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 found your documentary enlightening in that I was better able to understand the cheering which occurred when the acquittal was read. I was also surprised to learn that many African Americans, while glad of the verdict, thought that OJ was guilty or involved. It was at the time and still is difficult for me to see cheering when a man who was shown to have murdered two people is let free.

The evidence against Simpson was overwhelming. I credit Simpson's acquittal mainly to Cochrane's masterful playing on the emotions of the jury, and the naivete and incompetence of the prosecutors. The prosecutors did not spell out in detail in their arguments that Cocchrane's allegations of mishandling and planting evidence did not hold water. This left the jury and many others with the impression that Simpson was framed by a department with a demonstrated history of racist and unlawful acts. he cut his finger in the bathroom or when the cut reopened while he slept?

I think race is frequently brought up as the issue in this trial; however I see class as important, but it is hardly even mentioned. OJ had the money to hire top lawyers who put up a better defense than most people of any color can get. (And the people with money evacuated New Orleans.) If he had been white or hispanic or asian, I would have been just as upset at his acquittal.

While many injustices have been done in the past, epecially to people of color, I feel it does no justice nor does it aid race relations to cheer another injustice, the freedom of a man who murdered two people.

Diane K
Bristol, RI

Dear FRONTLINE,

Mark Furhman, a jackbooted member of the notorious LAPD committed perjury in open court. To put it bluntly he arrogantly lied and lied under oath with the whole world watching.

Then he admits on tape that he is an avowed racist who plants evidence against black people and indeed if he had tha power would collect all black people together and burn them.

Do you seriously expect members of that Jury to believe and accept any evidence he claims to have found after seeing him lie and after hearing all that he had been saying? Please be serious!

Kwaku Owusu
New York, New York

Dear FRONTLINE,

The cheering wasn't for OJ, it was for us. For all of us who abide by the rules, and teach them to our children, this was justification that we were on the right track.

JOHN K. GULLION
LAKE CHARLES, LA.

Dear FRONTLINE,

10 years later & everyone is still trying to substantiate their position one way or another. Why you ask? Keep in mind the fact that we are not that far removed from the perils of the 60's and that turmoil. America's attitude is "Hey Black people, it happened, so now, just get over it".

Black America was not cheering OJ. Please don't think Black Americans support that sort of thing. We cheered because for all the people that have been or will be harassed by the police, sent to jail, wrongly accused, beat at the hands of those sworn to protect, we finally saw the system work like it's been told to us that it's supposed to work for somebody. We didn't care who it was just that it worked. We heard it did. See it on movies but in real life, we have seldom seen it work. It's too bad it was the OJ case that made it happen because most Black Americans think he was guilty.

Here's what I learned from the trial. We can join hands and sing Kombi-Ya in a huge circle all we want. The test is going to come. This time, it came in the form of the OJ Simpson trial and we all collectively showed one another exactly where we were in regards to race. This country got a failing grade.

The part that's missed is the fact that we all have much more in common than we do in differences. We all at days end want the same things. To bad that we'll keep tripping over race as an excuse not to get there. After all, Black or White, we all agree on one thing. He was guilty. They just didn't prove it. It's the system we have in place and again I say America, you can't have it both ways. Run Juice run but please stay off of my block.

K Dillard
Omaha, NE

Dear FRONTLINE,

I never watched the OJ Trial. I couldn't understand the nation's facination with it. I thought it was National Enquirer material and pointed out the dumbing down of the national media, because they over-emphasized such a trivial incident (as compared to many other national or international issues). What I felt then and what I heard only mentioned once in this piece was that this was a wake-up call to American Justice. The only way a person has a chance to achieve justice is if you have money. Race can marginalize you and bring up strereo-types but if you've got the money for a good lawyer, any hurdle can be overcome. Class and wealth is more important than race.

Alex Martin
Sun Prairie, WI

Dear FRONTLINE,

Thank you so much a for rehashing the O.J. Simpson effect story. As a white person of African Americian heritage, I could not understand the reaction of some of my closes friend to the trial's vertict. I understand now. Thank you.

Karen Mullins

Dear FRONTLINE,

At every turn, it seems that Whites want to deny that the race issue does in fact continue to permeate every aspect of daily life in America.

It is interesting that I continue to read, hear, and see so much about Black pathology, but I see nothing about the pathology of Whites when it comes to this issue. I am not aware of any serious studies addressing this issue. Given the history of this country, it would seem obvious, but maybe I satnd corrected.

I was a student at Howard University during the trials, and although I am not African American, I immediately understood the Black community's general reaction to the verdict. This is no news to people like myself, but to see it analyzed and presented in such a thoughtful manner is indeed refreshing.

Do Whites really think that OJ would have been given a fair trial if the jury in that case was all White or majority White? I bet they do.... But this really denies in a very fundamental way the extent of their pathology.

The way I see it, Whites just don't get it because they are fundamentally ignorant of their history, or there is some psychological mechanism at work here that prevents them from confronting it.

sanjay persaud
washington, dc

Dear FRONTLINE,

The OJ case and the frontline documentary as vivid as it was, diminishes the reality of Los Angeles. For Blacks and Whites, both immigrants to Mexican Los Angeles, demonstrate the simplicity of life in America.

I as a Mexican from the US detested the whole OJ case as an on going telenovela of success gone awry over some German American woman whose family just arrived in the last generation.

I hated both sides notion of whose right and wrong versus a criminal case taking place. What Blacks think they are the only ones to have been arrested, harassed, had a gun put to their heads and or murdered by the police.

I think if this documentary had interviewed Mexicans and other Asians maybe we would have a true picture of what really occurred.

When the verdict was read, I was at Compton College and was disgusted at Whites for salivating at the decision to execute Simpson and at Blacks for personifing that all wrongs committed to not only Blacks would somehow be righted by one court decision.

White and Black America need to mature.

Julian Camacho
Los Angeles, California

Dear FRONTLINE,

I am an average white, American, elderly woman. It is hard for me to conceive that my reactions to the OJ trial are unusual among like individuals.

I believe OJ is guilty. However, had I been on his jury I most likely would have voted not-guilty. I think the prosecution produced enough reasonable doubt that I could not, in good conscience, have voted for a guilty verdict.

One of the Georgetown law students put it succinctly: The LAPD (in the person of Fuhrman) framed a guilty man.

Allie Cross

Dear FRONTLINE,

Enjoyed the show overall but am concerned that it was, dare I say it, slanted.

Only one person (Toobin) gave the following perpective: Yes, it's about race, but what public policy or social issue can justifify the grisly murder (and near decapitation) of one's ex-spouse? And now he's out golfing to boot?

You piled on from one perpective a little bit. How about a little more balance next time?

Dennis Williams
Nashua, NH

Dear FRONTLINE,

This trial, if not all about race, certainly was no different than any other American event, large or small: Race, sex and class permeate everything. Prejudice is like mathematics: it's so much easier to break things down into neat formulas.

As a 41 year old Black man at the time, I realized (to my horror) just how much hatred there is in this country for Black people (perhaps I had been naive); and how foolish we sometimes make ourselves appear trying to fight and avenge this hatred (students cheering the verdict). Racism not withstanding, in the final analysis the issue is interracial sex. The fear that White men had in the late 19th and early 20th century was that Black men, after watching their women being raped at will, would exact revenge. So a campaign to picture us a lusty animals was launched just to keep things in check. This psychological nuancing has taken a deep toll - from then 'til now. If he wasn't guilty of murder, he was damn sure guilty of sleeping with her.

Solomon Arrington III
EAST STROUDSBURG, PA

Dear FRONTLINE,

Your program on the OJ verdict was clearly informative but I do believe it didn't focus on the true reason why he was aquitted. Without a doubt, in my mind, it was the jury selection. Jeffery Toobin did say on the program that if it had been an all white jury (or more racial mixed instead of 9 blacks, 1 hispanic and 2 whites), he would of easily been convicted in the criminal case, as easily as he was found liable in the civil case. Short of having an eye witness or actual video footage of OJ commiting the crime, he was walking with that jury.

A good baseball analogy would be that OJ's defense team was pitching and the jury was the umpire. No matter were the pitch was thrown, it was going to be a strike.

Obviously, race was the overwhelming factor in this case. It's too bad the families of the victims had to suffer to make-up for all the injustices blacks have suffered.

Joe Whalen
South Hadley, Ma

Dear FRONTLINE,

I watched the show and was interested in the subject. But I feel it only covered part of the story. We heard about how black people felt about the verdict in depth but white opinions were basically ignored. What about the white reaction of horror that blacks would celebrate the fact that a brutal murderer walked. What is more important punishing someone who brually stabbed two people to death or punishing a bumbling racist police department? In my book the task at hand was to put away the killer then take on the task of cleaning up the police department. The film also uses a cleaned up revisionist history look at the reaction, emphasizing that the cheering wasn't for O.J. getting off. It was that O.J. beat the system. Not that a black lawyer beat the system. They celebrated a murderer getting off just because he was black. If he was white they would not be celebrating.

Also as being a white person who isn't perfect but fights constantly to be as equality minded. I do get a little tired of black people telling me I don't understand and I don't have to live it every day. No I don't, but it won't ever change if blacks don't let go of the victim mentality and keep beating us over the heads with how bad slavery was and the treatment of blacks in history. It's history now, we are ashamed of our ancesters, let us treat you equally without holding the race issue over our heads. Some of us are really trying.

Mark Keeney
Kansas City, Missouri

Dear FRONTLINE,

I have to be honest and say that until your show last night, I did not get the Black reaction to this case. For reference, I'm a middle-aged white woman living in the suburbs. I have always believed myself to be intelligent, observant and empathetic. I also pride myself on being able to look at all sides of a story. But I have to tell you, I apparently just didn't get it. I assumed the jubilation was because most blacks believed OJ was innocent. Granted, he wasn't proven guilty beyond the shadow of a reasonable doubt, and hence, the verdict was as it should have been. But to think he was innocent....?

It simply never occurred to me that a lot of this had nothing to do with OJ's guilt or innocence. Seeing all those folks cheering really gave me pause. I can't believe that they are intellectually or morally any different than I am, so how could all those people have had such a different reaction to this than I did? The only conclusion I can come to is that they bring a different experience to the situation. That there could be such a massive divide between people who, other than their race, aren't that much different was a real wake-up call to me.

However, I'm confused about what my reaction should be. If I treat Black people differently because of this, I feel that that will do nothing but help propagate the differences. If I treat Black people the same, will I be somehow dishonoring them? Yikes! Life shouldn't be this hard.

Eileen La Chance
Beaverton, OR

Dear FRONTLINE,

I remember how happy I was when the verdict was announced. I didn't know if OJ was guilty (I now lean more towards innocence - evidence planting, bad handling of DNA evidence: if you don't have these what else is there to the case?), but I was happy that, for once, there actually was a trial; and, for once, the black man was aquitted of a crime against two white people.

There was a time, that OJ would have been found guilty no matter what. Yes, he was found innocent because he had the money to pay for the best legal defense. But, there was a time when even that wouldn't have been enough. As an African-American woman, the OJ verdict showed me that some progress has been made. Some progress has been made; and, perhaps there is hope for our future yet.

In response to several previous postings: It is untrue to claim that the response of black people to the verdict and the lack of white understanding of that response broadened the racial divide. There is a gulf of misunderstanding, hatred, condescention and guilt that divides this country (and not just the black against the white). Nothing can move us further apart than we already are.

What will bring us together, however, is a true understanding and acceptance of the role that race has played in the history of our country and the role that it plays today. Katrina could not have happened if the lives of those people were valued in the same way as the lives of the wealthy white folks in places like Potomac, MD. Pres. Bush would say that he doesn't value one group more than the other. I am sure that he believes it. But, one death would have been unacceptable in Potomac, MD. 964 deaths simply wouldn't have been allowed to happen.

Tisha R
Crofton, MD

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posted oct. 4, 2005

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