1888. "Jack the Ripper," one of history's most notorious serial killers, claims his first victim in London as police find London prostitute Mary Ann Nicholls with her throat slit near the entrance to a stable yard. The Ripper goes on to captivate and terrorize London's East End over the course of nearly two and a half months, killing five prostitutes in all. He wasn't the first serial murderer, but Jack the Ripper who was never caught was the first to be rendered larger-than-life by the then-burgeoning media. For more on Jack the Ripper from Crime Library, click here.
1985. The "Night Stalker," Richard Ramirez, is captured by citizens in East Los Angeles. Ramirez was dubbed the Night Stalker by the press because he worked by night, staking out houses, breaking in and then murdering and raping his victims. An avid Satanist, Ramirez often mutilated bodies and left a red lipstick pentagram drawn on the wall at one crime scene. On Sept. 1, 1985, police finally identified Richard Ramirez as the Night Stalker and posted his picture on the front page of many newspapers in California. That afternoon an angry mob of people captured and beat him after he attempted to steal a car. In 1989, Ramirez was convicted on 13 counts of murder and was sentenced to death.
For more on Ramirez from Crime Library, click here.
1997. Princess Diana is killed along with Dodi Fayed and their chauffeur in a tragic car accident in the Place de l'Alma underpass in central Paris. The car was being chased by paparazzi. The Princess was taken to the La Pitie Salpetriere Hospital, but two hours of emergency surgery could not save her. The driver of the vehicle also died in the accident, and a bodyguard was seriously injured.
1967.The U.S. Senate confirms Thurgood Marshall's nomination making him the first black justice on the Supreme Court. Marshall served as legal director of the NAACP from 1940 to 1961, a pivotal time frame for the civil rights group. The highlight of his work with the NAACP was his victory in the 1954 decision Brown v. The Board of Education, which declared segregation of public schools illegal. Marshall served for 24 years on the Supreme Court, retiring in 1991. He died in 1993.
1986. U.S. journalist Nicholas Daniloff is arrested in the Soviet Union on charges of espionage. A Moscow correspondent for The Washington Post, UPI and U.S. News and World Report, Daniloff was no stranger to political unrest, but with the spy charges he became mired in the Cold War politics of l986. Daniloff's arrest by Soviet authorities was thought to be in retaliation for the arrest in New York of Gennadiy Zakharov, who was found guilty of espionage. Charges against the American journalist were dropped in a "Spy Swap" that sent Zakharov back home.
1957. South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond ends a 24-hour, 18-minute filibuster in opposition to the 1957 Civil Rights Act, the longest such stalling action in Senate history. Filibusters occur when a speaker refuses to cede the floor during debate, choosing instead to keep talking. Thurmond began his marathon by reading aloud the election laws of all (at the time) 48 states.
1967. The last episode of hit TV series "The Fugitive" airs on ABC. Based loosely on the true story of Dr. Sam Sheppard (pictured), falsely accused of killing his wife, the show followed protagonist Richard Kimble's attempts to escape arrest for his wife's murder and hunt down the true killer. In 1993 the show was adapted for the silver screen, with Harrison Ford playing the lead in a hit movie. Read more about Sam Sheppard at Crime Library.
1995. A tape recording of Los Angeles police detective Mark Fuhrman, during which he utters racial epithets, is played outside the jury's presence during the O.J. Simpson trial. Judge Lance Ito allowed only two segments of the tapes to be played for the jury, but the officer's statements on those two clips and the testimony of several defense witnesses about his racist comments were enough to severely damage the prosecution's case and contribute to Simpson's eventual acquittal.
1955. Emmett Till, a black 14-year-old from Chicago visiting relatives in Mississippi, is kidnapped and murdered. Local men Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam were charged with the crime after Till's grandfather told police the two took the boy away after hearing that he had called Bryant's wife "baby." The two defendants were acquitted by a local jury, but the case became a flash point for the fledgling civil rights movement after pictures of Till's disfigured corpse were published in the black weekly Jet.
1981. John Hinckley Jr. pleads not guilty to the attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan. The gunman wounded the president on March 30, 1981, during a speech to a labor convention at the Washington Hilton. Before the attempted assassination, Hinckley had written a letter to actress Jodie Foster with whom he had been obsessed for years saying that he was killing Reagan to win her love. The gunman was eventually found not guilty by reason of insanity and placed in Saint Elizabeth's Mental Hospital in Washington, D.C., where he remains.
1996. Prince Charles and Princess Diana are officially divorced after 15 years of marriage, during the last three and a half years of which they were separated. The agreement ending a generally unhappy union was welcomed by both parties, though tragedy struck one year later when the princess and boyfriend Dodi Fayed were killed in a car accident in Paris.
1999. The Federal Communications Commission announces new rules for wiretapping to help the government keep up with new technology. The new surveillance standards affected a range of companies, including long-distance providers, local service carriers and wireless phone companies. A federal appeals court later threw out some of the provisions citing privacy rights.
1920. Women are given the right to vote when the 19th Amendment goes into effect. The amendment was first introduced in Congress in 1878. The House of Representatives passed it on May 21, 1919, and two weeks later, the Senate followed suit. Because an amendment requires ratification by three-fourths of the states, the amendment did not go into effect until August 26, 1920, a week after Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify it.
1985. Thirteen-year-old AIDS patient Ryan White attends school over the telephone from his Indiana home, after officials bar him from attending class. Ryan had contracted the disease through a blood transfusion for hemophilia and was widely rejected by his community of Kokomo, Ind., where he was banned from attending school. After a court battle, however, he won the right to his education. Ryan died on April 8, 1990, at age 18.
1990. The bodies of two murdered college students are discovered in Gainesville, Fla. Danny Rolling would kill three more people before being arrested and sentenced to life in prison. For more on Rolling visit The Crime Library.
1999. The FBI admits that agents may have fired flammable tear gas during the stand-off with Branch Davidians near Waco, Texas. The bureau maintained it did not start the blaze that killed more than 80 people, but who fired the first shot is still under dispute. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms initiated the siege because of allegations that the cult, led by David Koresh, possessed illegal firearms materials and were converting semiautomatic rifles into machine guns.
1970. A bomb explodes at the University of Wisconsin's Army Mathematics Research Center, killing researcher Robert Fassnacht and causing about $6 million in damages. Four men known as the New Years Gang, plotted and carried out the bombing as a protest to the Vietnam War. Three of the men were later captured, tried and sent to prison.
1981. Mark David Chapman is sentenced to 20 years to life in prison for the murder of John Lennon. Chapman, a psychologically disturbed man with an obsession with Catcher in the Rye, waited outside the New York City apartment building where Lennon lived with his wife Yoko Ono and shot the Beatles legend five times. He then waited calmly for police to come and arrest him.
For photos, video and documents, click here. For a full report of the murder from Crime Library, click here.
1989. Former player and Cincinnati Reds manager Pete Rose is banned from baseball by commissioner Bart Giamatti for allegedly gambling on games. Rose admitted to placing bets on a variety of sports events, but denied betting on baseball.
2000. Actor Woody Harrelson is acquitted of marijuana possession after a four-year court battle. Harrelson planted four hemp seeds in 1996 to challenge the law outlawing possession of any part of the cannabis plant. Through three different courts, the actor argued that the statute is unconstitutional because it does not distinguish between marijuana and hemp, which contains only minute amounts of the substance that makes marijuana smokers high, tetrahydrocannabinol or THC. Had he been convicted, he could have faced a year in jail and a $500 fine.
1305. Scotland's William Wallace of Braveheart fame is sentenced to death and executed in London. Wallace formed and led an army against the forces of Edward I of England in an attempt to regain self-rule for Scotland. His campaign was ultimately unsuccessful, however, and he was captured and convicted of treason. He was later portrayed in a well-received movie by Mel Gibson.
1927. Convicted murderers Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti (pictured) are executed in Boston. Italian immigrants and anarchists, Sacco and Vanzetti were arrested and charged for murder and robbery in Massachusetts. The two were thought to have shot and killed a guard and his paymaster and to have stolen $16,000. The arrest was widely decried as politically motivated, and some evidence against the pair was later discredited. Newer ballistics tests seemed to prove that the pistol found on Sacco had been used in the murder, however, and some experts have concluded that Sacco, if not Vanzetti, was guilty.
1934. Mobster Al Capone is transferred to Alcatraz from federal prison in Atlanta under heavy security. Capone, the head of Murder Inc., was convicted of tax evasion. Despite Capone's notoriety, his stay on Alcatraz was surprisingly uneventful.
1989. Black Panther co-founder Huey Newton is fatally shot in Oakland, Calif. Tyrone Robinson was later convicted and sentenced to 32 years to life in prison for the crime.
1995. Illinois Congressman Mel Reynolds is convicted of sexual misconduct with a teenage campaign volunteer. He is sentenced to five years in prison.
1878. The American Bar Association is founded in Saratoga, N.Y. It is now the largest voluntary professional organization in the world.
1995. ABC News settles a $10 billion lawsuit filed by Philip Morris after reporting the tobacco manufacturer manipulated the amount of nicotine in its products.
1989. Erik and Lyle Menendez (left) fatally shoot their parents in their Beverly Hills home. They are later sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
1990. Three former Northwest Airlines pilots are convicted of flying while intoxicated.
1999. The CIA takes away security clearance from former director John Deutch after he is found keeping secret files on his home computer. Former President Bill Clinton later pardoned Deutch for mishandling hundreds of highly classified documents on unsecured home computers linked to the Internet.
1960. American U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers is convicted of espionage by a tribunal in Moscow. He was sentenced to a 10-year prison term in the Soviet Union for flying a spy plane over Russia and forcing the U.S. to admit that it was conducting spying operations against the Soviets. He was later part of a prisoner exchange involving master spy Rudolph Abel.
1999. Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush tells reporters that he has not used illegal drugs in 25 years.
1995. Shannon Faulker, the Citadel's first female cadet, leaves the military college after less than a week citing the stress of her court fight and her isolation among the male cadets. Faulkner fought a two-and-a-half-year legal battle to gain admittance to the all-male institution.
1962. Peter Fechter, 18, is shot and killed by East German border guards while attempting to cross the Berlin Wall into the western sector. Former East German guards Rolf Friedrich and Erich Schreiber were tried 30 years later in 1996.
1995. Former Mouseketeer Billie Jean Matay is mugged in Disneyland's parking lot with her daughter and grandchildren. Matay claimed that when they returned to their car that afternoon, they were accosted by a man with a gun who took their credit cards and $1,650 in cash before fleeing on foot. She maintained that Disneyland security officers did nothing to assist her after the holdup but instead took her and the others to a security office, where they were held for hours against their will. She later sued Disney for emotional distress inflicted on her grandchildren when they saw Disney characters unmasked in the backstage area. The case was eventually dismissed.
1995. James McDougal and his ex-wife, Susan McDougal, are indicted on bank fraud and conspiracy charges by the Whitewater grand jury. The McDougals had been partners of the Clintons in the Whitewater Development Corporation. Arkansas Governor Jim Guy Tucker (pictured) was also named in the indictment. James McDougal was later convicted on 18 of 19 counts of fraud and conspiracy, Tucker was found guilty on one count of fraud and one count of conspiracy, and Susan McDougal was convicted on four fraud-related charges.
1999. Columbine High School reopens in Colorado four months after Eric Harris, 18, and Dylan Klebold, 17, open fire on their unsuspecting peers. The gunmen, who called themselves the "Trenchcoat Mafia," stormed the school with guns and bombs, killing a dozen classmates and a teacher before committing suicide. Twenty-three others were injured. Students and staff held a "Take Back the School Rally" before going inside the renovated building.
1995. The U.S. Justice Department agrees to pay white separatist Randy Weaver more than $3 million for the killing of his wife and teenage son by federal agents during a siege at Ruby Ridge, Idaho. On Aug. 22, 1992, an FBI sniper shot Vicki Weaver as she stood behind the door of the family cabin with an infant daughter. Sam Weaver, 14, and agent William Degan died the previous day during a gunfight that erupted when agents, Sam Weaver and family friend Kevin Harris clashed on the Weaver property.
1935. The Social Security Act becomes law signed by President Franklin Roosevelt. The act had been passed by Congress in July. In addition to several provisions for general welfare, the new act created a social insurance program designed to pay retired workers age 65 or older a continuing income after retirement. Click here to read the text of the act.
1994. "Carlos the Jackal," a.k.a. Illich Ramirez Sanches, is captured in Khartoum, Sudan. The next day, he was extradited to Paris where he had been convicted in absentia in 1992 and sentenced to life in prison for the killing of two French counterintelligence agents in 1975. Under French law, Sanches had to be retried and was later sentenced to life in prison. The Venezuelan-born terrorist was linked to the killing of 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics, a 1975 attack on OPEC headquarters, and the 1976 hijacking of an Air France jet to Entebbe, Uganda.
1995. After a lengthy court battle, Shannon Faulkner becomes the first female cadet at The Citadel, a South Carolina military college. She was escorted into the school by U.S. marshals. Faulkner's triumph came after a 2 1/2-year legal battle with the formerly all-male college. The Supreme Court ignored The Citadel's last-ditch bid to keep her out. Although Faulkner had been attending classes at the college for 20 months, she finally moved into the barracks and took the Citadel oath to officially claim her place as a cadet. Faulkner dropped out less than a week later.
1999. Colombian political satirist and radio host Jaime Garzon is shot and killed by gunmen on motorcycles while driving to work in Bogota. His body was found slumped in his car. Police later suspected that Carlos Castano, the head of Colombia's notorious right-wing paramilitary, ordered the killing. Garzon had served as an intermediary between left-wing rebels and the families of kidnap victims.
1892. Lizzie Borden is arrested for murdering her father and stepmother in Fall River, Mass. Abbey Borden was struck with the axe 19 times to the back of her head and neck, and Andrew Borden received 11 blows to the head and face. She was later acquitted of the crime. Visit the Crime Library for more detailed information.
1981. Remains of 6-year-old Adam Walsh are found in a drainage ditch in Vero Beach, Fla. He had been abducted when he went to a shopping mall with his mother, Reve, in Hollywood, Fla., on July 27. Adam's father, John Walsh, later takes crime fighting into his own hands, as the host of "America's Most Wanted."
1998. Swiss banks agree to pay $1.25 billion to settle lawsuits filed by Holocaust survivors and their heirs claiming the banks illegally kept millions of dollars deposited by their relatives before and during World War II. The funds were deposited in private Swiss accounts for safekeeping. The banks acknowledged that they made errors handling the funds but deny they deliberately kept them.
1965. Riots erupt in the Watts section of Los Angeles. Thirty-four people were killed and more than 1,000 were injured over a six day period. Nearly 4,000 people were arrested and hundreds of buildings were destroyed. After the riots, then-Governor Pat Brown named John McConnell to head a commission to study the riots. The report issued by the commission concluded that the riots weren't the act of thugs, but rather symptomatic of much deeper problems: the high jobless rate in the inner city, poor housing and bad schools.
1997. Actor Christian Slater is arrested for assault and battery after fighting with a man who tried to stop Slater from abusing his girlfriend. He was arrested by Los Angeles police and charged with three counts of assault with a deadly weapon, one count of battery, and being under the influence of a controlled substance after what police say was a cocaine and booze binge during which he punched his girlfriend, bit one man in the stomach and tried to wrestle a gun away from an officer. Slater later served 59 days in jail.
1999. White supremacist Buford Furrow turns himself in to authorities a day after five people were shot at a Jewish Community Center in Los Angeles. He was alone when he surrendered in the FBI field office. Furrow has been linked to white supremacist groups, including the Aryan Nation, the Order, and Christian Identity. He is also listed in a database maintained by the Southern Poverty Law Center of people connected with radical groups.
1969. Leno and Rosemary La Bianca are murdered in their Los Angeles home by Charles Manson disciples, one day after they took the life of actress Sharon Tate. Leno was found with a blood-drenched pillowcase over his head and the cord of a large lamp tied tightly around his neck. His hands had been tied behind him with a leather thong. A carving fork protruded from his stomach and the word "WAR" had been carved in his flesh. His wife was also found with a pillowcase over her head and a lamp cord around her neck. Read the CourtTV.com trial report or visit the Crime Library for more information on the case.
1977. "Son of Sam" David Berkowitz is arrested in Yonkers, N.Y., ending a one year rein of terror. He shot and killed his first victim, Donna Lauria, on July 29, 1976. She died instantly. The postal employee was accused of being the gunman responsible for six random slayings and seven woundings. Berkowitz is serving six consecutive terms of 25 years to life in state prison.
1990. Washington, D.C., Mayor Marion Barry is convicted of one misdemeanor count of drug possession after being videotaped smoking crack cocaine at the Vista Hotel in an FBI sting. Barry resigned from office and was sentenced to six months in jail. He was re-elected to office in 1994.
1995. Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols are charged in connection with the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City. Nichols was later convicted of conspiracy and involuntary manslaughter, while McVeigh was convicted of murder. McVeigh was executed for the bombing in Terre Haute, Ind. See CourtTV.com's full coverage of the trial and execution.
1995. Norma McCorvey, the "Jane Roe" of the 1973 Roe v. Wade abortion decision, abandons her pro-choice beliefs and joins the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue. She later started a ministry called "Roe No More" to fight against abortion rights with the aim of creating a mobile counseling center for pregnant women in Dallas.
1999. A gunman opens fire at a Jewish community center in Los Angeles, wounding five and later killing a Philippines-born postal worker. Buford O. Furrow, a self-described white separatist who once feared he "could just lose it and kill people," surrendered the next day. He was charged with murder and five counts of attempted murder all alleged as hate crimes.
1974. Facing what seemed almost certain impeachment, President Richard Nixon resigns from office in the midst of the Watergate Scandal. In his announcement a day earlier, he told the nation he would resign to begin "that process of healing which is so desperately needed in America." Vice President Gerald Ford was later sworn in as the 38th president. Click here to see Nixon's signed letter of resignation.
1963. The Great Train Robbery takes place at 3:10 a.m. in Britain as 30 thieves make off with more than $3 million. The train was headed from Glasgow to London. Convicted robber Ronald Biggs escaped to Brazil and hid out for the next 30 years. The Brazilian Supreme Court later refused to extradite Biggs to Britain because he had fathered a child while hiding out in Brazil. He was later jailed when he voluntarily returned to England.
1969. Charles Manson and his disciples brutally murder pregnant actress Sharon Tate, wife of film director Roman Polanski, and four others in her Los Angeles home. They stabbed or shot their victims, seemingly acting without guilt or remorse. Read the CourtTV.com trial report or visit the Crime Library for more information on the case.
1882. The ongoing feud between the Hatfields and McCoys escalates when three McCoy brothers attack and kill Ellison Hatfield. The feud eventually led to the wounding or killing of 100 people.
1995. Black activist and radio reporter Mumia Abu-Jamal wins a reprieve from the death penalty, just 10 days before he is scheduled to be executed. Abu-Jamal was convicted of killing a police officer. On Dec. 9, 1981, Officer Daniel Faulkner was shot to death on a city street. Three witnesses said they saw a man in dreadlocks run across a parking lot and shoot Faulkner. Police found Abu-Jamal sitting on a curb, wounded by a shot from Faulkner's gun. A handgun registered to Abu-Jamal was found nearby with five spent shell casings. Abu-Jamal was convicted of murder and sentenced to die.
1998. Terrorist bombs explode at the U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, killing 224 people, including 12 Americans. More than 5,000 others were wounded in the blasts. Mastermind Osama Bin Laden is still at large and remains on the FBI's Most Wanted List.
1890. Convicted murderer William Kemmler is the first person to be executed in the electric chair, at Auburn State Prison in New York.
1965. President Lyndon Johnson signs the Voting Rights Act, sending federal examiners to register black voters and suspending literacy tests. A quarter of a million new black voters were registered by the end of the year.
1861. The federal government levies the nation's first income tax when Congress passes the 18th Amendment. President Abraham Lincoln signed it into law. The tax was 3 percent for incomes over $800. The law was later rescinded in 1872.
1994. A U.S. Court of Appeals panel appoints Kenneth Starr special prosecutor in the Whitewater investigation. Starr's findings later make him a key player in the impeachment hearings against former President Clinton. He took over the Whitewater investigation from Robert Fiske.
1995. A federal jury orders comedian Bill Cosby to pay just $2 to New York Daily News photographer Richard Corkery for assault, stating that Corkery was 90 percent responsible for the altercation. A judge later reduced the award to 20 cents.
1735. A jury acquits New York Weekly Journal publisher John Peter Zenger of seditious libel. He had been charged by the royal governor of the colony. It was a major milestone for freedom of the press and helped forge what would become the First Amendment guaranteeing our right to free speech.
1892. Lizzie Borden's father, Andrew Borden, and her stepmother Abby are axed to death in their Fall River, Mass., home. Abby Borden was struck with the axe 19 times to the back of her head and neck and Andrew Borden received 11 blows to the head and face. Lizzie was charged with the crime but later acquitted. Visit the Crime Library for the more information.
1944. Anne Frank is arrested when Nazi police raid a secret attic in Amsterdam. The 15-year-old's diary is later published by her father. Frank's famous diary captured two years of hiding in the attic above the store. Some speculate that Lena Hartog-van Bladeren revealed the hiding place to authorities. She was one of the cleaning women working in the office in front of the building where Anne was hiding.
1964. The bodies of missing civil rights workers Andrew Goodman (pictured), James Chaney and Michael Schwerner are discovered buried inside a dam in Mississippi. On June 21, the young men visited a church that had been firebombed near Philadelphia, Miss. After leaving the site of the church bombing, the young men were arrested by members of the Neshoba County Sheriff's Department for speeding. Later that night, they disappeared.
1993. Los Angeles police officers Stacy Koon and Laurence Powell are sentenced to 30 months in federal prison for their role in the Rodney King beating.
1943. General George Patton slaps an army private recovering from battle fatigue in a Sicily hospital. Patton accused the young soldier of being a coward. General Dwight Eisenhower ordered Patton general to apologize to the soldier, and he was later ordered to apologize for a second, similar incident.
1988. The Soviet Union releases Mathias Rust, the 19-year-old West German pilot who landed his private Cessna plane in Moscow's Red Square on May 28, 1987. Rust served more than one year in a Soviet labor camp for the stunt.
1999. An arbitration panel awards more than $16 million to the family of Dallas dressmaker Abraham Zapruder for the government's confiscation of Zapruder's famous John F. Kennedy assassination film. The family later donated their first-generation copy of the assassination film and the copyright to the Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas. The original film is now stored in the National Archives, and two other first-generation copies are held by the Secret Service.
1876. "Wild Bill" Hickock is shot and killed by Jack McCall inside a South Dakota saloon while playing a game of poker. McCall is later hanged for the killing. An examination showed that a pistol had been fired close to the back of the head, the bullet entering the base of the brain, a little to the right of the center, and exited. From the nature of the wound, death must have been instantaneous.
1921. Eight members of the 1919 Chicago White Sox, including "Shoeless" Joe Jackson, are found not guilty of criminal conspiracy after allegedly throwing the World Series. Despite their acquittal, baseball commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis banned them for life. The jury took less than three hours to come back with a verdict.
1943. Race riots break out in Harlem after a white police officer shoots Robert Bandy in the left shoulder. Bandy was a young black man allegedly attempting to obstruct an arrest. The policeman had reportedly been arresting a Negro woman when Bandy intervened to defend her. Bandy struck the policeman, then turned away and refused an order to halt.
1966. University of Texas student Charles Joseph Whitman opens fire from a campus tower. After fatally wounding a receptionist and opening fire on four tourists, killing two, he terrorized the campus with rifle fire, killing 14 people plus one unborn child and wounding 31. He had already stabbed his mother and his wife in the early hours of that morning. Whitman was later shot and killed by officers.
2000. Professional wrestler Hulk Hogan files a lawsuit against World Championship Wrestling, siting defamation after a WCW promoter shouted insults during a pay-per-view special. According to the lawsuit, Hogan won a July 9 wrestling match in Daytona Beach, Fla., by default when his opponent refused to wrestle, but the WCW's Vince Russo followed Hogan from the ring, accused him of "playing politics" and implied he was dishonest.
Legal Flashback Archives