By Vince Gullo | Staff Columnist
Disclaimer: This column is from our throwback 90’s edition and is written from the perspective of someone in that decade.
To call it shocking would be an understatement. On June 12, Nicole Brown Simpson, the ex-wife of football hall-of-famer, actor and American icon O.J. Simpson, was found dead outside her home with her friend Ronald Goldman. Simpson became the primary suspect.
Interestingly enough, instead of turning himself in, Simpson hid in the back of a Ford Bronco driven by his friend, A.C. Cowlings, initiating an hour-long highway chase that led to Simpson’s home in Brentwood, California. The chase was televised nationally and viewed by an estimated 95 million people.
The viewing statistic alone shows the true extent of Simpson’s popularity. In every meaning of the word, Simpson was an American icon. He was loved by all. On the football field, he was one of the greatest to ever play. On the silver screen, his talent was impressive and refreshing. His commercials showed his true charm. He was everywhere, and there really wasn’t much to dislike about him.
After Simpson was detained, he was charged for the murders of both Brown Simpson and Goldman. He quickly put together a plea of not guilty and then awaited trial.
Prior to the trial, the situation didn’t look good for Simpson. It’s commonly assumed that if you run away from the police, you have something to hide. To attempt to flee the police for an hour before giving up shows there is more to the story than what Simpson would like us to know. Even if he didn’t do it, when your ex-wife and another man are found brutally murdered, it’s only logical that the husband would be the original suspect. If Simpson had nothing to hide, then he wouldn’t have tried to run. It was also reported that he had a gun to his head in the backseat of the Bronco, and if that’s the case, he either is guilty of something or at the very least is carrying a major psychological load. Either way it was fair for the police to examine him, and the car chase only justified their suspicions.
For me and for many, the car chase sealed Simpson’s fate, but in the courtroom, it’s always a different story. Simpson organized a group of lawyers referred to as “The Dream Team,” led by the the charismatic Johnnie Cochran. He was supposedly paying $50,000 a day for lawyer fees, but his investment paid off, as he was acquitted of all charges.
Although the prosecuting attorneys noted the history of domestic violence between Simpson and Brown as a strong motive for the double murder, the defense’s claim of mishandling the case’s evidence and racial prejudices in the Los Angeles Police Department were apparently stronger reasons that led to his acquittal. It’s an interesting position to take considering Simpson’s apathetic stance on race relations in the country. He was actually quoted saying: “What are all these n****rs doing in Brentwood?” as he was being detained. Regardless, the jury chose to acquit Simpson of all charges.
The public opinion on the verdict became split almost directly down racial lines. While whites believed that he was guilty, many blacks felt that this was a victory for African Americans in the legal system. Following the acquittal of all four police officers for excessive force in the infamous Rodney King beating in 1991, it seems that, with the Simpson case, African Americans have finally begun to make strides in the courtroom.
But Simpson is not representative of the black community. Not only was he wealthier than the vast majority of African Americans in America and had access to way more resources, he didn’t even like to consider himself black. He is quoted in the early ‘70’s saying: “She knew that I wasn’t black. She saw me as O.J.” The OJ trial is hardly an appropriate representation of the African American experience in the legal system.
There is no silver lining in this case. A majority of Americans believe that he’s guilty, and those who don’t think he’s guilty are basing their moral victory on premises that are shaky at best. And regardless, at the end of the day, two innocent people are dead. Their families will never be able to recover. The only person who truly won from this is Simpson, who will sleep freely in his Brentwood home tonight, living with — at the very least — the stress and division he has now caused the country to have.