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the o.j. verdict


Discussion Questions

Featured Lesson Plan
  • Re-Creating The Era Of The Trial
  • Student Handout: The Main Characters and Issues of the Case
  • Student Handout: Viewing Guide: Focus on Issues and People
  • Student Handout: "Dinner Guest: Me" by Langston Hughes

  • Additional Lesson Ideas
  • Examining Race through Poetry
  • Creative Responses to Invisible Man
  • Parallels and Differences: Exploring the Rodney King Trial

  • Additional Resources

    Printable .pdf of Entire Guide
    (Adobe Acrobat required)

    » Lesson Plan

    Re-Creating The Era Of The Trial

    » Lesson Objectives:

    Students will:

    • Become familiar with the main points of the accusation against O.J. Simpson and the prosecution and defense strategies
    • Become familiar with the issues of race that lie behind the trial and the reaction to the verdict

    » Materials Needed:

    Internet Access
    A copy of the documentary: The O.J. Verdict
    Student Handouts/Viewing Guide

    » Time Needed:

    • 30-45 minutes to look at and discuss the images in the Discussion Questions (the preparation part of this can be done at home)
    • 30-45 minutes to familiarize themselves with the facts of the trial and to read the excerpt from Playing the Race Card: Melodramas of Black and White from Uncle Tom to O. J. Simpson by Linda Williams (can be done at home)
    • 60 minutes to watch the film
    • 45-60 minutes for each of three groups to consult and present their information to each other and to vote on a verdict
    • 30-45 minutes to discuss the class' verdict and to compare their verdict to the jury's verdict
    • 45 minutes (out of class possible) to write editorials if they and the teacher choose.

    » Procedure:

    1. The class as a whole will prepare for viewing the film by familiarizing themselves with the main points of the accusation and the trial, using the following Web sites:
      Chronology of the murder and trial:

      Biographies of O.J. Simpson:

      Court TV's "Crime Library" narrative of the trial
    2. Everyone will read a short selection (provided on Student Handout: The Main Characters and Issues of the Case) from Playing the Race Card: Melodramas of Black and White from Uncle Tom to O. J. Simpson by Linda Williams.

    3. Students will then break into three groups before they watch the film. To facilitate attentive note taking, each group will be assigned people and issues to focus on. Although all students will receive the entire viewing guide, students will be responsible only for responding to the issues and people in the group to which they have been assigned. Note that the Jeffrey Toobin quotation appears in all three groups. (Student Handout: The Main Characters and Issues of the Case follows.)

    4. After watching the film, the groups will present their people and issues.

      • A whole-class discussion will follow (or might, since the issue is highly charged, occur during the group presentations), after which students will vote, by secret ballot, on Simpson's guilt or innocence. Refer to URL: [http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/teach/divided/assignment1.html#note] for ideas about facilitating this charged discussion.

      • After the vote (and the results will differ from school to school), students will discuss what factors influenced them and what factors they believe influenced the actual jury. They will probably focus on the role of race, class and culture in the decision.

    » Lesson Extensions:

    Invite students to discuss or write about any or all of the following statements:

    • In a society whose court system is based on the notion that a person is innocent until proven guilty, the prosecution bore the burden of proof in the O.J. Simpson trial. Did they successfully make their case?
    • On two occasions, people in the film note that the Los Angeles Police Department "framed a guilty man." What are the implications of that statement? Do you agree with the statement? Explain.
    • Write an essay analyzing and assessing the following statement: "The O.J. Simpson case is important because of what it represented, not because of O.J. himself."

    » Method of Assessment:

    • Completion of note sheets and viewer guides
    • Participation in discussions
    • Editorial for a national newspaper applauding or decrying the verdict in the O.J. Simpson case
    • Editorial for the school newspaper about the source of racial or ethnic issues in school, including suggestions for possible solutions

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