One is likely a ruthless murderer but has a good chance of walking free. One killed an innocent teenage boy and is now selling paintings on eBay — not from behind bars. Another's case became a total media circus, and we're still in for more ahead. Two others majorly escaped the justice they should have faced.
There's a disturbing trend that runs through the high-profile cases of the year: The criminals have not yet, or will never, face justice they deserve.
In mid-July, George Zimmerman was acquitted of charges of second-degree murder and manslaughter for the shooting of teenager Trayvon Martin.
Since then, he's had five encounters with the police: in July and in September for speeding; in September for domestic violence (the charges from his estranged wife were dropped); in September again because his vehicle's tag cover and windows were too darkly tinted; and in November after a disturbance at a home in Apopka, Florida.
Not only is Zimmerman walking free, he's also become an art dealer. On Tuesday, it was reported that bids for an original painting by Zimmerman had reached $100,000. PolicyMic's Tom McKay wrote, "Did George Zimmerman really just make more than I do in three years with some house paint and a canvas? Yes."
The most ridiculous part of it all might be the fact that Zimmerman's canvas painting of an American flag reads, "with liberty and justice for all."
Former tight end for the New England Patriots, Hernandez, 23, was the most Googled athlete of 2013.
In August, he was indicted by a grand jury for the June murder of Odin Lloyd and five weapons charges. He's also under investigatation for murders in both Florida and Massachusetts. In September, Hernandez was arraigned and pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder. If convicted, he faces life in jail without parole.
And yet, Massachusetts Superior Court Judge Isaac Borenstein told MyFoxBoston.com just weeks ago he would not be surprised if Hernandez walks free. "Many of the complications surrounding Hernandez's case include the other people involved. Ernest Wallace and Carlos Ortiz were both said to be with Hernandez at Lloyd’s death, making it difficult to determine who was involved in the killing and who was merely an accessory to the crime. That, plus the destruction of some evidence related to the case, could make it hard to prove guilt, a requirement in the American justice system."
Hernandez evidently agrees. He's currently in the Bristol County jail, held without bail, but recently wrote in a letter to a friend, "I’m just anxious to go to trial to see what’s up and prove my innocence ... Regardless, I’ll be good, but I know I’ll be free because I’m truly innocent and will prove it!"
Three people died and more than 260 were injured on April 15 when Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 20, along with his brother (who later died in a police shootout), detonated two pressure cooker bombs packed with explosives near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. He faces 30 indictments.
Although capital punishment is barred in Massachusetts, Tsarnaev could face the death penalty because he's been indicted on federal charges, including using weapons of mass destruction. A September poll showed that 57% of Boston respondents support a life sentence for Tsarnaev, compared with 33% who favor the death penalty.
In November, U.S. District Court Judge George A. O'Toole ordered U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to decide by Jan. 31, 2014, whether he will seek the death penalty in the case, "which would influence the course of pretrial litigation. The judge also ordered the defense team to file any significant motions, such as a motion to dismiss the case, and a motion for a change of venue."
But Tsarnaev's lawyers are damn good. On December 16, they asked a federal judge for more time to decide whether to seek a change of venue for the case. Their plan is to get Tsarnaev tried wherever he is least likely to get the death penalty. They know what they're doing, and there's a very good chance Tsarnaev will escape the death penalty.
In early August, Ariel Castro pleaded guilty to 937 counts of rape and kidnapping and two counts of aggravated murder. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole, plus an additional 1,000 years for the kidnappings of Amanda Berry, Michelle Knight, and Gina DeJesus, whom he held hostage for 10 years.
In a statement, Castro said, "I'm not a monster, I'm a normal person, I'm just sick. I had an addiction."
Rather than face the justice he deserves, however, Castro was found dead in his cell in Orient, Ohio, in early September hanging from a bed sheet. The AP reported, "As the shocking news sank in, prison officials faced questions about how a high-profile inmate managed to commit suicide while in protective custody."
The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio called for a full investigation. This past month, it was confirmed that he had, indeed, committed suicide.
Like Castro, Christopher Dorner also escaped justice.
He was found dead by a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head by the time authorities identified him.
In May, Arias was finally convicted of for the 2008 murder of her boyfriend, Travis Alexander, who was found in his Phoenix home stabbed 30 times, shot, and with his throat slit from ear to ear. Arias' story changed several times throughout the trials.
And yet, she still has not been sentenced for her crime. On Tuesday, it was reported that Arias will not be sentenced until February 2014.
The whole ordeal has been a total joke. USA Today called it "one of the most unusual, lengthy and salacious court proceedings in recent memory." Sfgate.com wrote, "The sentencing phase of her murder trial got enough coverage to knock the Oklahoma tornadoes out of the lead position on some websites and cable networks. The jury couldn't decide whether to impose the death penalty, reportedly splitting 8-4 in favor. Prosecutors in Arizona must decide whether to hold a second death penalty hearing or allow her to spend the rest of her life in prison, where we can only hope her jailers won't allow any more TV interviews."