Your season opening piece on the O.J. Simpson Trial brought out one very important aspect of this modern day tragedy. However it completely ignored other equally important parts of this story.
I am not saying that given the tainted evidence that was presented to the jury, that the jury was wrong not to convict Simpson. I am saying that people who cheered for a familialcidal murderer beating the justice system and going free, without apology or remorse, are at least partially as guilty of this crime as was the defendant. The lawyers who defended him did their job, but they are not heroes.
Coverage of this story by Frontline was one sided, biased and the worst type of journalism, only examining facts and assumptions that supported your predetermined premise that the most important outcome of the O.J. Simpson trial was its exposure of racism in the legal system and in America.
This is not news. For decades people have been trying to bring inequities and racism in the legal system to light. And for decades women of color have been conflicted between working for women's rights and remaining loyal to their communities and men who sometimes have turned to abuse. What is news, is the public endorsement by the black community of a man getting away with murdering and abusing his wife, and gaining custody of his children including his daughter, after committing and lying about such a brutal crime.
Did it occur to you the damage this trial did to America's children's sense of justice and trust in the law? My children learned that if you are rich and powerful enough in America, you can not only get away with murder but you will be rewarded by gaining custody of the children whose mother you brutally murdered. That if you are a white woman abused by a powerful black man, you have no recourse or rights. That if a public figure and successful black role model like O.J. Simpson commits a heinous crime and then lies, rather than showing remorse or trying to make amends, not only will he be returned to society unscathed, but he will be publicly cheered in the process. That the media has no standards of decency when it comes to exploiting tragedy and scandal.
I just don't understand how so many of us are still baffled and confused about the question of race. It has always been here and it probably always will until we all understand we are all under the same thumb. The issue is one of class and the underclass (lower through middle) has always been duped into fighting amongst themselves for crumbs that fall from the table of the upperclass. So O.J. is just another metaphor for our society, one where the only color that anyone really cares about is green.
As an African American woman, I too celebrated in the verdict rendered in the O.J. Simpson trial. As did many Americans, including many African Americans, I believed that Mr. Simpson shared responsibility, at some level, for the deaths of Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman. However, based on the evidence presented at the trial and the reasonable doubt that was raised by Mr. Simpson's defense team, a not guilty verdict was inevitable.
It mattered not what one's gut feelings were nor how one had prejudged the defendent or predetermined the outcome. The only thing that mattered was the integrity and credibility of the evidence, which unfortunately for some, did not bode well in the prosecutor's favor. Although the jury's ultimate decision did not reflect my personal suspicions or convictions, it nonetheless reflected the ideals of our justice system in which one is innocent until proven guilty BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT.
I did not celebrate the decision because Mr. Simpson is black, nor did I celebrate because I believed Mr. Simpson to be innocent. I celebrated a justice system that worked in spite of my own suspicions, in spite of the racial implications that surrounded this case, and even in spite of the history of injustice that has preceded it.
Hazel Crest, Illinois
Like David Margolick, I also believe that "white America has always underestimated the racial divide." One only need ask African Americans (as I frequently have as white person living in a majority black city) to understand just how divided we really are. From the economy and wealth (who controls it), to history (read: slavery) and health (i.e, the fairness of the health care delivery system and the origins of HIV), the opinions and notions of most black (not to speak of other non-whites)and white Americans different greatly.
White America shouldn't have been shocked by the O.J. verdict.We should be shocked that similar verdicts (and worst) haven't been rendered more often, as a result of our persistant racism.
For another perspective: I was teaching in an all white rural midwestern high school ten years ago. When the OJ verdict was announced, the all white teen population was jubilant. Color was not the issue. They didn't want to admit that their hero was fallible.
Boulder , CO
I have never had anger over the O.J. verdict but rather total lack of understanding always thinking "How could you not find him guilty?" I have read several books about the trial over the years, again always wanting that proof to come out finally that yes he did it. When seeing O.J. being interviewed my hope has always been that he slip up and reveal himself, that yes he is guilty. This desire for admission of guilt contributed to me not being able to see and understand what was really going on with the trial.
After watching this program, and watching the discussions I can say I FINALLY GET IT. I totally understand the reactions of the black community. I continue to feel no anger but have genuine feelings of relief in my understanding. The program gave validity to the reactions of the black community.
This was an excellent program. I wanted to be at the round table to enter in to the discussion with all of the women.
Thank you for the program.
FRONTLINE's editors respond:
The women's roundtable is a video streamed conversation with professional, middle class African American women in L.A. about the verdict, the trial, the domestic violence issue -- and why it didn't impress the jury -- and more. You can watch it off the homepage of this site.
What the special about the Simpson trial did not say about white America was that the verdict was believed to have been a racial set-aside (jury nullification) that was achieved by a legal system that avocates winning over than discerning the truth of a situation. The impression was that the system was clearly different for a defendant that had money to afford a "Dream" team of highly proficient lawyers.
The show also did a disservce of not showing the court for the circus it eventually became (although there was ample evidence that the addition of cameras in the court gave everyone in it the inclination to mug for the camera) for all involved. Nothing changes the fact that two people were murdered and the image that Black America had, of cheering their probable murderer (although now I know that they were cheering a clever black lawyer "beating the system" that had hurt so many of them) has made many white Americans suspect them of many dark thoughts. This explains the flight of white middle and upper class from Los Angeles (which hurts it finanically to this day).
Racism needs a forum, and this was an easy one to take. But the show was clearly simplistic (and therefore inaccurate) about what really happened to 'White' Americans, as opposed to what happened to 'Black' Americans. This is what I take issue with about this special. I may be white and therefore may never be able to understand 'racism' but I've been poor and I've seen the difference with which poor people and rich people are treated. Simpson was rich and so got a different standard of justice and THAT was the lesson that White America took from the Simpson case!
I agree with Mr. Walsh that Frontline's overlooking the impact of Mr. Simpson's financial superiority over the prosecution was a serious omission. Even the defense's Mr. Cochran was quoted as saying, "The color of justice is green."
Also, you never explained WHY the jury thought that domestic abuse was irrelevant. Speaking of racism, would they have paid more attention to that aspect had Nicole Simpson been African-American? Or, as some have said elsewhere, was it that the prosecusion was handicapped by Judge Ito's exclusions and couldn't show the importance?
By the way, last year I team-taught an entire semester's college seminar on the Simpson trial, backed by tons of textual and Internet information from all angles as well as a visit from prosecution attorney Christopher Darden. At the end, all teachers and students agreed: no matter what our personal beliefs, we would have been forced to find the defendant Not Guilty.
What are the odds that OJ is guilty?
I had to offer 10-1 odds to get action on this and I ended up wagering $30,000 to make $3,000. My brokerage firm jumped all over the action once I offered 10-1 odds to prove my conviction in the faith that I had in the American judicial system and the clear line between right and wrong. I had taken no interest in the trial and was blind sided by the impact of "race card" defense. Once I had my bets laid out an hour before the verdict, I began to get nervous, so I called a friend to try and lay off the bet with a bookie. He quoted 10-1 odds that OJ was not guilty. I told him to keep me posted and he periodically called me back to inform me that the odds were shrinking rapidly. I never laid off the bet and the odds were even money just before the verdict. I knew right there that I was going to lose and OJ would dive into the end zone for the biggest score of his life. I wonder how much money was wagered and if those where the correct odds used by bookies around the world. It would make a good story. By the way, I lost my innocence that day and no longer believe in a fine line between good and evil.
New York, New York
The OJ verdict was not outrageous, considering the police misconduct. When Furman was proved to be a racist, all police claims became suspect. Not brought out was the fact Fuhrman had responded to abuse complaints at the Simpsons, so could have operated under the conviction that Simpson was guilty and he was NOT GOING TO LET HIM GET AWAY WITH IT. Police under those circumstances could and would plant evidence. The time line was almost impossible- for Simpson to commit this attrocious crime, clean up, and get on that plane within 30-40 minutes.
I'm an Ivy League educated guy who doesn't get belligerant with anyone, yet I've witnessed a Rodney King police beating (much worse- 4 at once beating a black handcuffed guy on the head); I've been attacked, terrorized, and seriously injured by drunk, crazy, or sadistic cops; and seen police lie on the stand like a hypnotist, smoothly, slickly, and utterly persuasively. I can't even imagine how badly blacks are treated. The system is, as Il. Gov. George Ryan said, "rotten to the core." [Look what's happening to him, perhaps as punishment for commuting Illin. death sentences.]
At the same time, having lived in the ghetto, blacks are sometimes as racist as whites, and fully capable of supporting some vicious predatory scumbag of their own race over an innocent white victim.
Providence, Rhode Island
To this day, I don't believe he'd murder the mother of his children. The cheers of the African-American people when OJ was deemed 'not guilty', to me felt justified. I didn't believe he did it. Frontline gave me a whole new perspective. I still believe he is not guilty.
The new perspective I saw was that of African-Americans cheering for a guilty man being freed because he was black. I realize that I am in a minority believing, still, in OJs' innocence. Every time I hear an OJ joke confirming his guilt, I'd like to vomit....not at guilt or innocence, but at the lack of faith, (especially in the black community), in our justice system.
I don't believe the black community ever thought Simpson was innocent. As pointed out in the program they saw it as justice for many wrongs done to them; but such celebrations only further polarize race relations. Any reasonable human being should condemn murder regardless of race, class, gender, religion, age or any other characteristic that separates us.
To celebrate the acquittal of a probable murderer because he is symbolic of a larger problem only emphasizes and reinforces the Us vs. Them mentality. It justifies the belief of some people that "They don't think like we do" or "They don't have the same regard for human life as us." It only serves to make racism a little easier for those who already hold such beliefs and, worst of all, may win them a few converts.
There is one thing that we know for sure after ten years and that is that two murder victims are still dead, and in ten more years they will still be dead while a murderer was let go free in the name of racism!!! I'm not sure if our country will ever start getting honest with itself again but I'm afraid that if we don't we wont last much longer.
Upon hearing of the murders of Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman, my first thought was that someone close to either victim must have perpetrated this heinous crime. During the trial I was convinced that O.J. committed the crime himself or he was connected in some way. To this day still believe he was involved.
Being a black woman I know of many blacks that believe O.J. is guilty of something in connnection with this crime. Regardless of the facts, I do not know of many blacks that will openly and readily admit to a white person, their belief in O.J.'s culpability.
Our judicial system was not designed to dispense justice upon what a group of people felt or believed to be true. If beliefs or feelings were proof enough for a guilty verdict there would be innocent people in prisons all across this country. Thankfully our system was designed too dispense justice based upon the preponderance of evidence presented by the government.
What white america does not like is not that the judicial system failed, but instead it worked for the wrong team. Unfortunately two beautiful lives were taken and a mad man walks amongst us, and yes in this case justice was done.
Thank you very much again for a terrific program that i hope will have a positive impact on racial discourse in America. I am one of those African Americans who to this day is glad that Mr. Simpson was found Not-Guilty. I am glad that the criminal justice system worked the same way its worked for decades in favour of White Men.