Although many associate Florida with sand and sunshine, this southern state has been the location for several historic court cases that captivated the nation. Some of the cases were outlandish murder trials that are still discussed today, while others brought about changes in the political and legal climate.

Ted Bundy

Although he admitted to killing 30 women across the United States between 1974 and 1978, many believe the number was as high as 50 or more. In the summer of 1979, Bundy was tried for an attack on the Chi Omega sorority house at Florida State University where he assaulted four women in 15 minutes, killing two of them. Bundy was an atypical serial killer, once an assistant director of the Seattle Crime Prevention advisory committee and had a promising career in Washington state politics. He would often wear his arm in a cast or use crutches, luring his victims to his car after asking them to help him carry something. He was handsome and charismatic, so the women were often unafraid. Studies of Ted Bundy have led criminal profilers over the years to develop more in-depth psychological profiles of serial killers that have helped lead them to solve crimes.

William Kennedy Smith

In 1991, William Kennedy Smith was acquitted of raping a woman he met at a bar in Palm Beach. The woman claimed that Smith raped her in the backyard of the Kennedy estate, where Smith was visiting with his uncle, the late Senator Edward Kennedy, and his cousin Patrick. Smith claimed the sex was consensual. This case, and others like it, led some states to change laws so that a woman who initially consents to sex can withdraw that consent at any time. If the man continues sexual activity, he can be charged with rape, despite the fact that the woman initially consented.

Casey Anthony

In 2008, Casey Anthony was found not guilty of murdering her two-year old daughter, Caylee. Her daughter was reported missing by Casey’s mother, who said the trunk of her daughter’s car smelled as if a “dead body had been in there.” Caylee’s skeletal remains were found in a wooded area near the Anthony home a few months later. Casey eventually claimed that her daughter drowned in the family pool and that, after panicking, she and her father covered up the death, a claim her father vehemently denied. The trial made history when the judge allowed evidence related to decomposition would be admissible in court, the first time such evidence was permitted. The evidence was used to show that a decomposing body had been in Anthony’s trunk and that police noticed a strong decompositional odor in the vehicle.

Terri Schiavo

From 1990 to 2005, Theresa Marie “Terri” Schiavo was the focus of a long legal struggle between her husband, Michael, and her parents, Robert and Mary Schindler. In 1990, Schiavo suffered cardiac arrest in St. Petersburg and was resuscitated, but suffered massive brain damage due to lack of oxygen. For the next two years, with her husband’s support, she underwent speech and physical therapy in hopes of returning to a state of awareness. In 1998, when doctors informed him that his wife would not improve, Mr. Shiavo petitioned the Sixth Court of Florida to remove her feeding tube under Florida law. Her parents opposed the removal of the tube, but her husband insisted that his wife would not have wanted to continue her life in a persistent vegetative state. The court agreed with Mr. Schiavo and the feeding tube was removed, only to be reinserted a few days later when the parents appealed the ruling. After many appeals and a law signed by the United States House of Representative that protected only Terri Schiavo, the federal courts determined that the feeding tube could be removed. It was removed on March 18, 2005 and she died on March 31. The case prompted activism from the pro-life and right-to-die movements as well as disability rights groups.

George Zimmerman

On February 26, 2012, George Zimmerman fatally shot an unarmed teenager, Trayvon Martin, in the Twin Lakes community of Sanford. Zimmerman claimed the “Stand Your Ground” defense, which allowed him under Florida law to use lethal force to defend himself, claiming that Martin attacked him. Zimmerman was charged six weeks after the murder and acquitted in July 2013. The trial sparked racial debate throughout the country and discussion about whether “Stand Your Ground” laws should be abolished.

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These are just a few examples of court cases that have reached beyond Florida’s borders and captured the attention of the world. These stories have helped to shape perceptions, change laws, and adjust evidentiary court rules even for states outside of Florida.

If you are facing your own criminal charges, you need an experienced attorney on your side. Contact Khonsari Law Group today for a free case evaluation and legal representation.