Why there will never be another murder trial like O.J. Simpson’s
It will forever hold a spotlight in American history, when an estimated 57% of the American population sat down to watch the verdict of O.J. Simpson’s murder trial. Dershowitz writes that it was “the most unproductive half hour in U.S. business history, costing $480 million in lost output.”
Even though Americans were united for those precious moments, the verdict split the country down the middle once more…
There are a thousand arguments that can be made for what came between this trial and the verdict, starting from racial integrity, to ‘substantial evidence’ to little confidence in the legal system but combined they packed a punch that delivered a non-guilty verdict for O.J. Simpson.
What we remember most of this trial was the racial division.
It’s 1994 and in Los Angeles the racial climate is at an all time high, some saying the tensions have not been this high since the 1960’s. To imagine a time, only thirty years ago that race was a key aspect of social hierarchy and economic hierarchy seems implausible. The Berlin Wall had only come down a few years before so why should we be surprised race was still at question?
The 1990’s though not so long ago was still a time when race was at war. You might argue that it is still an ongoing fight today, but that fight does not compare to then.
Race was key.
Los Angeles 1994, a city divided with a police force that targeted the ethnic black minorities. 1992, the Rodney King riots rampaged the city after a trial saw police officers walk free after beating an African-American on camera, today we would argue it as damning evidence, back then it was ‘plausible’.
When Nelson Mandela visited, Los Angeles officials refused to honour him infuriating the black community only further.
So by 1994, prejudice and injustice were rife within the heart of the community.
When Nicole Brown was found dead outside her home along with her friend, America cracked in two and suddenly those tensions came to the surface. These murders would snowball towards a greater meaning that resonated with the public and would be the heart of a racial debate for the next two years. O.J. Simpson former football player and TV personality had been in the public eye for the last thirty years, made even more famous by his appearances on Naked Gun.
This was no ordinary case from the start and O.J. Simpson had the finances to employ only the best legal defense team.
Through a combination of jury manipulation, ‘reasonable doubt’ from the evidence and a racist police department, the defending team for O.J. Simpson were able to put to work a case that took all this ‘Noise’ and fed it to the audience through an emotional linear fashion.
From the start of the O.J. Simpson murder trial the public can only see in black and white, right and wrong and given the previous mishandling of such incidents many in the African American community feel a need for justice for ethnic minorities as a whole. From the beginning this case was not about one man, it was about a common cause, a fight against those in power. As Fairchild and Cohen put it, “the fact that the majority of White Americans and the majority of Black Americans were worlds apart in their perceptions was easy to predict.”
They make the case that perceptions are altered from the beginning due to race and personal treatments, “whereas many view an arrest as cause for reasonable suspicion of a person’s guilt, African Americans may view such an arrest as an example of the frivolous and abusive exercise of power that has characterized the relationships of police departments with Black communities for more than 100 years.”
O.J. Simpson’s legal team led by Robert Shapiro and subsequently Johnnie Cochran were able to manipulate these underlying factors when selecting their jury which in the end happened to be mostly African-Americans local to the Los Angeles conflicted with the knowledge of the current tensions of race and police treatment of minorities.
Through a vast pool of resources and financial backing, they were able to pick apart the evidence and place ‘reasonable doubt’ into the jury’s mind.
Regardless of the outcome, O.J. Simpson is behind bars today for armed robbery in 2007 and eligible for parole this year. His case remains unique and a cornerstone for racism and for legal injustice.
If we could go back and say where we went wrong…the policemen for the Rodney King trial should have been punished severely and there should have been legislation put in place to protect minorities from such treatment. O.J. Simpson should have been found Guilty.