The Year in Infamous Criminal Cases

With the civil lawsuit still pending, the cloud of the sexual assault case still follows him. His once squeaky-clean image is gone, and he doesn't command the endorsement power he enjoyed before the case. His Los Angeles Lakers failed to win the NBA championship this year, and he has had very public, embarrassing feuds with former teammates Shaquille O'Neal and Karl Malone.

The 'Domestic Diva' Gets Victory in Defeat

However, one famous criminal defendant appears to have won in the court of public opinion -- despite conviction in a court of law.

Martha Stewart was convicted in March of lying to federal investigators about a 2001 stock sale. The domestic diva is serving a five-month sentence at a minimum-security prison and will then have to serve five months home confinement after her expected release in March.

But prison hasn't kept Stewart's stock from rising. Publishers are reportedly vying for a memoir Stewart is said to be writing about her experiences behind bars. Her company -- Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia -- has survived, and NBC has announced plans for Stewart to host an hourlong syndicated show starting in September 2005, after she finishes her home confinement.

"In her case, Martha Stewart will be bigger than ever," said Carlson. "The public will be interested and forgiving because, in the end, Martha Stewart bit the bullet. She decided to go to jail instead of going through all sorts of appeals. She took her medicine."

The Overshadowed Serial Killer

The trials of the famous -- and in Peterson's case, the infamous -- so dominated the news that an admitted serial killer's case in Michigan only received limited national coverage.

Michigan prosecutors succeeded in convicting Coral Eugene Watts and getting a mandatory life sentence without parole for the 1979 stabbing death of Helen Dutcher. Their goal was not only to attain justice for Dutcher but to prevent Watts from getting out of prison within two years.

Authorities said Watts had confessed to 12 killings -- 11 in Texas, one in Michigan. He had received immunity in the killings as part of a 1982 deal with Texas prosecutors that led to a 60-year sentence for burglary with intent to murder. However, mandatory state prison release laws and an appeals court ruling had taken more than 35 years off Watts' sentence, and he was due to be released from a Texas prison in 2006.

Michigan prosecutors had long suspected Watts in Dutcher's death but never charged him because they assumed he would grow old in a Texas prison. To keep Watts behind bars, they charged him in Dutcher's slaying and convicted him with the help of witnesses who said they had either witnessed the attack or claimed they had been attacked by Watts. At his sentencing, Watts denied killing Dutcher and said he had never seen her.

Although his case had plenty of drama, it didn't generate the massive coverage afforded to Peterson, Bryant or Stewart.

"Part of it was that he had confessed to so many killings and generally, a trial is less compelling if there is a confession," Court TV's Bloom said. "With Scott Peterson, there was no confession."

2005: Year of Reckoning or Vindication for 'The King of Pop'

Michael Jackson's trial on child molestation charges will not lack media coverage. Jury selection is scheduled to begin Jan. 31.

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