Most Notorious American Murder Trials

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Jul. 5 2011, Published 9:36 a.m. ET

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The worst murder trials in American history.

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1. Charles Manson was found guilty in January 1971 of conspiracy to commit the Tate murders that were carried out by his followers, named the Manson Family, at his instruction. Manson was sentenced to death but the sentence was automatically commuted to life imprisonment after the Supreme Court of California temporarily eliminated the state's death penalty.

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Charles Manson was found guilty in January 1971 of conspiracy to commit the Tate murders that were carried out by his followers, named the Manson Family, at his instruction. Manson was sentenced to death but the sentence was automatically commuted to life imprisonment after the Supreme Court of California temporarily eliminated the state's death penalty.

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2. Susan Smith is escorted from the Union County Courthouse Friday, July 28, 1995 after the jury delivered a verdict of life in prison. Smith was convicted last week of the drowning deaths of her two sons Alex and Michael.

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Susan Smith is escorted from the Union County Courthouse Friday, July 28, 1995 after the jury delivered a verdict of life in prison. Smith was convicted last week of the drowning deaths of her two sons Alex and Michael.

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3. David ‘Son of Sam’ Berkowitz confessed to killing six people and wounding several others in shooting incidents between 1976 – 1977. He was sentenced 25-years to life in June 1978. Berkowitz later claimed that he was commanded to kill by his neighbor’s dog that was possessed by a demon. He currently resides at the Sullivan Correctional Facility in Fallsburg, New York.

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David ‘Son of Sam’ Berkowitz confessed to killing six people and wounding several others in shooting incidents between 1976 – 1977. He was sentenced 25-years to life in June 1978. Berkowitz later claimed that he was commanded to kill by his neighbor’s dog that was possessed by a demon. He currently resides at the Sullivan Correctional Facility in Fallsburg, New York.

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4. Erik and Lyle Menendez were found guilty of the 1989 murder of their wealthy parents Jose and Mary “Kitty” Menendez. The trial became a national sensation after it was broadcast live on Court TV. In July 1996 the brothers were sentenced to life in prison without parole. Lyle is being held in Mule Creek State Prison and Erik is incarcerated at the Pleasant Valley State Prison – both have since married.

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Erik and Lyle Menendez were found guilty of the 1989 murder of their wealthy parents Jose and Mary “Kitty” Menendez. The trial became a national sensation after it was broadcast live on Court TV. In July 1996 the brothers were sentenced to life in prison without parole. Lyle is being held in Mule Creek State Prison and Erik is incarcerated at the Pleasant Valley State Prison – both have since married.

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5. Ted Bundy assaulted and murdered at least 30 young women, and possibly many more, in many states between 1974 and 1978. He was sentenced to death and was executed in the electric chair, January 24, 1989 in Florida State Prison.

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Ted Bundy assaulted and murdered at least 30 young women, and possibly many more, in many states between 1974 and 1978. He was sentenced to death and was executed in the electric chair, January 24, 1989 in Florida State Prison.

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6. Aileen Wuornos was convicted of murdering six men during a killing spree in Florida between 1989 and 1990. She was sentenced to death and executed by lethal injection at Florida State Prison on October 9, 2002.

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Aileen Wuornos was convicted of murdering six men during a killing spree in Florida between 1989 and 1990. She was sentenced to death and executed by lethal injection at Florida State Prison on October 9, 2002.

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7. Ted Kaczynski, AKA The Unabomber carried out a deadly mail bombing spree that spanned nearly 20 years, killing three people and injuring 23 others. He dismissed his court appointed attorneys and insisted on defending himself at trial. However, a plea agreement was reached where Kaczynski was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole.

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Ted Kaczynski, AKA The Unabomber carried out a deadly mail bombing spree that spanned nearly 20 years, killing three people and injuring 23 others. He dismissed his court appointed attorneys and insisted on defending himself at trial. However, a plea agreement was reached where Kaczynski was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole.

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8. Diane Downs was found guilty in 1984 of shooting her three young children, killing one and injuring the others. She was sentenced to life in prison. She applied for parole in December 2008 and again in December 2010, but was denied both times.

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Diane Downs was found guilty in 1984 of shooting her three young children, killing one and injuring the others. She was sentenced to life in prison. She applied for parole in December 2008 and again in December 2010, but was denied both times.

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9. OJ Simpson was spectacularly found not guilty of the murder of Nicole Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman after a sensational trial that captivated America. In 1997 a civil judgment was made against Simpson for their wrongful deaths, but to date he has paid little of the $33.5 million judgment. He is currently serving 33 years to life. In 2008 he was found guilty of armed robbery and kidnap in Las Vegas and sentenced to 33 years imprisonment. He is currently serving his sentence at the Lovelock Correctional Center.

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OJ Simpson was spectacularly found not guilty of the murder of Nicole Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman after a sensational trial that captivated America. In 1997 a civil judgment was made against Simpson for their wrongful deaths, but to date he has paid little of the $33.5 million judgment. He is currently serving 33 years to life. In 2008 he was found guilty of armed robbery and kidnap in Las Vegas and sentenced to 33 years imprisonment. He is currently serving his sentence at the Lovelock Correctional Center.

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10. Scott Peterson was convicted of murdering his wife, Laci Peterson and their unborn child in Modesto, California. He was sentenced to death by lethal injection in 2005. He remains on death row in San Quentin State Prison waiting appeal and he maintains his innocence to this day.

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Scott Peterson was convicted of murdering his wife, Laci Peterson and their unborn child in Modesto, California. He was sentenced to death by lethal injection in 2005. He remains on death row in San Quentin State Prison waiting appeal and he maintains his innocence to this day.

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11. Albert Fish was a child rapist and cannibal that boasted he "had children in every state," Fish confessed to three murders that police were able to trace and he confessed to stabbing at least two other people. He was put on trial for the kidnapping and murder of Grace Budd, and was convicted and executed by electric chair at Sing Sing correctional Facility in 1936.

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Albert Fish was a child rapist and cannibal that boasted he "had children in every state," Fish confessed to three murders that police were able to trace and he confessed to stabbing at least two other people. He was put on trial for the kidnapping and murder of Grace Budd, and was convicted and executed by electric chair at Sing Sing correctional Facility in 1936.

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12. Phil Spector listens to the judge during sentencing in Los Angeles Criminal Courts on May 29, 2009 in Los Angeles, California, for the February 2003 shooting death of actress Lana Clarkson. Spector was sentenced for 19-years to life.

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Phil Spector listens to the judge during sentencing in Los Angeles Criminal Courts on May 29, 2009 in Los Angeles, California, for the February 2003 shooting death of actress Lana Clarkson. Spector was sentenced for 19-years to life.

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13. Jeffrey Dahmer killed 17 men and boys between 1978 and 1991. His murders where particularly horrible, involving such gruesome acts such as rape, dismemberment, necrophilia, and cannibalism. He was jailed for his crimes and died in 1994 when beaten by an inmate while incarcerated at the Columbia Correctional Institution.

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Jeffrey Dahmer killed 17 men and boys between 1978 and 1991. His murders where particularly horrible, involving such gruesome acts such as rape, dismemberment, necrophilia, and cannibalism. He was jailed for his crimes and died in 1994 when beaten by an inmate while incarcerated at the Columbia Correctional Institution.

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14. ohn Wayne Gacy, Jr. -- also known as the “Killer Clown” -- committed the rape and murder of 33 teenage boys and young men between 1972 and 1978. Twenty-six of Gacy's victims were buried in the crawlspace of his Chicago home, three others elsewhere on his property and four victims were dumped in a nearby river. Gacy was brought to trial on February 6, 1980, charged with 33 murders. In March of 1980, he was convicted and sentenced to death. In May of 1994, he died by lethal injection.

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ohn Wayne Gacy, Jr. -- also known as the “Killer Clown” -- committed the rape and murder of 33 teenage boys and young men between 1972 and 1978. Twenty-six of Gacy's victims were buried in the crawlspace of his Chicago home, three others elsewhere on his property and four victims were dumped in a nearby river.

Gacy was brought to trial on February 6, 1980, charged with 33 murders. In March of 1980, he was convicted and sentenced to death.

In May of 1994, he died by lethal injection.

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