The sentence for a teenager charged with killing four people in a drunk driving accident and a third murder trial for an American woman are among the court decisions that stunned Americans this year. Here, a look at some of these cases that had everyone talking.
|Texas Teen Who Killed Four in Crash Sentenced to Probation|
Relatives of victims of a drunk driving crash were angry when the 16-year-old driver charged in the crash was sentenced on Tuesday to 10 years of probation.
The maximum sentence had been 20 years behind bars, according the the Forth Worth 323rd District Court bailiff.
Ethan Couch, 16, had been charged as a juvenile with four counts of intoxication manslaughter.
Youth pastor Brian Jennings, mother and daughter Hollie and Shelby Boyles and Breanna Mitchell died in the June 15 accident, according to ABC News' Dallas/Fort Worth affiliate WFAA-TV.
The widow of one victim told Couch she forgave him, but Mitchell's mother told WFAA she was "mad" about the sentence and the brother of a man paralyzed in the accident said the sentence was "not right."
|Controversial Montana Teacher Rape Sentence|
Montana District Judge G. Todd Baugh became the focus of widespread backlash after he sentenced a former teacher to only 30 days in jail for raping a 14-year-old girl who later committed suicide.
Stacey Rambold, 54, a former teacher at Billings Senior High School, was sentenced to 15 years in prison with all but 31 days suspended and he received credit for one day served.
Baugh became a controversial figure after he said in court that the victim was "older than her chronological age" and had "as much control of the situation" as the teacher, according to the Billings Gazette.
He later said that he regretted the comments.
"I don't know what I was thinking or trying to say," Baugh later told The Billings Gazette. "It was just stupid and wrong."
Though he voiced regret for his choice of words, Baugh initially stood by the 30-day jail sentence, which drew anger form the public. A protest against the judge was held and a MoveOn.org petition calling for the judge's resignation has nearly 60,000 signatures.
Rambold was charged in October 2008 with three counts of sexual intercourse without consent after he was accused of having a sexual relationship with Cherice Moralez, who was 14 at the time, according to court documents.
She committed suicide in February 2010 while the case was pending.
At the end of November, the Montana attorney general's office asked the state Supreme Court to throw out the sentence, according to the AP.
|George Zimmerman Found Not Guilty and Goes Free|
Many were shocked when the jury in the George Zimmerman murder trial found Zimmerman not guilty in the death of teenager Trayvon Martin.
Zimmerman was facing the possibility of life in prison. The six women in the jury delivered their verdict on July 13 after more than 16 hours of deliberations over two days.
The decision sparked protests across the country, calls to rethink the Florida's so-called "stand your ground" law, and a great deal of social media reaction. Since the verdict, Zimmerman has had several run-ins with the law.
|Amanda Knox Case Sent Back to Trial for Third Time|
Many were stunned when an Italian court sent Amanda Knox's murder case back to trial this year -- for the third time.
In March, Italy's Supreme Court ruled that Knox had to be retried for the 2007 murder of her roommate, Meredith Kercher.
Knox spent four years in prison before an Italian appeals court threw out her murder conviction in 2011 and she had been hoping the court would uphold the appeals court ruling and end her six-year ordeal.
Instead, she was told that the marathon legal battle would continue for her and for her ex-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito, who had been convicted along with her.
The court also refused to vacate her conviction for slander over her identifying her employer, Patrick Lumumba, as the person who killed Kercher. It was a statement, she claims, she made under police duress.
"She is shocked and very sad," Knox's lawyer Carlo Dalla Vedova said at the time. "She thought this was the end of a nightmare."
The third trial began in Italy, without Knox present, at the end of September and is ongoing.