Several trials in 2021 captured the attention of audiences in the US and globally. There was a good mix of murder, self-defense, celebrity conservatorship, sex trafficking, racial and police killings.
These were the most surprising things that happened in courtrooms in 2021:
Derek Chauvin Found Guilty of Murder
Undoubtedly, the most-watched case of 2021 was that of the ex-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. The police officer faced three counts related to the murder of George Floyd in May 2020. Video evidence of the incident in Minnesota led to Chauvin’s guilty verdict.
The jury deliberated over two days and a total of 10 hours before finding Chauvin guilty of second-degree manslaughter, second-degree murder, and third-degree murder. The disgraced cop was handed down a 22.5-year sentence for the killing that led to global protests about racial inequality and police brutality. On handing down the sentence, Judge Peter Cahill scathingly spoke about Chauvin’s cruelty toward the victim and his abuse of his position of authority and trust.
Kyle Rittenhouse Acquittal
Kyle Rittenhouse faced three charges for shooting at three people, killing the two, and wounding the third. The incident took place in August 2020, during a protest over the shooting of Jacob Blake by police. During his trial, the 18-year-old took the stand and told the court that he feared for his life when the victims in Kenosha cornered him.
During his testimony, the defendant often sobbed uncontrollably. Rittenhouse’s defense lawyers argued self-defense and the jury sided with them, finally acquitting him.
Brittney Spears Conservatorship Drama Set to Continue
When Jamie Spears, Britney’s father, filed to end the matter of his conservatorship without seeking any compensation, some issues remained before she could fully enjoy her newfound freedom. These include that her mother and sister failed to help her during her isolation, snooping allegations against her father, and investigations into how Jamie Spears handled his daughter’s finances.
Matthew Rosengart, the pop star’s attorney, recently released a statement to Fox News in which he states, “Mr. Spears cannot avoid investigations into his accountability.”
Jussie Smollett’s Persistent Lying
B-list actor, Jussie Smollett, claimed that he was beaten up, noosed, and doused with bleach by Trump devotees in November 2021. He was accused of staging the crime, and the jury in his Chicago trial, agreeing with the prosecutors, found him guilty of a convicted felony, disorderly conduct, and filing a false police report.
The 39-year-old actor had hired two brothers to commit the supposed hate crime, but his attorneys claimed that Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo were criminals and liars.
Dan Webb, the special prosecutor, accused Smollett of being a serial liar, saying that not only did the accused exploit racial tension in the city of Chicago for weeks but also lied under oath.
Ahmaud Arbery Killing Leads to An Emotionally Charged Trial
Three white Georgia men were accused of chasing down and killing an unarmed Ahmaud Arbery as he jogged.
Father and son, Travis McMichael, 35, and Gregory McMichael, 65, and their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan, 52, all faced several charges for following Arbery in their cars and fatally shooting him in Brunswick on the 23rd of February 2020.
In the emotionally charged trial, the attorneys for the defense argued the accused were trying to make a lawful citizen’s arrest after seeing Arbery looking suspiciously into an under-construction house in the neighborhood.
All three suspects were found guilty of murder. Travis McMichael was convicted on the top count of malice murder for pulling the trigger. Gregory McMichael and Bryan were convicted of lesser charges, but each faced life in prison at sentencing.
People inside and outside the courthouse reacted to this very closely-watched trial verdict, and Arbery’s mother praised the decision.
R. Kelly Conviction
Disgraced R&B superstar, R. Kelly, faced nine counts, including sex trafficking, sexual abuse, marrying an underage girl, and racketeering. In September, the “Ignition” singer was found guilty on all the federal charges.
According to the NY Post, the Assistant US Attorney, Maria Cruz Mendez, told jurors in her opening statement in the case against R. Kelly that the trial was not about a star who liked to party, but about a predator using his celebrity status to abuse women, girls, and boys sexually. He also had a network of people who enabled it.
The singer opted not to take the stand in his defense but tried to defend his actions in a disastrous 2019 CBS News interview with Gayle King.