Russell Brown's HARD NEWS

6th October 1995

Copyright © 1995 Russell Brown

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Well, O.J. Simpson got off. I use that term advisedly, because I seriously think he did kill his former wife and her boyfriend. He didn't get off because he was black - many black men are convicted in America every year, some of them under dubious circumstances. Indeed, one third of black men in America are under some sort of sort of criminal justice supervision. He got off because he was rich.

But you could say that all those poor, black men who went down because they could not spend millions on lawyers helped buy this one rich, black man his freedom. The jury and, it seems, black America knew too much about the ways the police and the justice system can abuse black Americans to find O.J. guilty.

By misfortune or mismanagement, the LAPD couldn't establish its own credibility in the prosecution. First, no one seemed prepared to deal with the fact that Mark Fuhrman, the detective who found the "bloody glove" on Simpson's estate, was a particularly creepy racist. Then what should have been ironclad forensic evidence was incredibly sloppily handled.

The jury found Simpson not guilty. To believe he was actually innocent, as polls have indicated the huge majority of black Americans do, you have to buy into a pretty weird scenario. That is, that the LAPD mounted a comprehensive and spontaneous conspiracy to frame him, which began with minutes of the discovery of the bodies.

That the police were able to quickly obtain a rare and expensive glove like those Simpson owned there are only 200 pairs in the world contaminate it with blood from OJ, Nicole and Ron Goldman, hair from Nicole and Goldman and fibres similar to those found in OJ's Bronco and on Goldman's shirt.

That police were able to obtain OJ's blood and place five drops of it, leading away from the murder scene. Place hair matching Simpson's on a ski cap found at the crime scene and on Goldman's shirt. Place a mixture of the blood of all three in two places inside OJ's Bronco. Place a pair of socks bearing the blood of both OJ and Nicole in OJ's bedroom, and samples of OJ's blood in his house and on his driveway.

You must also somehow account for the fact that this happened despite the fact that OJ was a legend to his local LAPD officers, who often brought their buddies around to his place to hang out and view his trophy room.

It's possible that some evidence could have been planted Fuhrman seems capable of it. But all of it? Are you joking?

What wasn't on trial, of course, was the credibility of the defence. And in the past nine months that defence mounted some genuinely incredible arguments. First, the claim that OJ was a man too crippled to have wielded the knife. It turned out that on the morning of the murder, he'd been un-crippled enough to play a round of golf.

The really weird one was the contention that Nicole and Goldman were killed because of their connection to a South American drug syndicate, details of which have never come to light. Hell, even the defence didn't believe that one.

Indeed, it's interesting to ponder whether the defence actually believed their client was innocent. Counsel Johnnie Cochran cheerfully answered questions about race and justice afterwards but was unable to even meet eyes with the reporter who asked him about Simpson's promise to devote his life to hunting down the "real killer". That was creepy.

Cochran was, of course, the man behind a both-barrels appeal to the race factor in the defence's summing up. He compared Fuhrman to Adolf Hitler. This rightly outraged Fred Goldman, Ron's father, who is Jewish. It may also have been the final straw for Robert Shapiro, who, staggeringly, dissociated himself from his fellow defenders immediately after the verdict.

Cochran's an interesting chap. On one hand, he's an expert at nailing bad cops. On the other, he and most of the defence team have a history of engineering unlikely acquittals for rich clients. Their list of successes include Michael Jackson, John DeLorean, Leona Helmsley, Claus von Bulow, right-wing evangelist Jim Bakker and Christian Brando. O.J. Simpson has a hell of a lot more in common with those people than he does with some poor black kid fitted up by the LAPD.

Yet black America good, churchgoing black America, has made of OJ a hero. Some hero. In the course of the trial, it became clear that OJ Simpson was a thug who repeatedly beat and terrorised his wife. After one bad beating in 1985, when Nicole called the police, he tried to do a runner just as he did when he loaded up a jeep with cash and firearms and attempted to drive to Mexico rather turn himself in on the charge of her murder.

Now, OJ Simpson is going to follow on from an extremely profitable year in jail by cashing in book deals and pay-per-view TV interview. One agent has already estimated that a single such interview could net him the $10 million he spent on legal bills.

But, oddly enough, we got a little snatch of inteview for free this week. During Cochran's post-trial interview with Larry King, out of the blue, OJ himself called up the nationwide phone-in show. Okay, here goes ... I think it was a set-up. I don't think Simpson just happened to call on any old issue. He talked about what Allan Park, the limo driver, saw and, in a confused, convoluted way, claimed that Marcia Clark had misrepresented the driver's testimony.

So I found that day's transcript Court TV's site on eWorld, y'all and, frankly, the driver's evidence stands. He saw a a tall, black figure matching OJ's description enter the house at a time when OJ was supposedly asleep indoors or, as was later claimed by the defence, hitting golf balls out the back. At 11pm, in the dark.

What he didn't see was the Bronco jeep which should have been parked in the driveway. There's more detail, but, with the police having damaged the credibility of the DNA evidence, the driver's testimony was the best damn evidence the the prosecution had. I don't think it was coincidence that OJ happened to call - and get through to cast doubt on it. My feeling is that it was the first step in a campaign of public rehabilitation.

Weird. So what does America think? I've been checking the OJ newsgroup on Usenet and it's a hellhole. Confusion, gloating, anger .. recanting white liberals, triumphant blacks, sordid racists. If this is any kind of key to the American Zeitgeist, then I fear for America. What odds on Colin Powell, the man who might have been America's first black president, disappearing in the crossfire?

But why should I bother? Why should any of us give a shit about the trial of a man we barely knew of a year ago? What's wrong with our own trials the winebox hearings, which are about the way our nation is run, or the "poisoned professor" case, with all its passion, jealousy and top-notch forensic action?

Spectacle, I guess. To watch America is to witness on one hand the decline of Rome and on the other the vital, exhilirating social torrent that pours through the gates of the West. The OJ trial could only have happened the way it did in Los Angeles troubled, divided, degraded and way, way out on the Western edge. I'm just glad it's not where I live. OJ'd and out


    ==  ==      Russell Brown
  [ @ / @  ]                      
     /        ________________________________________
    (_)         "The views expressed on this programme
    ____)       are bloody good ones." Fred Dagg, 197?

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