Fundamental rights and celebrity
Rights of those detained, tabloid cases dominate legal news
(CNN) -- Much of the legal world focused on tabloid fodder in 2004: Michael Jackson, Martha Stewart, Kobe Bryant and Scott Peterson all shared the spotlight in the courtroom. But federal and state courts also issued important rulings that addressed the way we live in America.
The right to challenge indefinite detention
Reaffirming an American legal cornerstone and dealing a setback to the Bush administration's handling of the war on terror, the Supreme Court in June ruled that U.S. and non-U.S. citizens have the right to challenge their detention in American courts. (Full story)
Scott Peterson convicted
In November, a California jury found Peterson guilty of first-degree murder in the death of his wife Laci and second-degree murder in the death of the fetus she carried. In December, the same jury recommended that he die by lethal injection. (Full story)
Michael Jackson indicted
A California grand jury indicted the pop music superstar on multiple counts of lewd acts involving a minor, child abduction, false imprisonment and other charges in a child molestation case. (Full story)
Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal
U.S. soldiers were charged with abuse and indecent acts against prisoners held at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. The cases forced a reconsideration of prisoner treatment by the military. (Timeline; Gallery)
Kobe Bryant sex assault case dropped
A Colorado woman dropped her criminal sexual assault charge against professional basketball superstar Kobe Bryant. Attorneys for the woman blamed mistakes by court officials for making it difficult to continue criminal prosecution of Bryant. A civil case is pending. (Special Report: Kobe Bryant case)
In February, Massachusetts' highest court reaffirmed that same-sex marriages are legal in the state. Local officials in California, Oregon and elsewhere later issued licenses for such weddings. In November, voters in 11 states passed laws that effectively forbid same-sex marriage. (Massachusetts ruling; Election results)
Michael Jackson's appearances in California courts routinely sparked a media and fan frenzy.
Home improvement maven Martha Stewart was imprisoned for lying about her sale of stocks. Former Enron Chairman Ken Lay was indicted on fraud and conspiracy charges in connection with the collapse of the company. (CNN/Money: Scandal, Inc.)
Terry Nichols escapes death
An Oklahoma jury convicted Terry Nichols for his role in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombings. He was sentenced to life in prison. (Full story)
Big Government sues Big Tobacco
A trial began after the Justice Department filed a $280 billion lawsuit against the tobacco industry. The lawsuit accuses tobacco makers of engaging in a five-decade conspiracy to deceive the public about the health hazards of cigarettes. (Full story)
Charges over "basketbrawl"
Record penalties were assessed and charges filed after professional basketball players and fans fought at a Detroit Pistons-Indiana Pacers game. (On the scene)