OJ Simpson now sits behind bars in the Lovelock Correctional Center in Nevada, the result of a lapse in judgement of epic proportions. He was charged for armed robbery and kidnapping in an attempt to recoup, in strong arm fashion, some valuable memorabilia that he claimed belonged to him, for which he was sentenced in 2008 to 33 years with having to serve a minimum of nine years.
For some people, this was considered poetic justice as it wasn’t the first time Orenthal James Simpson allowed his tempter to get the best of him.
According to a certain narrative, OJ is a psychopath who brutally murdered two innocent people; ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman.
Although he was never convicted of a crime in connection to those deaths, today a great percentage of the U.S. population who are familiar in some part with this crime believe he did it. To be certain, the dynamics of race and class played to the American psyche better than puppies and apple pie ever could. Journalism careers were created in the maelstrom of blood, guts and personality.
On this day in 1997, a civil jury in California found The Juice liable in the death of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman. Goldman's parents were awarded $8.5 million in compensatory damages.
The television series, “The People v. OJ Simpson” debuted with rave reviews and an all-star cast featuring Cuba Gooding, Jr., Courtney Vance, John Travolta, Sarah Paulson, David Schwimmer and Kenneth Choi, among others, and directed by Anthony Hemingway and Ryan Murphy.
Like the high ratings FX enjoyed when the mini-series premiered, the actual trial and the subsequent media circus that ensued made a travesty out of what was supposed to be justice. The defense lawyers and prosecutors were popular household names. Judge Ito’s signature beard and glasses gained a celebrity unto themselves as well. Marsha Clark, Rob Kardashian, Johnnie Cochran, Mark Furman, F. Lee Bailey and many others gained infamy.
But what was not lost on the conscientious observer was the more theatrical the trial became, the more it seemed to favor the narrative of the defense.
And it was pretty hairy from the start. The moment OJ was allowed to flee, albeit slowly, from LAPD in the Bronco the entire criminal justice system was beholden to nothing but theatrics. OJ offering a $500,000 reward to find the “real killers”, Cochran’s “If the glove don’t fit, you must acquit”, the alleged racism of LAPD officer Mark Fuhrman, Kato Kaelin’s hair, the conspiracy that said Nicole was killed by drug dealers whom she owed money to, all a sick, sad freak show.
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Like watching a slow motion train wreck, it was impossible for the world to look away. Then, once the verdict of acquittal was announced, the nasty underbelly of our country was revealed as white people were way too mad that a black man appeared to have gotten away with murdering two white people, and black America was way too happy about OJ, who had long since shunned the affections of the African-American community, had gotten off.
It was all a test. A test on race, class and privilege. One we all failed.