Is there a word or phrase to define an individual who is declared guilty by a large section of society because of a crime that he may or may not have committed,but is found not guilty in a court of law ?

For example, back in the 90s, in the O.J.Simpson criminal trial, several opinion polls showed that a significant number of people thought O.J Simpson was guilty of the crime he was accused of. However, the Los Angeles County Superior Court found him to be not guilty. So according to most people he was guilty but according to the Court he was not guilty.

So what word or phrase can be used to describe an individual like O.J Simpson who is guilty according to a sizeable section of the society but is pronounced not guilty by court ?

I went through several books on Criminology but could not find such a word. Apart from that I also checked several media reports that covered the trial, but did not come across any such word.

I'm especially interested in a word. In case such a word doesn't exist, a phrase will do.

  • 7
    The usual phrase is the court of public opinion.
    – Dan Bron
    Nov 8, 2017 at 16:02
  • 1
    Hoping @NigelJ undeletes his answer - it's a good one too! Nov 8, 2017 at 17:56
  • You could think about being tried by a kangaroo court, which has a similar meaning, but not quite what you are looking for, I think: dictionary.com/browse/kangaroo-court
    – Lee Leon
    Nov 8, 2017 at 18:13
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    @KristinaLopez After I wrote it I got down-voted and I did think it might have been right to do so. But it as close as I can get, so I've undeleted.
    – Nigel J
    Nov 8, 2017 at 23:47
  • In the criminal trial you allude to, the Court (as a standing institution) did not find Mr Simpson 'not guilty'; a jury of his peers did. Nov 9, 2017 at 1:28

2 Answers 2


The word pariah expresses the rejection of an individual by society on the basis of prejudice rather than justice. I am not commenting on the O J Simpson case in any way, just mentioning it since the OP does so :-

An article in the New Yorker (published in 2001, six years after his 1995 acquittal) says of O J Simpson :

Now he wants vindication. Only that can erase the stigma that has transformed him from an American hero into a pariah, living out his days in a pathetic mimicry of his former life.

Merriam Webster :

Pariah : one that is despised or rejected

Th term originally referred to :

A member of a scheduled tribe of South India concentrated in southern Kerala and Tamil Nadu, originally functioning notably as sorcerers and ceremonial drummers and also as labourers and servants, but later increasingly as ‘untouchables’ in insanitary occupations.


The questions that all this raises (in any particular situation) are :

  • Is society right or wrong in its prejudice ?

  • Is the judicial system effective in its acquitting the innocent or condemning the guilty ?


social outcast


one that is cast out or refused acceptance (as by society)

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