The O.J. Verdict
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join the discussion: What are your thoughts on the Simpson case and Americans' racially divided  reaction to the verdict? Ten years later, has your perspective on it changed?

Dear FRONTLINE,

I have always agreed with the verdict. The prosecution did an inept job of presenting its case. That does not change the fact that Mr. Simpson was guilty of a horrific crime. The jury had the mountain evidence and they chose to not look at it except as being somehow "tainted" by racially motivated tampering at every turn. Ms Clark's summary of the evidence and her plaintive plead for the jury to even look at her presentation foretold the outcome of the trial.

The Simpson verdict responses had less to do with racism than a fundamental differences between two groups of people in the understanding of what justice is. Two people needlessly died at the hands of a brutal murderer. Enough evidence was available (if presented properly) to convince any reasonable person that Mr Simpson committed this crime and that Mr Simpson should have been convicted. Because he wasn't convicted one group felt that justice was thwarted and another joyously felt, at the moment, that some nebulous social wrong was righted by letting a vicious murderer back into our society. Our justice system cannot operate in such a feel-good-for-the-moment fashion.

The fact that almost 100% of the black community believed that Mr Simpson was innocent at the time of trial and over time have been convinced that he did commit the crime is telling. There has not been a similar shift in white opinion during this period.

Dennis Slater
Sun City West, AZ

Dear FRONTLINE,

When I originally heard of the OJ verdict I thought it was a horrible mistake of the justice system and I kept this opinion for years. Then I was arrested. Based on what transpired prior to, during and after my arrest ( I was acquited, by the way) I now understand the verdict and agree with the jury.

The fundamental corruption of law enforcement set OJ free. Thanks to your program, I now understand the verdict and agree with the verdict.

Stephen M
San Jose, CA

Dear FRONTLINE,

First of all I really appreciate the opportunity to view these programs online. Thank you.

I emailed this link to a lawyer friend of mine with the subject line stating, simply, "Law?". What are we to make of this? As a white man I do catch myself thinking, "We just need to stop thinking divisively. The blacks..." I can't even talk about this without becoming separate.

The fact is we are separate. I can do my part and it certainly starts there but the VAST majority of the populace is not and likely will not bridge the divide. If anything this program showed that.

Brad Anderson
San Diego, CA

Dear FRONTLINE,

As usual, Frontline leads the way with provocative, thoughtful, and insightful documentaries. This one was no differect and provided a balanced perspective from which to think about race in this country.

Regardless of my personal views on the O.J. verdict I trust the decision(s) of the jury that was charged with the task of hearing the testimony. As many have stated on these pages, the vast majority of the American public are in the dark about our legal system and how it functions. If O.J. did indeed kill his wife he is certainly not free in the true sense of the word. If he is innocent of the charges, then justice was done.

In the end it's not about race or someones reaction to a case. It's about justice. The prosecution mishandled the case from day one and, blood and DNA aside, the glove did not fit. Anyway I see it, Simpson got what he deserved -- as did our nation. Kudos to a fine documentary.

Greg McNichol

Dear FRONTLINE,

Excellent, excellent program. You really exposed the race issues that were so important to this entire trial and you did it so well.

10 years later, as I watch what just happened in the hurricanes, I still don't get why white people don't get it. I am a white Southerner and I may not "get it" but I saw "white only" signs over water fountains and on restroom doors with my own eyes. And over and over again, I have seen the criminal justice system operate unfairly at every single level against the black, the poor, the women, and the children.

The best thing now, 10 years later? We TALK more about race. During OJ, we talked around the race issues with colleagues, black and white. During the hurricanes, I said to my African American colleague: Doesn't anybody see that these people are black and poor?? Doesn't anybody see what is going on here? And then we talked about it. Out loud.

E.W. Fleming
Saint Louis, MO

Dear FRONTLINE,

I am probably in the minority here, in that I think the race angle is much overrated in its impact on the verdict in this case. I think the prosecution was quite clueless in organizing and explaining the facts. In Hodgman's interview, he both states:

1. On domestic violence: "It had everything to do with the murder case, but the jury didn't get it".

2. On the evidence: "The blood evidence remained, and frankly, that was the core of the case".

This dichotomy in Hodgman's mind, 10 years later, shows he still doesn't get it. The whole prosecution presentation was a mishmash of the relevant and the irrelevant. I think a not particularly intelligent white jury might also have acquitted because they might not have seen the core fact: There is no reasonable explanation for the totality of the evidence except that Simpson committed the murders. The most important evidence was that all sorts of stuff belonging to Simpson was found at the murder scene, while nothing belonging to the "real killers" was found there.

Instead of attacking the idea that some combination of police malfeasance and incompetence could have brought about the evidentiary situation, which they could have done calling appropriate witnesses, and listing everything that would have to have happened for somebody else to have committed the murders, they just piled on everything they could think of in a scatterbrained manner with disastrous results.

Riccardo Jimenez
White Plains, New York

FRONTLINE's editors respond:

Mr. Hodgman's interview with FRONTLINE is published on this Web site under "Interviews."

Dear FRONTLINE,

The program gave me as a white man, a much better understanding for the complexity of the black reaction. However, throughout the program, in the bonus interviews, and in the comments posted online, African Americans' claims of understanding the white reaction go unchallenged despite the fact that they consistently get it dead wrong. Repeatedly it is asserted that whites thought O.J. was guilty from day one because he was black and that we were upset at the outcome because a black man went free. While I acknowledge that racism is a serious problem that continues to plague us today, this kind of paranoia just serves to widen the racial divide. I am sure that if Scott Peterson had been acquitted, white America again would have been very upset.

At the same time that whites in this country need to wake up to the fact that this is not a colorblind society and that treating it as such will not make our problems go away, blacks need to resist the temptation to use racism to simply explain things away.

Many African Americans may find it hard to believe, but I thought O.J. was guilty because there was blood all over the place. And I was upset by the verdict because a rich celebrity got away with murder. I wouldn't have cared if he was purple. I understand why you cheered. I hope you understand why I was pissed off.

Gregory Kuhlmann
Austin, TX

Dear FRONTLINE,

Ten years after the trial and many people still believe that this was ALL and ONLY about race. I do not doubt such assertion, but I offer another view which seemed to have escaped notice. In our current system of justice, the scale is tipped towards the rich and famous. Do people really believe that O.J. would have gotten off if he was some poor guy off the street? The African American community cheered the verdict as "score one" for the black folks against the LAPD are blind to the fact the RICH folks "scored another" ... it just so happens that he is black.

Money and fame (which sometimes is worth more) can blindfold Lady Justice in any court including the court of publice opinion.

Frank Hui
portland, OR

Dear FRONTLINE,

These were not political assasinations.

Outside of family and friends, the victims were mostly unknown to anyone else. Yet, Americans took the trial verdicts personally. We should examine why this is. As someone pointed out, most people think Robert Blake is guilty, but they're not upset by his not guilty trial verdict. They are not upset by other guilty people who get away with murder every day, either. But, OJ walking free upsets them still.

Carl Douglas, one of OJ's lawyers, questioned whether people would react the same if his first wife, a black woman, had been murdered. I sincerely believe that if she had been found dead in 1995 in an upscale L.A. neighborhood, there would have been a story in Jet magazine, and a paragraph in the L.A. Times local section, perhaps suggesting that it might be drug related. End of media story.

sandra malone
los angeles , california

Dear FRONTLINE,

Powerful!!!! I really enjoyed the show. It was interesting how white america still has the anger and outrage over this "one" trial. But what about the men who walked free and bragged later about killing Emmit Till? Byron Dela Beckwick first trial for killing Megar Evers? Where's the outrage over Robert Blake's aquittal?

Black americans can go on and on about trial injustices. But two quotes sums it all up from the program: "the LA police got caught framing a guilty man" and "What do you call a rich black man? Nigger" This trial even spills over to how blacks and whites view Bill Bennet's statement last week. Same reaction from blacks and whites on how it is interpreted The issue of race will always be an inescapable part of our society.

Amanda Robinson
Beverly, New Jersey

Dear FRONTLINE,

As an African-American woman, it never ceases to amaze me how white people continue to deny the fact that race is and has always been a factor in the United States. I believe there are two reasons for this. #1. White people do not know the history of this country in regards to race or oppression. I was having a conversation with a 20 something white coworker the other day who had no idea what "Jim Crow" was. When the film Amistad came out years ago, I had discussions with white people who did not know about the conditions of slave ships, the Triangle Trade or the brutal conditions of slavery.

#2. If white people were willing to openly discuss race in America they would have to look at themselves and how they perpetuate racist sentiments. Many whites still feel superior to blacks. No, they do go around burning crosses on my front lawn or wearing hoods; but it comes out in day-to-day interactions. I've been told by whites in an approving tone that I don't really seem black. I often note the hint of surprise from clients at my ability to articulate and speak "correctly." I could go on and on.

I do believe O.J. was guilty. I do believe that the prosecution's case was weak. The day of the verdict, black people were not rejoicing for O.J. It was a vindication for all the black men who have unjustly been stopped by police in their own neighborhoods. It was justice for all the black people who had been assaulted and murdered by racist white people who because of their color and money had gotten off.

In light of the Senate's recent apology for lynching and the recent retrying of whites involved in lynching and assassinations of black and their supporters in the South during the Civil Rights Movement, how can anyone say the issue of race is not a factor today?

Kimberlie Robinson
Tampa, FL

Dear FRONTLINE,

Ofra Bikel is to be commended for creating a context where people could speak openly about race and the OJ verdict in ways that I have never heard on national television.

It's refreshing and yet sad that it took until ten years after the case for a program like this to be created, and more importantly aired. I wonder, however, how much the racial climate in our country has changed, given the stories that were fabricated to blame and abandon the poor, mostly black, victims of Katrina in New Orleans. No wonder black Americans cheered on that day ten years ago -- cheered in the face of not only a judicial system that has often wronged them, but in the cameras of a media system that is equally guilty of treating them as less than human, or in the case of celebrities like O.J., superhuman.

Kathleen Haspel
Chatham, NJ

Dear FRONTLINE,

I am so tired of hearing law professors explaining to all of us naive folk how happy we should be because in the OJ case the "sytem worked." I'm tired of hearing it worked because there was reasonable doubt. I'm tired of hearing about race issues. I'm tired of hearing what the trial represented.

But what I'm most tired of is this: Nicole Brown and Ronald Goldman were knifed to death by a killer who remains free to this day. Neither of them did anything to deserve such a horrendous and brutal death. Yet the heisman trophy winner who decided to play god that night on South Bundy Drive and remove two people frome this earth while leaving a mountain of evidence behind a mile long was found not guilty; even being allowed to raise the children of the woman that he killed.Black, white, red or orange none of us can be happy about this. It stinks!

So please stop trying to explain reasonable doubt and how the system works and patting each other on the back because another rich guy beat the system and please start trying to find ways to make sure that this never happens again.

Derek Williams
los angeles, ca

Dear FRONTLINE,

I was a juror, dismissed two months from the verdict.

I agree that the trial was too long, by deliberation the jury was tired and I believe after so many months the individual jurors knew how they would find in the case of OJ Simpson. I remember a conversation when a couple of the jury members discussed being a mother of an African-American and one stated that she moved away from Los Angeles when her son became a young teenager - afraid of the LAPD, another said she would have done the same if she had a son - she was lucky she had a daughter.I would not pretend I know what that was like - believing that in order to protect my child I must flee the city, a refugee in your own country.

The defense picked a jury that was jaded and weary of the LAPD and the prosecution did little to lay aside their suspicions. I did not stay for the verdict - after a month of two, and I am not the only juror who felt this way, I realized the trial was going sideways and at some point I began to feel I was being used by a system. I was na´ve and idealistic it did not meet my fair and open expectation. I think cameras should be in every courtroom to insure justice not for entertainment.

francine florio-bunten
san gabriel, california

Dear FRONTLINE,

While I understand that the racial divide is the obvious lesson of the O.J.Simpson trial, as a woman, it is a great disappointment to me that this issue overshadows another fact of our history: namely, the problem of misogyny is our soceity. I wish Frontline would do a follow up story about the history of violence against women, whether in its most complex psychological form found in interracial relationships or among same-race couples. Why, after all this time, are women still dominated and victimized by their fathers, husbands and brothers? Why has this nation refused to codify the Equal Rights Amendment?

If we play down the problem of racism in this country, we also refuse to discuss and confront persistent sexism, think things are changing and women are advancing themselves in society, even when domestic violence continues to be widespread, and able women continue to be denied access to power. No one wants to talk about that either. I dare you, FRONTLINE.

Deborah Forbes
Studio City, CA

Dear FRONTLINE,

I just viewed your Frontline program "The O.J. Verdict" which I found very interesting and informative. The one item that was not directly mentioned, that I believe should have been, was that he was not "found innocent". Too many people believe that he was "found innocent". He was found "not proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt". There is a big difference. "The O.J. Verdict" was a great opportunity to present this distinction to your viewing public. I am sorry that the program did not do it.

Robert Johnson
Sherborn, MA

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posted oct. 4, 2005

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