Many memorable events happened in 2011, stories that will be described in history books studied by future generations. Both Osama Bin Laden and Muammar Qaddafi were killed. Japan suffered a major earthquake and tsunami and Hurricane Irene furiously stormed up the East Coast of North America.
Specifically in the legal and criminal justice world, many stories made headlines in the United States. Here is a list (in no particular order) of five of the major legal and justice news stories from the past year.
1. Penn State Scandal: Whether you are or are not a college sports fan, you undoubtedly heard about the sex scandal surrounding Penn State’s football program. The university football team’s former defense coordinator Jerry Sandusky has now been accused of committing 50 counts of sexual abuse involving 10 boys (more reports of abuse have come forward since the scandal made headlines). Head Coach Joe Paterno, who had been with Penn State for just over 50 years, was fired. Two university officials, Tim Curley and Gary Schulz, will face trial for lying to a grand jury and failing to properly report the sexual abuse allegations; they will be arraigned in January. Sandusky is expected to go to trial in March.
2. The Casey Anthony Trial: Although Casey Anthony was no celebrity until accused with the murder of her two-year old daughter, it seemed like her trial captured the attention of Americans and beyond. The result was an acquittal for Anthony. According to CBS’ Legal Analyst Jack Ford, the jury found her not guilty because there was no 100% ruling on Caylee’s cause of death. Anthony is currently on probation for lying to law enforcement officers during the investigation.
3. Occupy Wall Street: Occupy Wall Street started on September 17, 2011 in Zucotti Park, New York City after the idea was proposed by Adbusters magazine. The “we are the 99%” movement swept across the nation and the world with camps setting up in major cities such as Cairo and Cape Town, Toronto and Vancouver, Buenos Aires and Seoul, London and Paris, Philadelphia, Houston, Oakland and Anchorage. Although many of the camps have been evacuated or disbanded, the Occupy Wall Street website is encouraging protesters to reclaim the New York park, now dubbed “Liberty Square”, for New Years Eve celebrations. Will the protest spark changes in public policy for 2012?
4. Dr. Conrad Murray Trial: Not surprisingly, the trial of Dr. Conrad Murray for causing the death of the “King of Pop” was in the spotlight for its entire proceedings. Dr. Murray was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter and criminally responsible for Michael Jackson’s lethal ingestion of propofol. Dr. Murray was given the maximum sentence of four years which he is currently serving at the Los Angeles County’s Men’s Central Jail.
5. Obama’s Healthcare Law: In November, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case on whether President Barack Obama’s healthcare law (Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act) is constitutional or not. In March 2012, the higher court will hear arguments from both sides for over five hours (a lengthier time normally provided by the Supreme Court). The main issue contested is the mandate requiring all Americans to purchase health insurance by 2014. However, the administration argues that if the individual mandate is stricken from the law, affordable health insurance would not be accessible to all.