Controversial Cases That Need To Resurface On An American Crime Story

The star-studded 2016 true crime anthology TV series, American Crime Story: The People Vs. O.J. Simpson has won numerous awards, garnered extensive praise from viewers and media alike, and re-stoked the public's deep fascination with the sensational 1994 murder trial. In January 2017, fans were thrilled to learn from The Hollywood Reporter that the next three seasons are already in the works (featuring the tragic events surrounding Hurricane Katrina, the shocking 1997 murder of Gianni Versace, and the Bill Clinton sex scandal, respectively).

With so many controversial, heart-stopping trials in recent American history, there's really an endless reserve of crime-related material ready to be masterfully cast and reenacted by the Emmy Award-winning show.

Read on for more big cases thatā€”even if they've already been turned into so-so made-for-TV moviesā€”garnered tons of media interest, captivated the public, and would no doubt make for another great season of American Crime Story.

Heidi Fleiss

The heavily-covered trial of then-29-year old "Hollywood Madam" Heidi Fleiss dominated headlines in the 1990s, as the public clamored for any and all information about Fleiss' notorious "black book" of rich and famous clients. The flames were fanned even higher when, as notes, actor Charlie Sheen admitted at Fleiss' trial that he had paid her company tens of thousands of dollars for escort services.

According to a 1995 article in the Los Angeles Times, prosecutors claimed that "between 1991 and 1993 Fleiss 'ran a massive prostitution ring that earned several hundred thousand dollars'... [that she'd] failed to report at least $200,000, and that she lied on a loan application to hide the fact that she was buying her $1.6-million Benedict Canyon home with prostitution earnings." Fleiss eventually received a sentence of three years in prison, though her conviction was overturned in 1996. She was then tried in a federal court in 1997, convicted of tax evasion and money laundering, and was given a 37-month sentence.

The salacious case made headlines yet again in June 2016 when, as Radar Online reported, a number of high-profile celebs were called out as having appeared in Fleiss' "black book" (though there's no evidence they actually hired any of Fleiss' employees); these included actor Johnny Depp, Star Wars creator George Lucas, Playboy founder Hugh Hefner, musician Billy Idol, and many more.

The Menendez Brothers

People called the Menendez brothers' trial "America's most notorious court case until O.J. Simpson's 1995 murder trial overshadowed it." If that doesn't sound ripe for a Ryan Murphy-style re-envisioning, what does?

In 1989, wealthy couple Jose and Mary "Kitty" Menendez were found brutally murdered in their Beverly Hills mansion. Their sons, Erik and Lyle, called 911 and claimed an intruder had killed their parents. Per CNN, the brothers started to raise eyebrows when they proceeded to go on a lavish spending spree, buying big-ticket items like a car and Rolex watches. By 1993, Erik and Lyle were both on trial for their parents' murders. Throughout the proceedings, the brothers stood by their story that they had been acting in self-defense, and alleged that their parents had sexually and mentally abused them for years. This was a long and arduous battle for the courts, finally ending in 1997; as CNN explains, "it took two trials and three juries before the brothers were convicted of the first-degree murders."

Casey Anthony

The Casey Anthony case was an exercise in superlatives. As People reported in 2017, Anthony "was once described by a Florida Department of Corrections spokeswoman as 'one of the most hated women in America,'" and Time called the Anthony case "the first major murder trial of the social-media age."

During her 2011 trial, Anthony was accused of murdering her 2-year-old daughter Caylee in 2008. Anthony's case became especially notorious when it was revealed, as the Daily Mail reported in July 2011, that she had been out partying during the month Caylee was missing, and had initially told police about a fictitious nanny who she suspected had kidnapped her daughter. Ultimately, despite mounting evidence against the young mother (not to mention a particularly heavy push for a guilty verdict from TV host Nancy Grace), Anthony was acquitted on July 5, 2011 after a 33-day trial.

The "not guilty" verdict was incredibly divisive, and drama around Casey Anthony is still playing out in the media. For her part, Anthony briefly reappeared in March 2017 to tell the Associated Press (via People), "I don't give a sā€” about what anyone thinks about me, I never will."


Scott Peterson

With Time calling this case "the Real-World Version of Gone Girl," the trial of Scott Peterson for the murder of his pregnant wife Laci was full of twists and turns that kept the public captivated.

When Laci Peterson went missing from her California home on Christmas Eve in 2002, for all intents and purposes Scott Peterson appeared to be a concerned and devoted husband. Cracks started to appear, however, when police discovered he'd been having an affair and, as Time reported, "had taken out a $250,000 insurance policy on his wife after she became pregnant." Peterson appeared in a weepy interview on Good Morning America (via ABC News) in late January 2003, admitting to the affair but insisting on his innocence and continued commitment to finding his wife and unborn son, saying, "Violence towards women is unapproachable...It is the most disgusting act, to me."

After Laci and her son's bodies were discovered in 2003, Scott Peterson was arrested, and the ensuing trial set off an even more intense media firestorm. In 2005, he was convicted of first degree and second degree murder, and is currently on death row at San Quentin State Prison in California.

Chandra Levy

This unforgettable case, deemed "Washington's most famous unsolved crime" by The Washington Post, began when 24-year-old Bureau of Prisons intern Chandra Levy suddenly vanished on May 1, 2001. Her disappearance triggered a legal saga that would drag on for over a decade and entangle figures in the upper echelons of D.C. politics.

As ABC News explains, it wasn't long after Levy's disappearance that rumors started circulating about her alleged affair with married California Congressman Gary Condit. Although the police spoke with Condit numerous times, he was never officially named as a suspect. But the public was riveted, and an August 2001 interview that Condit granted to Connie Chung for ABC News (in which he maintained his innocence) was watched by 24 million people.

Levy's body was finally discovered in May 2002, and eventually police arrested a suspect: a man named Ingmar Guandique. Despite having no forensic evidence to link Guandique to the crime, prosecutors convicted him in 2010, and he was sentenced to 60 years in prison. But as People revealed in 2016, closure for the Levy family slipped away yet again when Guandique's conviction was overturned; the prosecution had "filed its motion to dismiss because it could 'no longer prove the murder case against Mr. Guandique beyond a reasonable doubt.'"

Jodi Arias

This disturbing 2013 case saw Jodi Arias charged with brutally murdering her ex-boyfriend Travis Alexander in his Arizona home.

Arias' story took numerous pivots from the very beginning, as details. First, she maintained that she had no involvement whatsoever in Alexander's 2008 death. Her story changed when investigators discovered her DNA at the bloody crime scene, and she backtracked to describe how she and Alexander had been attacked by intruders who (miraculously) decided to let her live. The story transformed yet again, and during Arias' trial, which aired live to a rapt audience, she adamantly claimed that she had killed her ex in self-defense. However, per, Arias' fate was sealed on April 13th, 2015, when she received a life sentence for her role in Alexander's grisly death.

This sensational and disturbing story continues to generate attention, with the Daily Mail reporting in 2016 that Arias had "found love behind bars" and was planning to marry one of her many admirers.

The Unabomber

Here's a case so infamous that the Federal Bureau of Investigations lists it on its website as a stand-out victory. As the official FBI site explains, Ted Kaczynski, aka "the Unabomer" came to public attention in 1978, when his first homemade bomb exploded at a Chicago university. His terrifying and notorious criminal career continued for 17 years; according to the FBI, his homemade mailed bombs killed three people and injured 24.

The Daily Mail reports that Kaczynski was a successful academic prior to his arrest, making his eventual career as a bomb mailer that much more shocking. He graduated from Harvard, earned a PhD, and eventually taught at the University of California, Berkeley. Ultimately, his heinous crimes caught up with him, and Kaczynski's own brother, David, led investigators to him.

As the FBI itself describes in detail, after realizing they had their man, investigators arrested Kaczynski at his Lincoln, Mont., cabin on April 3, 1996. They found plenty of evidence, including "a wealth of bomb components; 40,000 handwritten journal pages that included bomb-making experiments and descriptions of Unabomber crimes." They also likely prevented another crime, since Kaczynski had "one live bomb, ready for mailing" in his possession.

Lorena Bobbitt

The year 1993 saw this explosive and truly unforgettable case out of Virginia, in which Lorena Bobbitt was charged with cutting off her husband John Bobbitt's penis while he slept, and then throwing the appendage from her car in a panic. After she was arrested, she was charged with malicious wounding. As explains, Lorena Bobbitt claimed her husband had drunkenly sexually assaulted her the evening everything took place, prompting her to commit the crime. Unsurprisingly for such a shocking story, the trial that commenced found a rapt TV audience.

As Us Weekly reported, surgeons successfully re-attached John Bobbitt's penis, and Lorena avoided jail time by claiming her actions were the result of temporary insanity caused by years of abuse at the hands of her husband.

For her part, Lorena has lived a mostly quiet life since the sensational trial, while a 2009 piece divulged that John has leveraged his notoriety and taken part in adult films.

Amy Fisher

In May 1992, 17-year-old Amy Fisher shot Mary Jo Buttafuoco, who was standing on the front porch of her own house in Massapequa, New York, in the head. The motive? A relationship with Mary Jo's husband, 36-year-old Joey Buttafuoco. It was a love triangle gone horribly, horribly wrong.

Mary Jo miraculously survived the shooting, and identified Amy as her assailant. What followed was, as described it in 2004, "what could only be termed a media circus." A 2016 report from People further emphasized the level of the frenzy around Fisher's case, describing how "as the media swarmed their quiet neighborhood, all three members of the lover's triangle became nationally-known personalities." The trial itself continued the drama, as explained in 2004, with Joey Buttafuoco denying the affair (though he was eventually found guilty of statutory rape). Amy Fisher was found guilty of reckless assault, and went to prison for seven years.

The whole case was so riveting that it ended up being adapted for not one but three television movies. However, according to Esquire, none of them really stands the test of time, so An American Crime Story season based on the Fisher-Buttafuoco drama could only be an improvement.