Criminal cases against celebrities always get a lot of media attention—especially since celebrities seem to invariably escape criminal liability. However, many of these same celebrities who avoid criminal charges end up losing to cases brought in civil court.
There’s a reason for this: civil court has a lower standard of evidence. Where criminal cases must be proven “beyond a reasonable doubt,” civic cases often only require a “preponderance of the evidence.” Even the civil standard of “clear and convincing evidence” is less of a burden than the criminal standard.
For example, the actor Robert Blake was acquitted in criminal court on a charge for the murder of his wife. However, in a civil case for wrongful death brought by his wife’s children, he was found liable and was required by pay $15 million.
This is similar to the case of O.J. Simpson, who was famously acquitted for the murders of Nicole Brown and Ronald Goldman but was found responsible in the 1996 wrongful death lawsuit brought by their families. The families were awarded $33.5 million in compensatory and punitive damages. (To date Simpson has paid less than one percent of the damages.)
The recent murder case of football player Aaron Hernandez is unique in that Mr. Hernandez was found guilty in criminal court. Following his recent conviction, he was sentenced to life in prison without parole for the first degree murder of semi-pro football player Odin Lloyd.
Hernandez is currently facing additional charges for a double homicide in 2012. The families of the victims in this case filed wrongful death lawsuits against Hernandez in 2014. Each lawsuit demanding $6 million.