Today is the 20 year anniversary of the O.J. Simpson trial. The newscasters were talking about it on CNN. They were entertaining the question of OJ’s guilt or innocence, and interviewing each other and assorted “experts” on the subject.
So, you ask…what do you think? Did he kill his wife? Or not?
I have NO idea…no opinion. I wasn’t paying much attention at the time of the trial, although I was tuned in when the verdict was read. OJ was of course waiting breathlessly…after all, his future depended largely on the decision of the jury…the suspense was heavy and thick.
The foreman read the verdict: NOT GUILTY.
I can still see the look on Simpson’s face. What were his emotions? Shock, Relief, Surprise, Joy…the reactions of a man who had just gotten his life back.
Again, I have no idea if he was guilty or not guilty. But the lasting impression that came away from the TV screen with me to this day was not one of justice or court room drama, pay-back, retribution, come-uppance, justice…but something at once related and unrelated. The Simpson trial caused another major split in the American public…between those who think he was innocent all along, and those who assumed his guilt and lamented that the “s.o.b. got away with murder.”
The point is this. The issue here is not the basketball great’s culpability in the death of his wife, his guilt or innocence, the big question of if justice was served or was a gross miscarriage. The actual point is moot…the trial was held and a duly seated jury made a verdict, which the Judge upheld, and the case was closed.
What happened was that the entire procedure of the O.J. Simpson trial was what is called the Law of the Land, the exercise of the basic right of all Americans to be guaranteed a Trial by a Jury of his or her Peers. That jury heard the evidence and charges presented by the State, and by Simpson’s own attorneys–and made their decision.
The Jury acquitted O.J. Simpson of murder charges.
There has been outrage ever since. Debate of the validity of the charges, if OJ had been favored because of his race, the partiality of the jurors…and the argument that he received special legal advantages because he was a famous (and popular, considered a good role-model,) sports figure. )
None of that matters, really, because the fact remains that the Simpson trial was conducted by the Law of the Land…whatever we as individuals believe is immaterial, because the Jury verdict was reached according to the rules of the system.
The system exists as it is set up. We can’t have it both ways–either the Rule of Law as it pertains to the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty prevails for all people–or it does not. So since the Jury said “Not Guilty,” the defendant was freed as acquitted. The only opinions that matter are those of the Jury.