My husband and I were vacationing in Moosehead Lake, Maine in the autumn of '95 when the verdict in the O. J. Simpson murder trial was announced. We were just preparing to leave to visit Quoddy Point (the easternmost point in the continental United States) when it was announced that the jury was about to re-enter the courtroom.
So we sat down together in our motel room and awaited a verdict that we absolutely assumed was a foregone conclusion. When the forewoman announced the ‘not guilty’ verdict, we responded in a way that surprises me, in hindsight. We didn’t jump up and scream, ‘What the heck?!?!’ We simply stared at each other, for what seemed like an eternity, in utter disbelief. Not only disbelief that this arrogant, narcissistic, self-absorbed brutal murderer was going to be set free … but disbelief that glib attorneys (as opposed to the incompetent ones involved in the prosecution) had once again succeeded in perverting law beyond recognition of the rational mind, and taking abominable advantage of the unbounded ignorance and justice-blind bias of twelve of Simpson’s so-called ‘peers’. The rest of our day was spent in half-hearted sightseeing, occasionally discussing our contempt for a system gone awry, and leaving unspoken (until much later) our growing fears for our country’s crucial, but fast deteriorating, concept of the rule of law.
Fast forward eleven years ...
Below, in its entirety, is an article by Charles Krauthammer (the most brilliant man in Washington) that appears in today’s issue of Time.
Krauthammer says exactly what I have been saying here at home ever since news of the Simpson book and television special hit the airwaves – but the venerable Mr. Krauthammer says it ever so much better than I ever could!
Rupert Murdoch has just canceled the O.J. Simpson book and TV special in which Simpson (presumably) describes how he would have half-decapitated Nicole Simpson and stabbed Ron Goldman had "the real killers" not done it first. The cancellation is certainly justified on grounds of decency, sensitivity and, given the universal public revulsion, commercial good sense. But I would have done differently. I would have let O.J. speak.
I thought the outrage was misdirected and misplaced. The attention and money Simpson (and Fox) would have garnered from the deal are not half as outrageous as the fact that every day he walks free. The real outrage is the trial that declared him not guilty: the judge, a fool and incompetent whose love of publicity turned the trial into a circus; the defense lawyers, not one of whom could have doubted the man's guilt yet who cynically played on the jury's ignorance and latent racism to win a disgraceful verdict; the prosecutors, total incompetents who bungled a gimmie, then shamelessly cashed in afterwards; the media that turned the brutal deaths of two innocents into TV's first reality-show soap opera.
Worst of all was the jury, whose perverse verdict was the most brazen and lawless act of nullification since the heyday of Strom Thurmond. Sworn to uphold law, they decided instead to hold a private referendum on racism in the L.A. Police Department.
The result was a grotesque miscarriage of justice. And there it rested, frozen and irreversible. I wanted to hear O.J. speak because that was the one way to, in effect, reopen the case, unfreeze the travesty and get us some way back to justice. Not tangible throw-the-thug-in-jail justice. But the psychological justice of establishing Simpson's guilt with perfect finality.
This is especially important because so many people believed — or perhaps more accurately, made themselves believe — in O.J.'s innocence. Everyone remembers gathering around the television at work to watch the verdict, and then the endless national self-searching over the shocking climax: not the verdict, but the visceral response to the verdict — the white employees gasping while the black employees burst into spontaneous applause.
Pollsters found that nearly 90% of African-Americans agreed with the verdict. Almost a third of whites did too. What better way to eliminate this lingering and widespread doubt about Simpson's guilt than to have the man himself admit it. But for that you need his confession. The fact that he prefaced his "I did it" with the word "if" is irrelevant. Simpson will always avoid unqualified admission if only to avoid further legal jeopardy for, say, perjury.
But has there ever been someone who responds to the murder of an ex-wife — a death he publicly mourned and pretended to be so aggrieved by that he would spend the rest of his days looking for "the real killers" — to engage in the exercise of telling how he would have cut her throat?
No survivor of a murdered spouse who is innocent could do anything so grotesque. Can you imagine Daniel Pearl's widow writing a book about how she would have conducted the beheading of her husband? Or Jehan Sadat going on television to describe how she would have engineered her husband's assassination? Such things are impossible. The mere act of engaging in so unimaginably repulsive an exercise is the ultimate proof of Simpson's guilt.
Who cares if O.J. profits financially? There is nothing in that injustice — and a further injustice it undeniably is — that compares to the supreme injustice of the verdict. And exposing the verdict's falsity — from the killer's mouth no less — is worth whatever price we as a society would have paid in the sordidness of the TV spectacle and the book.
After such an event, anyone persisting in maintaining Simpson's innocence would have been exposed as a fool or a knave. The interview and book would have been valuable public assets to rub in the face of those who carried out the original travesty — Simpson's lawyers, his defenders and, above all, the jury — and those who continue to believe it.
Here's the television I really will miss now: the cameras taken into the homes of every one of those twelve willful jurists who sprung O.J. free 12 years ago and made a mockery of the law by trying to turn a brutal murderer of two into a racial victim/hero. I wanted to see their faces as the man they declared innocent described to the world how he would have taken — nonsense: how he did take — the knife to Nicole's throat.