The case of “The People v. O.J. Simpson” was unique in many ways. It was called the “trial of the century” because of all the media interest it created. It provided a soap-opera like addiction for many viewers who insisted on getting their almost daily O.J. “fix.” It was unique in other ways as well. It should he pointed out that almost 97 percent of criminal cases never reach trial because of plea bargaining.
It is rare for anyone to assemble a team of twelve lawyers to defend them; most people accused of a crime can’t even afford one. Despite the many legal advantages O.J.’s attorneys brought to this case, the system is weighted heavily on the side of the prosecution. Of the ten percent of cases that go to trial nationally, the prosecution is victorious in 83 percent of them.
Racial overtones were established right from the beginning of the case. A black man was accused of killing his white ex-wife and her white male friend. The lead detective in the case, Mark Furhman, was clearly a bigot and hated persons of African American descent. Robert Shapiro, one of Simpson’s attorneys said that Simpson’s legal team chose to “play the race card,” adding that “we dealt it from the bottom of the deck.” This is not a very pretty statement, but an effective one. Of all the hundreds of witnesses that paraded to the stand ill the Simpson case, certainly Mark Furhman and his use of the “N-word” was the prosecution’s gift to the defense that may have turned the tide decisively in Simpson’s favor. Despite the “mountain of evidence” prepared by the prosecution that included DNA evidence, 911 audio tapes from Nicole and a “bloody glove,” the jury quickly concluded that the prosecution had not proven beyond a reasonable doubt that O.J. Simpson was guilty of these horrific crimes. One masterful stroke employed by the defense to agree to have O.J. “try on” the glove for the jury and the whole world to see? What better way to reinforce their twin theories of sloppy police lab work and a police conspiracy to finger Simpson? Johnny Cochran’s rhyming couplet after O.J. struggled to put on the glove, rang true to the jury, “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit.” And acquit they did, much to the anger of some and the cheers of others. (For the Simpson trial timeline, see “Appendix 3” below)
Who was angry? Who cheered? The so-called “second verdict” in the Simpson case had more to do with one’s race than any other factor. Whites tended to look at whether or not a famous celebrity had in fact committed a brutal double murder. Blacks tended to ask an additional question. Were the police and prosecutors up to the same old dirty tricks to put a black man on trial for something he didn’t do?