March 20, 1996: Jury finds Erik and Lyle Menendez guilty of first-degree murder
Lyle and Erik Menendez, sons of a successful Cuban-American business executive, were convicted March 20, 1996, of first-degree murder for the shotgun killings of their parents. The murders occurred Aug. 20, 1989 in Beverly Hills. The police did not suspect the brothers until Eric confessed to his psychiatrist, who told the police. On Dec. 8, 1992, the Menendez brothers were indicted by the Los Angeles County grand jury on charges that they murdered their parents.
The Menendez brothers and the murder of their parents became a national sensation when the Court TV broadcast the trial in 1993. The younger brother's defense attorney alleged that the brothers were driven to murder by a lifetime of abuse from their parents, including sexual abuse from their father. The trial ended in two deadlocked juries. (Although the brothers were tried together, each had a separate jury.) After a less publicized second trial, both brothers were convicted of two counts of first-degree murder plus conspiracy to commit murder.
They were sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Under the terms of the sentences for their multiple crimes, the brothers are expected to spend the remainder of their lives in prison.
March 19, 1931: Gambling legalized in the state of Nevada
Gambling was legalized in Nevada in 1931 at the Pair-O-Dice Club, the first casino to open on Highway 91, the future Las Vegas Strip. Gov. Fred Balzar signed the bill legalizing gambling. Gambling forms the backbone of Nevada's economy.
The Supreme Court issued a favorable decision in 1987 allowing Native American tribes to build casinos on tribal lands. Because Indian tribes are considered sovereign nations, they are exempt from state laws banning gambling and are regulated under federal law. Currently, 16 states allow noncommercial casinos in some form, and 31 states have legalized gambling in the form of a lottery.
March 18, 2005: Terri Schiavo's feeding tube disconnected at husband's request
Terri Schiavo, 41, was institutionalized for 15 years in a persistent vegetative state after suffering brain damage and was dependent on a feeding tube. Her case fueled a worldwide debate on euthanasia and generated extensive national and international media coverage.
In 1998, her husband and guardian petitioned a Florida court to remove her feeding tube. Her parents opposed this, arguing she was conscious. Schiavo had not left anything in writing expressing her wishes if she became incapacitated, but the court determined that she would not wish to continue life-prolonging measures. The case drew national attention and rallied activists on both sides of the right-to-die debate. Before the court's decision was carried out March 18, 2005, the federal government and the Florida legislature passed laws that sought, unsuccessfully, to prevent removal of Schiavo's feeding tube.
March 17, 1970: Army charges 14 officers with suppressing information related to My Lai massacre
In March 1968, Army soldiers murdered as many as 500 civilians, mostly women and children, in the village of My Lai, South Vietnam. The incident, exposed in 1969, prompted widespread outrage around the world and reduced U.S. support at home for the Vietnam War.
The Army initially investigated 14 low-ranking officers and enlisted men for war crimes. On March 17, 1970, the Army charged them with suppressing information related to the incident. Most of the charges were later dropped. Ultimately, only five participants were court-martialed. After a 10-month trial, in which he claimed he was following orders from his commanding officer, 2nd Lt. William Calley was convicted of premeditated murder for ordering the shootings. He was initially sentenced to life in prison. Two days later, however, President Nixon made the controversial decision to release Calley from prison, pending appeal of his sentence.
In a separate trial, Capt. Medina, Calley's commanding officer, denied giving the orders that led to the massacre. He was acquitted of all charges. When the My Lai massacre was exposed, most of the enlisted men involved in the events were no longer in the military and were exempt from prosecution. In the end, of the 26 men initially charged, Calley was the only one convicted.
March 16, 1995: Mississippi ratifies 13th Amendment
The 13th Amendment to the Constitution abolished slavery and was officially ratified in 1865 by the necessary three-quarters of the states. Mississippi refused to ratify the amendment because the state would not be reimbursed for the value of freed slaves. Its most recent ratification occurred in 1995 in Mississippi, which was the last of the 36 states in existence in 1865 to ratify it.