April 16, 2024

OJ Simpson

O.J. Simpson, the American football star and actor who was sensationally acquitted in 1995 of murdering his former wife in what U.S. media dubbed the ‘trial of the century’, has died at the age of 76…

“Simpson was found not guilty in the 1994 stabbing deaths of former wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman in Los Angeles, although he was found responsible for her death in a civil lawsuit. Simpson later served nine years in a Nevada prison after being convicted in 2008 on 12 counts of armed robbery and kidnapping two sports memorabilia dealers at gunpoint in a Las Vegas hotel.” Reuters

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From the Left

The left argues that the racial context is crucial to understanding the verdict.

“To understand [the verdict], you have to know the context, which is the justified distrust Black communities had for the Los Angeles Police Department and the larger criminal justice system. It was… a time when police accused of abuse seemed to evade accountability and when even nonpolice who victimized Black people seemed to get off, too…

“Take the case in March 1991 when Korean shop owner Soon Ja Du fatally shot Latasha Harlins, a 15-year-old Black girl, in the back of the head after she’d wrongly accused her of stealing a bottle of orange juice. A jury convicted the shop owner of voluntary manslaughter, but a Los Angeles judge sentenced Du only to probation. Du killed Harlins within two weeks of Los Angeles police beating Rodney King…

“It’s not hyperbole to say that the heat from embers from the 1992 Los Angeles riots, sparked by the acquittal of the four officers who beat King on almost all charges, could still be felt in the air in 1994 and 1995 when members of the Los Angeles Police Department investigated Simpson and testified during his trial.”

Charles F. Coleman Jr., MSNBC

“One detective denied he ever used the N-word – until a recording proved him a perjurer as well as a bigot. The defence was able to argue that reliance on such a source, as well as proof that evidence had been tampered with, fatally tainted the entire prosecution case. To many Black Americans, even those who privately thought Simpson guilty, that seemed obvious – which is why so few were surprised by the verdict.”

Jonathan Freedland, The Guardian

“[The murders are also] inextricable from society’s failure of domestic abuse victims… Cops were called to the Simpson’s house no fewer than nine times; it is likely that Nicole endured many more beatings than that without ever calling the police. But the officers were deferential to OJ, accepting his version of events. They were more impressed by his status as a celebrity former athlete than interested in what he was doing to his wife…

“The marriage had been violent from the start, including regular beatings by OJ, screaming scenes, at least one incident in which he locked Nicole in their wine cellar for hours, and another in which he took a sledgehammer to her car…

“Nicole begged for help: from police, from her friends, from family and ultimately from a domestic violence shelter. No one was able to help her, because no one was willing to stand between her and OJ. No one was willing to act like her life was more important than his celebrity.”

Moira Donegan, The Guardian

From the Right

The right is critical of the verdict, and argues that the case should not have been about race.

The right is critical of the verdict, and argues that the case should not have been about race.

“The public dissection of prosecutor Marsha Clark’s appearance was a ludicrous distraction and obsession with the inconsequential. Defense attorney Johnnie Cochran’s reinvention of Simpson as a symbol of black America was a cynical lie; before the jurors toured Simpson’s house, Cochran removed pictures of Simpson with his white friends and starlets and replaced them with African art…

“Yes, O. J. Simpson managed to transform himself into a symbol of black America, a community he had never particularly embraced since he achieved celebrity status at USC. It is likely that as the years passed, blacks could see what O. J. had gotten out of that trial-triggered embrace but wondered what they had gotten in exchange for embracing him. Yes, the not-guilty verdict had given a metaphorical middle finger to the LAPD, but what did it change in the long run? Who benefited?”

Jim Geraghty, National Review

“White and black saw two different realities. Whites: All the evidence points to his guilt, he’s one of the most admired men in America, race isn’t the story here. Blacks: This is what you do to black men, you railroad them on cooked-up evidence, there’s plenty of room for doubt…

“It showed in some new and unforgettable way the divided country. The verdict itself didn’t divide the country; it revealed it, again and not for the last time, as divided. Reaction was called shocking, revelatory. But what it was, was simpler. It was painful… Before O.J., American blacks lacked confidence in the legal system. After O.J., everyone lacked confidence in the legal system. It looked cynical, performative, agenda-driven, not on the level.”

Peggy Noonan, Wall Street Journal

“OJ’s Dream Team of immoral lawyers warped the justice system. They turned a straight-forward murder case into a three-ring circus and the murderer into a victim. Though there was ample evidence of OJ’s guilt, jurors fell for the fiction that he was persecuted by a legal system that targeted him simply because he was black…

“In truth, this case was never about race, but about the way wealth and celebrity can make a man untouchable. Cops did not brutalize him. Star-struck lawmen asked for his autograph… I would like to think the lessons learned from his agonizing acquittal will not be repeated. That a man will never again get kid-glove treatment simply because he’s a superstar… But mostly that a clearly guilty man will never again get away with murder.”

Andrea Peyser, New York Post

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