O.J. Simpson Verdict Reaction Deplorable
'If It Doesn't Fit You Must Acquit'
O.J. Booked in Las Vegas
For a while, I didn't think anyone could top the "Trial of the Century," but that didn't last long.
I no sooner heard the news than I became embroiled in a dispute with a fellow golfer over the O.J. Simpson acquittal. It soon became clear that the issue of racism that arose in the trial was merely a symptom of the racism that fouls the entire nation.
The trial itself, although clearly unlike any other trial in history, reveals an urgent need for reform of the American judicial system -- something I've been urging for some time. But the aftermath of the trial, the subtle and sometimes blatant racism of many of those who do not care to accept the judgment of the jury, tells an even sadder story.
Judgments Based on Hearsay
I would like to think that those who refuse to accept the jury's judgment would be just as adamant if the accused were a white man, but that is difficult to believe because the only judgment they can make is by "evidence" they've been fed through radio, television, magazines and newspapers.
Even those who proudly proclaimed, "I've followed the case very closely" must know that their judgment is biased on the fact that they have seen, not mountains of evidence but, rather, volumes of hearsay, misinformation and lies that no self-respecting judge would ever allow into a courtroom as evidence.
This goes for the prosecution team as well, and even, sadly, for Fred Goldman, whose frustration and anger is understandable, but misdirected. It's the prosecution's job to seek justice, not retribution.
Those people who are angry about the "not guilty" verdict should search their souls. Many, if not most of them, decided that O.J. was guilty even before the trial began. And most cheered the prosecution on throughout the long trial, so convinced that Simpson was guilty that they resented any defense the "Dream Team" offered. Some even made apologies for Detective Mark Fuhrman, whose racism was documented.
And, after the verdict was read in court, those people who have no doubt that the jury's judgment doesn't measure up to their own immediately accused the jury of making an "emotional" decision. Of course, their prejudgment of the case was not based on emotion; obviously, it was based on fact, as revealed by Court TV.
It must be pointed out that "not guilty" in the courtroom does not mean "innocent." The jurors are charged, not with deciding whether someone is innocent, but, rather, whether the accused is "guilty" or "not guilty" of the charges. The O.J. jurors' "not guilty" verdict simply means that the charges were not proven beyond a reasonable doubt, not that O.J. is "innocent."
Guilt Not 'Proven'
While many white faces shown on television reacting to the verdict were glum, some other whites and many blacks cheered the verdict. The cheers were not "for a murderer," as some blurted out, but rather for a man who clearly was not proven guilty of the murders in a court of law.
The "not guilty" verdict meant, to many blacks, and at least some whites, that a black man wasn't unjustly convicted of a crime merely because he was a black man. It may be hard for some to believe, but it has been done before.
The Rodney King case proved that the Los Angles Police Department and America have a long way to go toward ending racial conflict. The O.J. Simpson case makes it clear that we had better start working on the problem now.
I wrote this column as a "My View" for The Hour newspaper of Norwalk, Conn., on Oct. 7, 1995.