How 9 Famous Acquitted Defendants Spent Their Lives

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Here’s how life shook out for a few acquitted defendants in high-profile trials.

1. Lizzie Borden

Although 32-year-old Lizzie Borden was never convicted of the 1892 ax murder of her father and stepmother, her highly publicized trial followed her for the remaining 34 years of her life. Borden became close friends with actress Nance O’Neill, but she lived out the rest of her life as a recluse. Although Borden remained largely out of public sight, mourners at her 1927 funeral remembered her as a quiet source of charitable donations. Her will certainly demonstrated her charitable streak; the largest earmark from her substantial estate was a $30,000 donation to the local Animal Rescue League.

2. Fatty Arbuckle

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Silent film actor and comedian Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle was one of the biggest stars in the medium’s early days, but his career flew off the rails in 1921. Actress Virginia Rappe fell ill at a party thrown by Arbuckle and died several days later, and the rotund funnyman found himself facing accusations of raping and killing the young woman. Arbuckle weathered two mistrials for manslaughter before being found not guilty in a third trial.

The trial may have legally cleared Arbuckle’s name, but the scandal all but destroyed his Hollywood career. Hollywood briefly blacklisted Arbuckle entirely, but even after the ban was ostensibly lifted he couldn’t find work. Meanwhile, his existing films were rarely shown. (Many prints of Arbuckle’s films have been lost.) Arbuckle eventually found work directing comedy shorts under a pseudonym before making an acting comeback with Warner Brothers in 1932. In 1933 he signed a contract to make a new feature film, but he died in his sleep the very same night.

3. O.J. Simpson

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The beneficiary of one of history’s most famous not-guilty verdicts saw his legal luck run out after a 2007 armed robbery in Las Vegas. Simpson was convicted on 10 charges related to an attempt to regain some of his sports memorabilia, and was sentenced to 33 years in Nevada’s Lovelock Correctional Center. He was freed on parole in 2017.

4. Sam Sheppard

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Sheppard, a Cleveland-area physician (center), was convicted of the 1954 murder of his pregnant wife in their suburban home. Sheppard spent nearly a decade behind bars before a 1966 retrial acquitted him. After a brief attempt to return to medicine following his release from prison, Sheppard found an unlikely second career as a professional wrestler who went by the name The Killer before his death in 1970.

5. Claus von Bulow

In 1982 British socialite von Bulow was convicted of attempting to murder his heiress wife, Sunny, with an insulin overdose. However, this conviction was later overturned, and he was found not guilty in a 1985 retrial. (Jeremy Irons won an Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of von Bulow in 1990’s Reversal of Fortune.) In 1991 von Bulow returned to London, where he worked as an art and theatre critic. British newspaper The Telegraph ran his blog posts.

6. William Kennedy Smith

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The physician nephew of John F. Kennedy was accused of rape in 1991, but a jury acquitted him after a hugely hyped trial. Kennedy still practices medicine; he founded the Center for International Rehabilitation and works with patients who have been disabled by landmines.

7. Robert Blake

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The Baretta star was acquitted for the 2001 murder of his wife in 2005, but like Simpson, he was found liable for the death in a civil trial. The 2005 civil verdict awarded $30 million to his wife’s children, and in 2006 he filed for bankruptcy listing the eight-figure judgment as his biggest liability. Blake hasn’t yet returned to acting to fill out his bank balances, but has made autograph-signing appearances at memorabilia shows.

8. John T. Scopes

Scopes, the Tennessee schoolteacher who famously went to trial in 1925, was initially convicted of violating the state’s prohibition of the teaching of evolution and fined $100. However, his conviction was later overruled because the trial judge had set the fine rather than the jury. Following this decision, Scopes left Tennessee to pursue graduate studies in geology at the University of Chicago. He spent the rest of his life working as a geologist for oil and gas companies.

9. Casey Anthony

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In 2011, Anthony was found not guilty in the death of her two-year-old daughter, Caylee. Anthony has kept a low profile since her trial. In 2013, she filed for bankruptcy, listing $1,084 in personal property and $792,119.23 in liabilities. In 2017, Anthony gave her first interview since her acquittal. "I'm still not even certain as I stand here today about what happened," she said. "I don't give a s*** about what anyone thinks about me, I never will. I'm OK with myself, I sleep pretty good at night."

5 Controversial Facts About Melvil Dewey and the Dewey Decimal System

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iStock/TerryJ

Melvil Dewey, the inventor of the Dewey Decimal System, was born on December 10, 1851. Among other things, Dewey was a self-proclaimed reformer, so when working for the Amherst College library in the 1870s, he began to reclassify the facility’s books and how they were organized.

Though the system has gone through plenty of changes over the years, it’s still in wide use all over the world today and forever changed how libraries categorize their books. It has also caused a handful of controversies. In honor of Dewey Decimal Day, we dug into the organizational system—and its creator’s—dark side.

1. Melvil Dewey co-founded the American Library Association, but was forced out because of offensive behavior.

Melvil Dewey was an extremely problematic figure, even in his time. Though he co-founded the American Library Association (ALA), his often-offensive behavior—particularly toward women—didn’t make him a lot of friends.

In Irrepressible Reformer: A Biography of Melvil Dewey, author Wayne A. Wiegand described Dewey’s “persistent inability to control himself around women” as his “old nemesis.” In 1905, Dewey and several fellow ALA members took a cruise to Alaska following a successful ALA conference, with the purpose of discussing the organization’s future. Four women who were part of the trip ended up publicly accusing Dewey of sexual harassment—a rarity for the time. Within a year, Dewey was forced to step down from his involvement with the organization he helped to create.

2. Dewey required applicants to his School of Library Economy to submit photos.


A History of the Adirondacks, by Alfred Lee Donaldson (1921) // Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

In 1887, Dewey founded the School of Library Economy at Columbia College, where 90 percent of his students were female. It was long rumored that in addition to basic information like name, age, and educational background, Dewey required that prospective female students also submit their bust sizes. While this rumor was eventually proven to be false, Dewey did ask women to submit photos, often noting that “You cannot polish a pumpkin.”

3. A Howard University librarian reorganized Dewey's original system because of its racial bias.

Dewey’s personal biases spilled over into his creation, too, and it has taken sincere effort and work to right those wrongs. In the 1930s, Howard University librarian Dorothy Porter helped create a new system to undo the racist way Dewey’s system treated black writers. As Smithsonian reported:

All of the libraries that Porter consulted for guidance relied on the Dewey Decimal Classification. “Now in [that] system, they had one number—326—that meant slavery, and they had one other number—325, as I recall it—that meant colonization,” she explained in her oral history. In many “white libraries,” she continued, “every book, whether it was a book of poems by James Weldon Johnson, who everyone knew was a black poet, went under 325. And that was stupid to me.”

In addition to charges of racism, the DDS has also been accused of being homophobic. Early editions of the system classified books on or regarding LGBT issues under Abnormal Psychology, Perversion, Derangement, as a Social Problem, or even as Medical Disorders.

4. Its 'religion' section is skewed heavily toward Christianity.

The DDS section on religion starts at 200, and no other religion besides Christianity is covered until 290. Given that there are more than 4000 religions in the world, saving a mere 10 numbers for their classification doesn’t leave a lot of room for thorough coverage or exploration. Though some changes have been made as new editions of the system have been introduced, the process of restructuring the entire 200s is a project that has yet to be undertaken.

5. Critics of the system would prefer libraries take the Barnes & Noble approach.

The Dewey Decimal System is the most used library classification system, with the Chicago Tribune estimating that more than 200,000 libraries in 135 countries use it. But it’s far from a perfect system. As such, many libraries are experimenting with other organizational techniques, and many are dropping the DDS altogether.

The main complaint that public libraries have is that the Dewey Decimal System does not make reading exciting, and that there are other ways of categorizing and organizing books that are more like that of general bookstores. By doing away with the numbers (which are hard to remember for general library patrons), some libraries are classifying books simply by category and organizing by author—a system they've begun referring to as "Dewey-lite."

6 Fast Facts About Nelly Sachs

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Central Press/Getty Images

Today, on the 127th anniversary of her birth, a Google Doodle has been created in memory of writer Nelly Sachs, who died of colon cancer in 1970 at the age of 78. The German-Swedish poet and playwright wrote movingly about the horrors of the Holocaust, which she narrowly escaped by fleeing her home and starting a new life in a foreign land. Here are six things to know about Sachs.

1. She was born in Germany.

Sachs was born in Berlin on December 10, 1891. As the daughter of a wealthy manufacturer, she grew up in the city's affluent Tiergarten section. She studied dance and literature as a child, and also started writing romantic poems at age 17.

2. She almost ended up in a concentration camp.

Sachs's father died in 1930, but she and her mother Margarete stayed in Berlin. In 1940, the Gestapo interrogated the two women and tore apart their apartment. They were told they had a week to report to a concentration camp, so they decided to flee the country. Swedish novelist Selma Lagerlöf, with whom Nelly had corresponded for years, saved their lives by convincing the Swedish royal family to help the two women escape to Sweden.

3. She worked as a translator.

Once Nelly and her mother reached Stockholm, Sachs began learning Swedish and ultimately took up work as a translator. She translated poetry from Swedish to German and vice versa.

4. She was nearly 60 when she published her first book of poetry.

Sachs’s first volume of poetry, In den Wohnungen des Todes (In the Habitations of Death), was published in 1947. In this anthology as well as later poems, she used religious imagery to evoke the suffering of her time and the Jewish people.

5. She won the German Book Trade's Peace Prize.

In 1965, Sachs won the Peace Prize from the German Book Trade. She shared a message of forgiveness when she accepted the award from her compatriots. “In spite of all the horrors of the past, I believe in you,” she said.

6. She won the Nobel Prize for Literature on her 75th birthday.

Sachs and Israeli writer Shmuel Yosef Agnon were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1966. According to The Nobel Prize’s website, Sachs was recognized "for her outstanding lyrical and dramatic writing, which interprets Israel's destiny with touching strength.”

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