What do Hustler founder Larry Flynt and Black Panther Bobby Seale have in common with Brian Mitchell, the man accused of kidnapping Utah teen Elizabeth Smart?
All three have been disruptive defendants at their criminal trials, either through sartorial choices (diapers), Christmas hymns ("O Holy Night") or by calling the judge names ("pig").
Distracting defendants pose a tough challenge for judges, who are tasked with maintaining order in the court and preserving a defendant's fair trial rights, even when those interests seem to conflict.
"A judge wonâ€™t put up with any kinds of shenanigans or behavior - intentional or unintentional - that might have the effect of swaying the jury one way or another. He wants the jurors focused on the evidence and not the other things," said Paul Lisnek, a trial consultant who has worked on the cases of O.J. Simpson, Phil Spector and Heidi Fleiss.
"But, the judge is also always thinking about getting overturned on appeal," he added. "An appellate court may say, 'Why didnâ€™t you control your courtroom?' "
A perfect storm of royal watchers, Christmas shoppers, police and rioters was brewing near the London Palladium theater by the time Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, arrived Thursday night.
Given the circumstances, all it took was the right timing and an iPhone for a CNNI executive producer to capture some of the first video of the royal couple after protesters had attacked their car.
Of course, it probably also helped that CNNâ€™s London bureau is right around the corner from the theater, Geoff Hill acknowledged.
The scene was chaotic before the royals arrived at the West End theater,Â near the Oxford Street shopping district in central London. In a part of the city already swelled with tourists and Christmas shoppers, royal watchers had been gathering throughout the day to catch a glimpse of those attending the Royal Variety Performance, an annual holiday season gala attended by senior members of the monarchy.
Add to the mix scores of rioters with police close by, and you had a â€śperfect stormâ€ť of calamity, Hill said.
The CNNI executive producer had stepped out of the office to meet a producer on the corner and pick up video from the dayâ€™s protests.
Then, it appeared: â€śThe unmistakable arrival of a very important person. The police outriders were there, the blue lights, and then the royal car,â€ť he said.
He immediately knew where they were headed and ran around the corner to head them off. As he squeezed through the crowd, he saw Charlesâ€™ and Camillaâ€™s faces and then he noticed a large splatter of green paint on the back of the Rolls Royce and cracked glass on the window on Charlesâ€™ side.
â€śI realized, oh my God, the royal coupleâ€™s car had been attacked. Iâ€™d never seen anything like that before,â€ť he said.
The crowd of gawkers also seemed shocked by the scene of the royals under attack, he said.
â€śIt was unbelievably chaotic, incredibly batty. People were gasping because they could see it was Charles and Camilla, and they could see that the car was damaged,â€ť he said. â€śThese people were waiting all day to take pictures of celebrities. I think they were kind of blissfully unaware of the demonstrations that had been happening. I donâ€™t think they understood that the demonstrations had made it this far into the city.â€ť
By this time, he had taken out his iPhone and begun to record the scene. As he raced back to the bureau to get the video on air, a CNN breaking news alert flashed on his iPhone, notifying him of what heâ€™d just seen.
Is President Obama kicking his smoking habit? Press Secretary Robert Gibbs fielded questions at Thursday's White House briefing about the president's apparent efforts to stop.
Gibbs said he personally hasn't seen the president light up in about nine months, and despite the pressure of what's on his plate, he hasn't caved to the craving. "This is not something that he's proud of," said Gibbs. "He knows that it's not good for him."
Gibbs said that like millions of Americans, the president has put a lot of work into wrestling with the habit.
The inquiries come on the heels of a new report out by the U.S. Surgeon General regarding the dangers of tobacco smoke, saying even brief exposure causes immediate harm to the body and damages tissue in ways that can lead to serious illness and death.
A clear sky on Monday night will offer the best viewing of one of the year's busiest meteor showers.
The Geminid meteor shower produces as many as 120 shooting stars an hour, or an average of two a minute, visible under a dark sky, Alan MacRobert, senior editor of Sky & Telescope magazine, said.
The sky will be the darkest after the first quarter moon sets, between 11 p.m. and midnight in your time zone.
"Go out late in the evening, lie back, and gaze up into the stars," MacRobert said. "Relax, be patient, and let your eyes adapt to the dark. The best direction to watch is wherever your sky is darkest, probably straight up."
Geminids can appear anywhere in the sky, the magazine said. Small ones appear as tiny, quick streaks. Occasional brighter ones may sail across the heavens for several seconds and leave a brief train of glowing smoke.
The Geminid meteoroids are tiny bits of rocky debris about the size of a pea shed from a small asteroid named 3200 Phaethon. Over the centuries these bits have spread all along the asteroidâ€™s orbit to form a moving "river of rubble" hundreds of millions of miles long," according to the magazine.
Earthâ€™s annual orbit around the Sun carries us through this stream of particles every mid-December.
The Senate on Thursday rejected a Democratic bid to open debate on repealing the "don't ask, don't tell" policy banning openly gay and lesbian soldiers from military service, possibly killing any chance for it to get passed in the current congressional session.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, called the vote without an agreement from any Republican senators to support the motion, ensuring it would fail.
The vote was 57-40 in favor of the cloture motion that required 60 votes
A car carrying Prince Charles and Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, was attacked by student protesters as the couple arrived at a performance in central London on Thursday.
Protesters broke a window and threw paint over the car. Prince Charles and Camilla were not injured.FULL STORY
Cinema buffs across the nation are thankful the Mexican thespian was never deported.
The 44-year-old Hayek (yes, sheâ€™s 44) said in a recent interview, without much elaboration, that she was once an illegal immigrant. She made the statement to Spainâ€™s V magazine, which featured her on the cover with its logo rising out of her cleavage.
In the article, titled â€śArmas de Mujer,â€ť or â€śA Womanâ€™s Weapons,â€ť Hayek said she was illegally in the U.S. â€śfor a small period of time, but I still did it."
E! News reported that Hayek moved to Los Angeles in 1991 to study acting after a previous stint attending the Academy of the Sacred Heart in New Orleans. Her rep told the website that the actress returned to Mexico and immediately cleared up the immigration issue.
One of just a few Latinas to be nominated for the best actress Oscar, Hayek also told V it was difficult fighting Hollywoodâ€™s discrimination when she first came on the scene.
â€śIt was inconceivable to American directors and producers that a Mexican woman could have a lead role,â€ť she told V, according to Fox News Latino.
In addition to her roles in â€śFridaâ€ť and â€śFrom Dusk Till Dawn,â€ť Hayek is also known for her advocacy on behalf of women and of undocumented workers.
Her remarks were made public as the U.S. House on Wednesday approved the DREAM Act, which paves a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. when they were children. Observers say itâ€™s uncertain whether the bill can navigate the Senate.
After 10 years at the helm of the Florida Gators' football program, coach Urban Meyer is stepping down, citing a desire to spend more time with his family. But will the decision stick? SI.com's Andy Staples sure hopes it does.
Staples approves not because of the Gators' lackluster record this season, but because it's time Meyer chose family over the 24-hour, seven-day-a-week grind of being a head coach.
"Sometimes, we make it too complex," Meyer said. "At the end of the day, I'm very convinced that you're going to be judged by how you are as a husband and as a father and not by how many bowl games you've won."
This isn't the first time Meyer has turned over the reins of the program. Last year, a health scare prompted him to retire ... only to return less than 20 days later.
Will being away from a team that he has led to two national and SEC titles be too much for Meyer to bear? Probably not. This time around is different than last year. There is no medication that can give Meyer the time back with his family that he clearly longs for. Only making - and sticking with - the decision to walk away from his program will do that.
As for the Gators, they'll be fine, eventually. SI.com's Stewart Mandel says that while Meyer is undoubtedly one of the school's greatest football coaches, the program will still have a leg to stand on if he decides to stick with his decision to resign. Though Florida has hobbled through 2010, inundated with staffing changes and the loss of some top players, the coaching change will not doom the team next season. With Dan Mullen, Bob Stoops and Jon Gruden all being eyed for the job, it shouldn't take long for the program to rebuild and regain traction.
Boston Celtics vs. Philadelphia 76ers (8 p.m. ET) - The Sixers are looking for their sixth consecutive victory tonight when they face the Celtics at the Wells Fargo Center. But look for the 17-4 Celtics to give Philly some trouble tonight on their first stop on a three-game road trip.
By The Numbers
$137 million - The low end of the contract offer spectrum the New York Yankees have presented to ace pitcher Cliff Lee. The contract will fall somewhere in the $137 million to $140 million range and will be for six years.
17.4 -Points Duke star freshman Kyrie Irving had averaged this season before being sidelined, indefinitely, with a toe injury.
11 - Number of consecutive games the Pittsburgh Penguins have won. Their most recent victory came Wednesday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
American Airlines has canceled service to and from Haiti for a second day because of political unrest there.
The airline announced Wednesday that it was canceling all six of its flights from the United States to Port-au-Prince because of post-election violence. It extended the moratorium Thursday.
"We will evaluate future operations, including tomorrow, later in the day (Thursday)," AA spokesman Tim Smith said in an e-mail.
Protests erupted throughout the Haitian capital Wednesday, the day after presidential election results were announced. Mobs alleging fraud burned the headquarters of the government-backed candidate and blocked roads using earthquake rubble and flaming tires.
Mirlande Manigat, a former first lady of Haiti, won the election held more than a week ago with 31.37% of the vote, the Provisional Electoral Council announced late Tuesday.
Jude Celestin, the candidate backed by President Rene Preval, came in second with 22.48%, while popular musician Michel Martelly was just behind Celestin with 21.84%.
Professor Jonathan Plucker from the Center for Evaluation & Education Policy at Indiana University talks to "American Morning" about why Chinaâ€™s students seem to be on top of the â€śAâ€ť list.
Noah Shachtman, contributing editor for Wired magazine, talks to American Morningâ€™s John Roberts about the hackers who are launching attacks against those they think are standing in the way of WikiLeaks.
"The End" of a conviction: Lame-duck Florida Gov. Charlie Crist is expected to pardon singer Jim Morrison on Thursday for a 1969 indecent exposure conviction.
Morrison (second from right), lead singer of the Doors, was convicted a few weeks after a Miami concert in which he allegedly dropped his pants and exposed himself, though no photos of Morrison committing the act were introduced into evidence.
The Doors canceled their tour after the conviction. Morrison died in Paris in 1971.
NFL fans seem to have forgiven Michael Vick.
The Philadelphia Eagles quarterback, just a year and a half out of prison, is the leading vote-getter in fan balloting for the Pro Bowl, NFL.com reports.
Vick started the season as a backup to Kevin Kolb but has set the league on fire since becoming the starter. He's averaging 249 yards passing and 52 rushing per game, and he has scored 21 touchdowns.
Vick, who served 18 months in federal prison and was vilified after being convicted on charges related to dogfighting, had 729,838 Pro Bowl votes as of Thursday morning. He leads the Indianapolis Colts' Peyton Manning, who's having a rough season, by more than 38,000 votes and the New England Patriots' Tom Brady by more than 100,000.
It looks to be another busy day on CNN.com Live today as the Senate considers the DREAM Act, a popular restaurant chain celebrates a big birthday and the holiday spirit comes to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Today's programming highlights...
9:30 am ET - Domino's celebrates 50 years - Wall Street orders an extra-large pie, hold the anchovies, as Domino's Pizza marks 50 years in business.Â To celebrate, the company's CEO will ring the NYSE opening bell.
An update from the CNN newsdesk in London on the stories we're following on Thursday:
WikiLeaks latest â€“ Julian Assangeâ€™s supporters have continued to wreak havoc on the internet as they hit companies who have withheld WikiLeaks payments as well as the Swedish governmentâ€™s website.
Student protest - Today is the day that British MPs vote on whether or not to remove caps on studentsâ€™ tuition fees and the last day for students to make their voices heard to the government, so large-scale protests are expected. FULL POST