Home U.S This Day in History: March 16

This Day in History: March 16


On this day, March 16 …

2005: A judge in Redwood City, Calif., sentences Scott Peterson to death for the slaying of his pregnant wife, Laci. (Peterson was convicted of first-degree murder for his wife’s death and second-degree murder for his unborn child in November 2004.)

Peterson’s case is now under significant review. In August 2020, the California Supreme Court overturned his death sentence, citing “significant errors” in the jury selection process. Then in October, the court ordered Peterson’s conviction be reexamined to determine whether he should receive a new trial.

Also on this day:

  • 1521: Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan and his crew reach the Philippines, where Magellan would be killed during a battle with natives the following month.
  • 1802: President Thomas Jefferson signs a measure authorizing the establishment of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.
  • 1926: Rocket science pioneer Robert H. Goddard successfully tests the first liquid-fueled rocket at his Aunt Effie’s farm in Auburn, Mass.
  • 1945: During World War II, American forces declare they have secured Iwo Jima, although pockets of Japanese resistance remain.
  • 1964: President Lyndon B. Johnson sends Congress the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 as part of his War on Poverty. (The measure would be passed by Congress and signed by Johnson that following August.)
  • 1968: The My Lai massacre takes place during the Vietnam War as U.S. Army soldiers hunting for Viet Cong fighters and sympathizers kill unarmed villagers in two hamlets of Son My village; estimates of the death toll vary from 347 to 504.
  • 1968: Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, D-N.Y., announces his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination.
  • 1984: William Buckley, the CIA station chief in Beirut, is kidnapped by Hezbollah militants. (He would be tortured by his captors and killed in 1985.)
  • 1985: Terry Anderson, chief Middle East correspondent for The Associated Press, is abducted in Beirut.
  • 1991: A plane carrying seven members of country singer Reba McEntire’s band and her tour manager crashes into Otay Mountain in southern California, killing all on board.
  • 1991: U.S. skaters Kristi Yamaguchi, Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan sweep the World Figure Skating Championships in Munich, Germany.

  • 1994: Tonya Harding pleads guilty in Portland, Ore., to conspiracy to hinder prosecution for covering up an attack on rival Nancy Kerrigan, avoiding jail but drawing a $100,000 fine.
  • 2005: A jury in Los Angeles acquits actor Robert Blake of murder in the 2001 shooting death of his wife, Bonny Lee Bakley. 
  • 2009: British actress Natasha Richardson, 45, is injured in a skiing accident at a resort in Quebec; she would die two days later at a New York City hospital. 
  • 2014: Crimeans vote to leave Ukraine and join Russia, overwhelmingly approving a referendum that sought to unite the strategically important Black Sea region with the country it was part of for some 250 years.
  • 2014: Mitch Leigh, best known for the musical “Man of La Mancha,” dies in New York City at age 86.
  • 2018: An ailing Aretha Franklin cancels two upcoming concerts, saying a doctor had told her to stay off the road and rest completely for at least two months. (Franklin would die five months later from pancreatic cancer.) 


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