The O.J. Verdict
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Peter Arenella

A law professor at UCLA Law School, Peter Arenella was a legal consultant to ABC News during the Simpson trial. In this interview, he disputes the prevailing opinion that the jurors' race influenced their decision and takes the media to task for encouraging the public's rush to judgment after the verdict. "[The jury] isn't supposed to do what the public wants. They're supposed to reach a verdict based only on the evidence before them," says Arenella. "That's what the Simpson jury did, and they were absolutely crucified for [it.]" He criticizes the way the media discussed the role of race in the trial, and summarizes the overall negative affect the media had on the criminal justice system, saying it turned the process into a "Roman circus" for "mass entertainment" where the audience acted as the "thirteenth juror." This interview was conducted on April 1, 2005.

Kimberle Williams Crenshaw

Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw is a professor of law at Columbia University and the UCLA Law School. In this interview, she explains how the dynamics of race played out throughout the Simpson case and why the trial's ramifications suggest to her that America is a "post-apartheid society." A close observer of the trial, she also addresses some of its key issues, including Detective Mark Fuhrman's bigotry, the scientific evidence, and the charge made that the defense used the "monstrous defense" of race. "Yes," Crenshaw tells producer Ofra Bikel, "[that charge] was another eye-opening moment ... when the vast difference in ideology, in consciousness about race between whites and African Americans was made apparent." This interview was conducted on April 22, 2005.

Alan Dershowitz

A member of the Simpson defense team, Alan Dershowitz is a professor at Harvard University Law School. Here, he discusses why the case became "all-consuming," the strategies of prosecution and defense, and why the verdict so divided the country. In the end, he says, the justice system not only worked, it worked "too well." The trial, he tells FRONTLINE, "shows what the defense is capable of doing if they have the ability to use all of the constitutional protections that are given them by the Bill of Rights ... what can happen if the defense has access to the best experts and lawyers. So it showed ... that in fact the system will operate on the principle of better 10 guilty go free than one innocent be wrongly convicted. And you know what? The public doesn't like the system. The public much prefers the old system in which the prosecution really doesn't have to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. ..." This interview was conducted on April 12, 2005.

michael eric dyson

Michael Eric Dyson is a professor of humanities at the University of Pennsylvania and the author of numerous books about race in America, including Is Bill Cosby Right?, an analysis of the comedian's recent criticism of the African American community. In this interview, Dyson explains the divergent ways in which whites and blacks saw the Simpson trial and argues that it was the prosecution, and not the defense, who first played the infamous "race card". He also explores the possibility that the jury's verdict was, in part, a form of "payback," but explains that the case was not just about O.J. but about generations of black men unfairly prosecuted by the justice system. "I think that what white America failed to realized with the quick jury deliberation, [was that] black people had been deliberating far longer than the O.J. Simpson case" says Dyson. "So the quickness appeared in the O.J. Simpson case, but it took about 250 years to come up with that jury verdict." This interview was conducted on March 21, 2005.

William Hodgman

As assistant district attorney for the city of Los Angeles, Willliam Hodgman was one of the lead prosecutors, arguing pretrial motions and working on the jury selection process. However, in late January 1995, he took on a less prominent role due to health reasons. In this interview, he explains the prosecution's reasons for making Simpson's domestic violence a key part of their case -- and one that had little impact on the jury -- as well as their decision to use Detective Mark Fuhrman, despite knowing about his previous racist remarks. Hodgman discusses how, in retrospect, he might have handled the case differently, but feels it probably would have mattered little in the end. He believes the public, and possibly the jurors, were seeking "payback." "This is cognitive dissonance: this feeling, this sentiment that somehow the score was going to be even by acquitting O.J.," Hodgman tells FRONTLINE. "I have no idea if those jurors ... felt that maybe O.J. did it, but that they were simply going to let him go -- a jury nullification -- or, if they really carefully deliberated and felt that somehow the evidence was inadequate." This interview was conducted on April 4, 2005.

Charles J. Ogletree Jr.

A former criminal defense lawyer, Charles Ogletree is the Jesse Climenko Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and the director of the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice. He watched the Simpson trial from beginning to end and believes one of its key lessons is "the public misunderstands what the criminal justice system is all about." He explains why the trial was "a classic example" of the system working, why Johnnie Cochran was the real reason blacks celebrated, and why the media should get a failing grade for its coverage. And, 10 years on, Ogletree assesses the legacy."One of the permanent ramifications is that no minds will be changed about what happened because people are so deeply committed to their views about what happened and who did it. That's the unfortunate result of the case, but it's a necessary result, because people deeply feel that they have it right, even if they disagree with what the evidence produced and what the jury decided is the appropriate verdict." This interview was conducted on April 12, 2005.

Jeffrey Toobin

A former prosecutor and currently a staff writer for The New Yorker, Toobin secured a seat at the trial, spent two years covering the legal battles, and subsequently wrote a book about it, The Run of His Life. In this interview, he talks about the strategy of Simpson's legal team and how he himself became a controversial part of the story when he wrote an article suggesting that the defense team would stoop to using the "race card" in order to win. Here,Toobin offers his thoughts about the national obsession over the story, why the issue of race is ultimately the only thing that matters about the case, and why he believes the jury, while sincere, was dead wrong. "There was enough evidence in this case to convict O.J. Simpson 10 times over. There wasn't reasonable doubt in this case." This interview was conducted on April 22, 2005.

Scott turow

Scott Turow is an attorney and author of many bestselling legal thrillers, including Burden of Proof and Presumed Innocent. Here, he discusses some of the twists and turns in the case, whether justice was done, and why, if he were a law professor teaching the O.J. trial in a course, he would have a lot to draw on -- from America's racial divide and the place of law in the culture, to basic lessons in policing and what not to do in the courtroom. Assessing the Simpson case's legacy, Turow says one of them is that it left Americans with a far more complex understanding of what happens in a criminal courtroom. "It's not just guilty-as-hell defendant who walks out the door because he's got some shyster lawyer who walks him through a loophole. In point of fact, you've got lying cops and bumbling prosecutors and confused judges as well as good defense lawyers who raise a lot of questions, many of them legitimate." This interview was conducted on April 26, 2005.

Gerald Uelmen

A member of the defense team, and a former dean and current professor of law at Santa Clara University in California, Uelmen's role was to prepare and argue all the defense motions regarding what evidence should be kept out of the trial and what should be admitted. He offers here a concise overview of the legal battles and the reasons why the public didn't see the same trial as did the jury. He also talks about the public backlash he personally felt following the verdict, the trial's ramifications on Los Angeles and the legal system, and why he uses the Simpson trial to teach the law. "I use it all the time, especially in teaching a course in evidence, because we litigated virtually every section of the California evidence code in that trial. And the evidentiary presentations and rulings were just models ... for students to learn." This interview was conducted on April 7, 2005.

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posted oct. 4, 2005

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