From Arias to Zimmerman: The Biggest Trials of 2013

PHOTO: Jodi Arias, Martin MacNeill and George Zimmerman, left to right, are shown in these file photos.
David Wallace | Mark Johnston | Gary W. Green/Pool/AP Photos

From Jodi Arias to George Zimmerman, take a look back at the trials that grabbed headlines in 2013.

PHOTO: Jodi Arias reacts after she was found of guilty of first-degree murder in the gruesome killing of her one-time boyfriend, Travis Alexander, in their suburban Phoenix home, at Maricopa County Superior Court in Phoenix on May 8, 2013.
Rob Schumacher/AP Photo
Jodi Arias

The murder trial of Jodi Arias was X-rated throughout as the prosecution and defense quoted extensively from emails and recorded phone calls between the Arias and her ex-boyfriend Travis Alexander.

Alexander, 31, was found dead in his shower in June 2008 in Mesa, Ariz., with more than two dozen stab wounds, a slit throat and a gunshot wound.

The steamy and often smutty dialogue was used by defense lawyers to convince jurors that Arias, 33, was physically and emotionally abused by Alexander, who as an elder in the Mormon church was supposed to refrain from sex outside of marriage. Arizona prosecutors used the same skeevy dialogue to bolster their case that Arias willingly took part in the sex and was jealous that Alexander had dumped her – although they continued to have sex.

Prosecutors also bore in on the fact that Arias initially denied killing Alexander, then created an elaborate lie blaming others, and eventually claimed that she killed Alexander in self-defense when he went into a violent rage.

After five months of testimony, the jury convicted Arias of first degree murder, but was unable to agree on whether to condemn her to death row. The court has not yet determined whether to press for the death penalty or sentence Arias to life in prison.

PHOTO: George Zimmerman stands during his trial
Orlando Sentinel/AP Photo
George Zimmerman

George Zimmerman was acquitted of second-degree murder in the shooting death of teenager Trayvon Martin in a case that took on racial overtones.

Zimmerman conceded he shot and killed Martin, 17, in Sanford, Fla., on Feb. 26, 2012, but maintained he fired in self-defense.

Though Zimmerman's defense did not invoke the "stand your ground" law, the case sparked a national debate about race and "stand your ground" laws, which exist in at least 22 states. Martin's mother, Sybrina Fulton, testified on Capitol Hill in October that "stand your ground" laws must be reviewed and amended.

Zimmerman has a concealed carry permit in Florida that was re-instated after the trial, making him legally entitled to transport and possess a weapon in most states.

In September, he was arrested but released without charges after his estranged wife called 911 to say Zimmerman punched his father-in-law in the nose and threatened to shoot him and his wife.

Zimmerman was arrested again in November and charged with aggravated assault against his girlfriend. Those charges were dropped when prosecutors said there was scant evidence and Zimmerman's girlfriend declined to cooperate. He denied the charges.

PHOTO: James Whitey Bulger Trial
U.S. Marshals Service/AP Photo
"Whitey" Bulger

James "Whitey" Bulger terrorized the Boston underworld for decades before he disappeared for 16 years. After his 2011 arrest, he reappeared in a Boston court room this year at the age of 84 when he finally went on trial for 19 murders along with racketeering and other charges.

The trial was a ghastly look at a violent era as a parade of aging bookies, geriatric gangsters and former hitmen came to court in wheelchairs, oxygen tanks and canes to testify against their former boss and tormentor, and exchange glares and curses with Bulger. They described an underworld where threats were a daily occurrence, murder – even of girlfriends -- was routine, and the Boston FBI bureau was a corrupt co-conspirator.

Bulger, the subject of several books and the inspiration for the movie "The Departed," appeared more interested in denying claims that he was an FBI informant than he was to prove his innocence. He was convicted of 11 murders and a slew of additional charges. He will spend the rest of his life in prison. He didn't seem to flinch at the verdict.

PHOTO: Martin MacNeill greets his defense team as he enters the courtroom after the jury reached a verdict. McNeill was found guilty of murder and obstruction of justice early Saturday morning, Nov. 9, 2013.
AP
Martin MacNeill

A Utah jury found Dr. Martin MacNeill, 57, guilty of first degree murder and obstruction of justice for the April 11, 2007, death of his wife, Michele MacNeill, 50.

Prosecutors said MacNeill persuaded his wife to have plastic surgery so he could dope her up during her recovery and then drown her, clearing the way for his purported mistress, Gypsy Willis, to move in to the family's home.

MacNeill's defense lawyers said heart problems were a contributing factor in the mother of eight's death and that the Utah doctor was not guilty.

During the three week trial, family fireworks flew as four of MacNeill's daughters testified. One of his oldest daughters, Alexis Somers, told the jury that she believes her father was guilty.

"Ever since the day my mom died, I was concerned that my father killed her," Somers said. "I've been fighting to get justice for this case ever since then."

MacNeill was hospitalized earlier this month after he tried to use a disposable razor to hurt himself, according to the Utah County Sheriff's Office.

He has since been returned to jail and is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 7.

PHOTO: Jordan Linn Graham and Cody Lee Johnson are seen embracing in this photo posted to Instagram.
Instagram/Jordan Johnson
Jordan Graham

Jordan Graham, 22, was married just eight days when prosecutors said she pushed her husband, Cody Johnson, off a cliff and to his death at Montana's Glacier National Park.

Prosecutors said Graham intentionally killed her husband because she had doubts about their marriage. Graham's attorneys said Johnson's death was an accident.

The murder trial played out in less than a week in U.S. District Court in Missoula until Graham indicated she would take a plea agreement from prosecutors, who reduced her first-degree murder charge to second-degree murder.

Graham admitted that she hiked with her new husband to a narrow ledge hundreds of feet above the ground where she told the judge she confronted her husband with doubts about their marriage.

The couple argued and Graham said she felt like at one point her husband was going to push her and so she grabbed him.

"I wasn't thinking about where we were. ... I just pushed," Graham said.

She faces up to life in prison and will be sentenced on March 27.

PHOTO: Trent Mays, 17, left, and 16-year-old Ma'lik Richmond sit at the defense table before the start of their trial on rape charges in juvenile court, March 13, 2013 in Steubenville, Ohio. Mays and Richmond are accused of raping a 16-year-old West Virgi
Keith Srakocic/AP Photo
Steubenville Rape Case

The case of a 16-year-old girl who was raped last year by two high school football players rocked Steubenville, a mining community in eastern Ohio.

The crime also garnered national attention partly because the events were documented by those present and widely shared on social media.

In March, Steubenville High School football players Trent Mays, 17, and Ma'lik Richmond, 16, were both found delinquent -- the juvenile court equivalent of guilty -- of the digital penetration of the intoxicated teen. Digital penetration is legally defined as rape in Ohio.

Mays and Richmond were both sentenced to at least one year in juvenile jail and could be held until they are 21 years old. Mays was sentenced to an additional year for a charge related to distributing nude images of a minor.

Later this year, a grand jury indicted the Steubenville City Schools superintendant and four other employees on charges related to an alleged cover-up of the case.

PHOTO: Dr. Kermit Gosnell is seen during an interview with the Philadelphia Daily News at his attorney's office in Philadelphia, March 8, 2010.
Yong Kim/Philadelphia Daily News/AP Photo
Dr. Kermit Gosnell

Philadelphia abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, 72, was convicted of first degree murder in the deaths of three babies who were born live and then killed by severing their spinal cords with scissors.

A grand jury report in the case said there had been hundreds of "snippings," in which live babies were born and then killed.

"Gosnell had a simple solution for the unwanted babies he delivered. ... The way he ensured fetal demise was by sticking scissors into the back of the baby's neck and cutting the spinal cord. He called that 'snipping,'" a grand jury report alleged.

For two months, the jury heard often grisly testimony, including from members of Gosnell's staff. Eight staffers have pleaded guilty to several crimes. Prosecutors said none of the staff were licensed nurses or doctors.

In May, Gosnell struck a deal to serve two life sentences and waive his right to an appeal in order to avoid the possibility of being condemned to death.

PHOTO: Brett Seacat walks back into the courtroom after a break in his trial, June 6, 2013, in Kingman, Kan.
Sandra J. Milburn/The Hutchinson News/AP Photo
Brett Seacat

The jury took just one day to find former sheriff's deputy Brett Seacat guilty of murdering his wife and then torching the family home in an attempt to hide the evidence.

Prosecutors presented Seacat as a "controlling, manipulative" husband who planned the murder of his wife, Vashti Seacat, in April 2011.

They said Seacat relied on his law enforcement background to stage the crime scene to make it look as though his wife had killed herself, just two days after she served him with divorce papers.

The defense presented a contrasting story of a woman who had battled depression since high school and set her home on fire before taking her own life.

Along with a first-degree murder conviction, the ex-cop was also found guilty of aggravated arson and two counts of child endangerment stemming from the fire prosecutors said he set as his two young sons slept down the hall from their mother.

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