I have written earlier here that, as an old and wise criminal defense lawyer, Tom Fagen, of Casper, Wyoming, once said to me, “You can never beat the big one.” He was referring to murder. He meant that a jury can acquit, or for other reasons an accused may never be convicted, but the accused cannot escape the consequences of his act. The murderer will end up destroyed in one way or another – if nothing more definitive than suffering a tortured, pain-filled life.
This axiom applies to O.J. I have always held mixed feelings about his acquittal for the murders of two innocent people. There is little doubt in my mind that he committed the murders. But I thought the verdict of acquittal was understandable given the tenor of the prosecution presented by Marcia Clark – in my opinion a display of prosecutorial behavior that encouraged a predominately black jury to acquit. I wrote about this in some detail in my book, O.J. the Last Word.
Given the state of the collective American mind that O.J. was guilty of murder, O.J. could never hope to get a fair trial anywhere in this country today, even if an angel magically descended and proclaimed him to be innocent.
I do not argue that in his most recent trial for robbery he was not guilty. Out of disinterest I have not followed the case nor examined the evidence. The verdict may have been justified. But he was still entitled to a fair trial in this latest case which, given the state of universal public opinion, he could not receive.
And then there is the societal need for vengeance, which is a black spot on all of us. If he was guilty was his guilt determined by an unprejudiced jury? I say there was zero chance to empanel such a jury in this country today. Despite his acquittal it has become a cultural truth that O.J. Simpson is a murderer and people generally celebrated his conviction in this latest case without the slightest idea of whether he was guilty of not.
Is it all right for a guilty person to be convicted by jurors who are prejudiced against him? If so, this exposes a serious defect in the system, one as antithetical to justice as one that permits a guilty person to escape.