No place in America has seen more tragedy than the American Criminal Court. The worst people are brought out in front of the public and made to answer for their actions. Often as a result, bizzare, angry, and cold images have been captured by cameras in courtrooms. Here are 10 chilling photos and videos from America’s courtrooms. WARNING: Some footage on this list is incredibly distressing.
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10 Chai Vang Showing the Court How He Did It
Mass Murderers are usually shot by the police or commit suicide before they can be brought to justice for their crimes. That is not always the case however, and sometimes mass murderers can be apprehended and brought to justice. Such is the case of Chai Vang, who murdered 6 people and attempted to murder 2 others in a treaspassing despute in 2004.
While on the witness stand in an attempt to prove self defence, Vang coldy demonstrated to the jury how he held his rifle as he gunned down the hunters, describing in great detail his actions. Furthermore, when he was asked by the prosecution if his victims deserved to die, he answered that they did. Vang was convicted of murder, with the jury deciding that the physical evidence, particularily most of the victims being shot in the back, superseded the inconsistent testimony of the survivors and Vang’s self defence claims. When he was sentenced to life in prison, his only response was that he was grateful that he could live off of the state’s dime and no longer had to worry about child support or mortgage payments. He remains incarcerated to this day.
9 Manson Family Enters Court
The Manson Family, in an attempt to start a Race War in the United States, butchered nine people in July and August 1969. The violent nature of the crimes, combined with the already existing public opposition towards Hippies led to widespread public opposition towards Manson and his co- defendants. Even President Richard Nixon decried the family as guilty, almost winning them a mistrial by doing so.
Creepier still were the attitudes of Manson’s co-defendants, Susan Atcins, Patricia Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten. As the three young women were led into the courtroom, they could be observed holding hands, singing a song written by Manson and wearing dresses that were sewn by Manson family members. It is clear they still held the belief that Manson was still protecting them Manson was sentenced to death, later commuted to life with no parole, where he died in prison in 2017. Like Manson, his co-defendants were also sentenced to death, later commuted to life in prison. Susan Atkins died of brain cancer in 2009 while Leslie Van Houten and Patricia Krenwinckel remain incarcerated despite being recommended for parole several times.
8 Joseph James DeAngelo in a Cage
One of California’s most infamous mysteries was that of the Golden State Killer, a serial killer and rapist active from 1976 to 1986 when the killings mysteriously stopped. Many believed that the killer had been locked up for a different crime or died, however after a 2018 analysis of crime scene DNA led police to a man named Joseph James DeAngelo. DeAngelo was arrested in 2018 after a decades long hiatus. In his first court appearance, DeAngelo was rolled into court in a wheelchair appearing as a sickly old man. In subsequent appearances however, he has stood in a custom built cage near the defense table. While cages are common in countries such as Canada and The United Kingdom, they are almost never used in the United States due to them being seen as prejudicial. The fact that one was put to use at all indicates that even decades after his alleged crime spree ended DeAngelo is still seen as a danger or escape risk. Legal proceedings against DeAngelo are ongoing.
7 TJ Lane’s Shirt
The video above is incredibly distressing; use discretion if viewing. On February 27 2012 seventeen year old Thomas, “TJ,” Lane walked into the Chardon High School in Chardon Ohio and, using a .22 pistol killed 3 students, wounding another 2. Lane initially fled the scene but was captured later in the day. Lane later pled guilty to the charges against him. At his sentencing hearing, Lane removed his button-up shirt and revealed a white t-shirt with the word, “Killer,” written on it, similar to the one he had worn during the rampage. Later, when asked to make a statement, Lane simply said, “This hand that pulled the trigger that killed your sons now masturbates to the memory. Fuck all of you,” while flipping off the courtroom. This caused many of his victims families to burst out crying, as they were unprepared for such a callous response. Lane was sentenced to life with no parole, and after a brief escape in September 2014 he was sent to maximum security where he remains to this day.
6 Richard Ramirez Drew a Pentagram on his Hand
Richard Ramirez, as well as being one of Southern California’s most feared serial killers, Richard Ramirez was an avowed satanist, and included satanic symbols at many of his crime scenes. Rameriz was captured in East Los Angeles in 1985, after his photo was released to the public as a suspect in 13 recent murders. At his first court appearance, as Ramirez was escorted into the court, he flashed spectators with his left palm, where a pentagram has been drawn. He was soon found guilty of 13 murders as well as countless other violent crimes. Ramirez was sentenced to death in November 1989, and upon learning his sentence, he told the court, “Big deal. Death always went with the territory.” He was sent to death row at San Quentin however he died of natural causes in 2013 while still on death row.
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5 Robert John Bardo Singing Along to U2
In 1989, Robert John Bardo went to the home of tv actress Samantha Schafer armed with a gun and a copy of Catcher in the Rye. When Schafer answered the door due to the intercom being broken, she was shot twice by Bardo. Bardo had been obsessed with Schafer after watching her in the sitcom My Sister Sam, in which she had a lead role. According to Bardo he was particularly enamored with Schafers innocence. That changed when he saw her in the movie Scenes from the Class Struggle in Beverly Hills where she was in a sex scene wich enraged Bardo, leading him down his murderous path. In court when the song Exit by U2 was played, Bardo began violently moving back and forth in his chair singing along. According to Bardo, the song told him his destiny, particularly the line, “pistol weighing heavy,” which he sang along to. Bardo was found guilty by a judge and sentenced to life in prison with no parole. He remains incarcerated to this day.
4 Wonderland Murder Crime Scene Video
Although video evidence in a courtroom may seem like nothing out of the ordinary today, in 1981 it was a revolutionary strategy, first used in the murder trial of former pornstar John Holmes. Holmes stood accused of bludgeoning 4 people to death over a drug feud in a house on Wonderland Avenue, just off the Hollywood Strip. The bloody footage featured above was shown to the jury in a first for American Criminal Justice. Holmes was eventually found not guilty, with the jury being unable to prove Holmes was an assailant rather than an unlucky bystander as he claimed. Holmes was found guilty of contempt of court however and served a brief sentence before his eventual release. He soon returned to the porn scene, even after an HIV diagnosis, and was unsuccessfully questioned numerous times about the murders until his death from HIV complications in 1988.
3 OJ Tries on the Gloves
The OJ Simpson murder trial, otherwise known as the trial of the century, former NFL All Star OJ Simpson was accused of stabbing to death his ex wife Nicole Brown and her friend Ronald Goldman outside Brown’s apartment in 1994. In the 1995 trial, the most well remembered moment, besides the Not Guilty verdict was when Simpson was instructed to try on a pair of gloves that had been found at the scene, believed to have been worn by the killer. The gloves did not fit Simpson, leading to one of his lawyers Johnny Cochran telling the jury in his closing statement, “if it doesn’t fit, you must acquit,” becoming one of the most famous lines in legal history. Simpson was acquitted in his Criminal Trial, however a subsequent Civil Trial found him liable for their deaths and was ordered to pay 33.5 million dollars in civil penalties. Today Simpson lives in Las Vegas, after being released from prison in 2017 in relation to a robbery-kidnapping conviction. He continues to deny any involvement in the murders.
2 Dennis Rader Confesses
Dennis Rader lived a double life. On one side was the loving family man, decorated vetran and public servant. On the other was one of America’s most depraved serial killers, known only as BTK, Bind, Torture, Kill. For decades the people of Wichita Kansas had lived in fear of the BTK Killer whose vicious crimes as well as taunts to the police shocked the world. The sheer span of the crimes, from 1974 to 2005 when Rader was captured. Upon his capture in 2005, when asked if he knew why he was under arrest, Dennis Rader coldly responded, “Oh, I have my suspicions, why?” In court, as part of his plea agreement, Rader gave a full account of his crimes, describing them in a cold monotone voice, as if he was in court over a traffic ticket or some other minor offense. Rader was sentenced to 10 life sentences, as his crimes were committed before Kansas reinstated the death penalty in 1994. He remains incarcerated to this day.
1 Ted Bundy Losing It
Even almost half a century after his death, Ted Bundy remains as a symbol of pure evil, killing an estimated 30 young women, although investigators fear the real number could be higher. The photo above, taken after the jury recommended the death penalty, showed the world the real Ted Bundy. Not the calm charismatic law student that had gotten caught up in a criminal investigation, but a cold and calculating psychopath, who in a fit of rage eliminated any lingering doubt as to his guilt. Bundy was eventually sentenced to death and was executed on January 24 1982 through the electric chair. Prior to his execution, Bundy gave a full confession to his crimes, even confessing to murders that he had never before been connected to.
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