10 Controversial Court Cases

Court Case 1: JFK Assassination

Police file photograph of Lee Harvey Oswald
Police file photograph of Lee Harvey Oswald
Donald Uhrbrock/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images

­Year: 1963

People involved: Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby

Charges: Assassination of JFK (Oswald); murder of Oswald (Ruby)

­Verdict: Guilty, later overturned (Ruby)

Most agree that the trials and investigations surrounding the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas, Texas, are the most controversial in American history. The president was shot three times on Nov. 22, 1963.

Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested for the assassination after investigators discovered a rifle hidden between two boxes with Oswald's fingerprints on them, along with empty cartridges in the Texas Book Depository. Two days later, Jack Ruby shot and killed Oswald.

On March 14, 1964, Ruby was sentenced to death by electric chair for Oswald's murder. But the Texas Supreme Court overturned the ruling on the basis that the case's publicity obstructed Ruby's right to a fair hearing. Before he could be tried a second time, Ruby died from cancer in 1967.

Despite the work of the Warren Commission and the House Select Committee on Assassinations tasked with investigating the assassination, no conclusions to the reasons and people behind it have ever been found. It is suspected that Oswald acted as part of a conspiracy, and his relationship with Ruby also remains in question.

For more articles about controversial criminal cases, go to the links below.

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

More Great Links


  • ­American Experience. "Scottsboro: An American Tragedy." Public Broadcasting Services. (March 1, 2008)http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/scottsboro/index.html
  • Canadian Broadcasting Centre. "In Depth: Steven Truscott." Aug. 28, 2007. (Feb. 29, 2008)http://www.cbc.ca/news/background/truscott/
  • Dershowitz, Allan. "America on Trial: Inside the Legal Battles that Transformed our Nation." Warner Books. 2004. (Feb. 29, 2008) http://books.google.com/books?id=S7B59vs8g5QC
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation. "Famous Cases: The Lindbergh Kidnapping." (March 4, 2008)http://www.fbi.gov/libref/historic/famcases/lindber/lindbernew.htm
  • Finckel, Norman. "Commonsense Justice: Jurors' Notions of Law." Harvard University Press. 1995. (March 4, 2008)http://books.google.com/books?id=-B8EIq-ZnFsC&pg=PA8&lpg=PA8&dq=abc+news+poll+john+hinckley+jr&source=web&ots=WgQO6JhqGE&sig=q8MrfK31HjI81uF0sBqbAeIfDnQ&hl=en
  • Linder, Douglas O. "Famous Trials." University of Missouri-Kansas Law School. 2007. (Feb. 29, 2008)http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/ftrials.htm
  • The National Archives. "Report of the Select Committee on Assassinations of the U.S. House of Representatives." 1979. (March 1, 2008).­http://www.archives.gov/research/jfk/select-committee-report/summary.html#kennedy
  • The Associated Press. "Timeline of Events." The Dallas Morning News. Jan. 27, 2004. (March 1, 2008)http://www.dallasnews.com/s/dws/spe/2003/jfk/stories/111703dnnatjfktimelineap.14f94e6d.html



Mitsuye Endo: The Woman Who Took Down Executive Order 9066

Mitsuye Endo: The Woman Who Took Down Executive Order 9066

Mitsuye Endo was the plaintiff in the landmark lawsuit that led to the closing of the U.S. Japanese internment camps. HowStuffWorks tells her story.