Monday, February 10, 1997

Week of 02/10/1997

The Simpson Circus - Part 2
The civil court circus is ending - but not before insulting us again!
- by David Matthews 2

As I put fingers to keyboard, the second coming of the OJ Simpson trial is winding down. The jury in this civil case has declared Simpson responsible for the death of Ron Goldman and the abuse of Nicole Simpson, and have already set compensatory damages at $8.4 million. All that’s left will be the determination of punitive damages, and the trial - for all intents and purposes - will be over. The jury will be dismissed and the case will be closed.

And I for one will be pleased to see this circus finally wind down.

Not that the trial was anything like the criminal version. This time the media had to leave their cameras at the courthouse door - something Judge Lance Ito should have done the first time around. We were spared the daily ritual of sacrificing our favorite shows just for a bunch of lawyers to rant and rave. The principals in this case were also restrained from talking to the media - again sparing us the ranting and ravings of both sides. Also, the presiding judge made it clear that this case was The Goldman and Brown families versus OJ Simpson, not OJ Simpson versus the Los Angeles Police Department - thus much of the speculation about "evidence tampering" was diffused before the trial could even begin.

And if anyone has to be blamed for Simpson’s loss in this battle - it’s the defendant himself who caused the most damage. Simpson first destroyed what little credibility he had in the trial by denying completely any and all abuse of his late wife Nicole. Never mind that he pleaded no contest to assault when they were married. Never mind the pictures taken of her by police with her face beaten and swollen. Never mind the phone calls to 911 by Nicole telling the police that it was OJ once again harassing her. Never happened, OJ said.

Simpson made this situation even worse when he denied owning a pair of Bruno Malli shoes - which police believed were the shoes worn by the killer of Nicole and Ronald. When confronted with a photograph of him wearing what appeared to be such shoes, the defense countered that the photo was a fake. And when the plaintiff presented THIRTY-ONE similar pictures from different angles, the defense countered those were all fakes as well.

Then again consider the whole defense strategy - which has been to convince a jury that their client was a victim of an elaborate and highly detailed frame-up by the LAPD and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. At the same time, the defense wanted to prove that these agencies were the most incompetent agencies since the Keystone Cops. Think about it for a second - an elaborate and highly detailed frame-up committed by completely incompetent agencies with an ulterior agenda. It’s a conspiracy theory that even the John Birch Society would balk at. What’s wrong with this picture outside of the absence of the Marx Brothers?

But members of the media couldn’t rest - they wanted another Simpson sensation and hated not being able to capitalize on it like they could before. So whenever possible they hounded us with what little snippets they can. They dragged out anyone and everyone involved in the case who wasn’t under the gag order.

And then there was the jury verdict for this case. The announcement of the jury’s decision couldn’t have come at a more inopportune time for the re-elected Clinton Administration - thirty minutes before President Clinton’s fifth State of the Union address. The media scrapped any and all plans for Clinton’s speech and hauled out their OJ "experts" to talk about the jury’s possible verdict. They had progress reports via helicopter about the principal players and their progress back to the courthouse.

It was clear that the media was oblivious to anything else going on. What? You mean President Clinton, the highest elected official and most powerful man in the free world, is about to address the nation? Well let him wait! THE OJ JURY IS IN! Oh, they’re not ready yet? Well OK, if you really HAVE to see Clinton speak…

Clinton couldn’t even get to finish his address - which I understand was the shortest he’s ever made - when the media cut away to Los Angeles to report on the verdict. The Republicans couldn’t even get their own highly partisan rebuttal televised because of the OJ fervor. They had been snubbed by the media drowning in their own self-indulgent hype.

Then came the aftermath of the verdict. With the media tailing all the principle players around by helicopter, the journalists then turned to the ugly issue that contaminated the first trial - racism. Once again they pointed out the racial difference in the perspectives on this trial, and now there were people screaming "double jeopardy" because this verdict was different than from the first trial.

Ignoring the obvious ignorance between civil and criminal cases, I wonder where all these "double jeopardy" people were when the civil trial was starting? Why did they wait until after the verdict to cry foul? And would these people have done so if the verdict was any different? I think it’s even money that these people would’ve held their collective tongues if Simpson won in civil court.

Of course, it’s foolish to believe that the whole sordid mess with Simpson will be completely over. Simpson will no doubt drain every last dollar he has in appeals to make sure that neither the Brown or Goldman family will get even one red cent. But appeals are always much drier than jury cases. There are no witnesses, no new testimony, just legal arguments and bland references to legal precedents that most air-fluffed and clueless media personalities wouldn’t be able to tell from the ingredients of corn flakes. It is here that the public Simpson trial will hopefully and finally die out - because no judge in their right mind would want to order a new trial given the media circus that would result.

So it appears that aside from those formalities, the OJ trial will soon be over. Maybe now people will get over this and move on to more important things in life.. like the rest of their own lives. This trial has been a farce, but how the media has been hyping this since day one has made it into an even bigger farce. And it really shows how despicable the media is to our society when it decides that the trial of a former football star and grade-B movie actor takes precedence over our government. I can only hope that when we look back at this whole mess we can do so with a vow to never make the same mistake again.

Click here to read what I first said about the OJ criminal trial - which was printed in the Gainesville Times the week of 10/3/95.

No comments: