New Jersey vs. Dharun Ravi
The first high-profile trial of 2012 was the Dharun Ravi trial. In March, A New Jersey jury found the former Rutgers student guilty of invasion of privacy and bias intimidation for spying on and broadcasting online a sexual encounter of his gay roommate. Tyler Clementi later killed himself by jumping off New York's George Washington Bridge.
Ravi was facing up to 10 years in prison for the most serious offense he was convicted of, bias intimidation, which is a hate crime. However, in May the judge sentenced him to 30 days in jail.
HLN’s Nancy Grace was outraged at the lenient sentence, calling it “A mockery of the justice system.”
Pennsylvania vs. Jerry Sandusky
The trial that garnered the most attention this year was the Jerry Sandusky trial. In June, a jury found the former assistant Penn State football guilty on 45 of 48 counts in his child sex abuse trial.
Sandusky was the defensive coordinator for the revered Penn State football team for 32 years and was instrumental in creating a reputation for the team’s tough defense, inspiring the moniker "Linebacker U." His arrest last November sent shock waves through the community in State College, Pennsylvania.
In October, Sandusky was sentenced to no less than 30 years in prison, which could mean the 68-year-old will spend the rest of his life in prison.
Sandusky wasn’t the only person accused of wrongdoing in the case. Three Penn State officials, along with the late head football coach Joe Paterno, faced accusations they could have done more to stop the child sex abuse. Former Penn State President Graham Spanier, ex-Athletic Director Tim Curley, along with Gary Schultz, the former senior vice president for business and finance, are facing charges for failing to report information about possible child abuse to law enforcement.
No dates have been set for the trials of Curly, Schultz and Spanier.
Illinois vs. Drew Peterson
In September, a jury found Drew Peterson guilty of first-degree murder for killing his third wife, Kathleen Savio, in 2004.
Savio was found dead in 2004. Investigators first ruled it an accident, but the case was reopened in 2007 when Peterson’s fourth wife, Stacy Peterson, went missing. Stacy’s whereabouts are still unknown. Peterson is not facing any charges related to her disappearance.
Investigators exhumed and re-examined Savio’s body and said her death was a homicide.
Peterson will be sentenced early next year. He is facing between 20 and 60 years in prison for his conviction.
Florida vs. George Zimmerman:
Perhaps the biggest justice story of 2012 hasn’t even gone to trial yet. George Zimmerman, a night watchman who was patrolling his gated community, shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin on February 26. Zimmerman told police he shot the teen in self-defense. He has pleaded not guilty to a second-degree murder charge.
Zimmerman may be able to avoid criminal and civil liability for his role in Martin’s death if he wins a pretrial hearing on Florida’s “Stand Your Ground" law.
Zimmerman’s trial is scheduled for June 10, and his “Stand Your Ground” hearing is expected to be held a couple months beforehand.