstrous young lady -- I just hate her guts. She puts me in that state where I don't know ... but now I really do want to rape her."
6. Muhammad Ali v. U.S. military
7. Ray Lewis murder trial
The heavyweight champion of the world, Ali was drafted into the military in 1967, but claimed he was a conscientious objector. When he refused to step forward at his induction, he committed a possible felony. His boxing license was immediately suspended and he was stripped of his title. At his trial, the jury deliberated for just 21 minutes before finding him guilty. Ali appealed and 3 1/2 years later the Supreme Court finally ruled in his favor.
Baltimore Ravens All-Pro linebacker was charged with double-murder along with Reginald Oakley and Joseph Sweeting after two men were stabbed to death outside of Atlanta's Cobalt Lounge after a post-Super Bowl party on January 31. Murder charges were eventually dropped against Lewis, who pleaded down to a misdemeanor obstruction of justice charge. In exchange for the deal, Lewis became a witness against his former co-defendants. While Lewis received a year's probation, Oakley and Sweeting were cleared of all charges.
8. Rae Carruth murder trial
|Once an NFL first-round selection, Rae Carruth is now in prison after being convicted of conspiracy to commit murder.|
The one-time first-round pick of the Carolina Panthers was tried for first-degree murder for the shooting of his pregnant girlfriend. Although acquitted of first-degree murder (and spared the death penalty), Carruth was found guilty of conspiracy to commit murder (he had hired a hitman) and sentenced to nearly at least 19 years in prison.
9. Curt Flood v. Major League Baseball
10. Federal Baseball Club of Baltimore v. National Baseball Clubs
Under the rules of the "reserve clause," Flood had no rights when the Cardinals traded him to the Phillies for the 1970 season. So he sued, saying baseball had violated antitrust laws. The case eventually reached the Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of baseball. However, Flood's case eventually helped lead to the demise of the reserve clause and the advent of free agency (and more rights and higher salaries for players).
Baltimore, a member of the Federal League that operated as a major league from 1914-15, had sued the National and American Leagues, charging the Federal League's inability to sign players was due to antitrust violations. In 1922, the Supreme Court ruled against the Baltimore Federal League, giving MLB an antitrust exemption it still holds to this day (the major affect being a club isn't allowed to move without MLB's approval).