Saturday, December 6, 2008
Thirteen years ago, former football star and celebrity O.J. Simpson got away with murder. I remember that day well, and listening to the verdict on a car radio while most of America watched it on television.
I couldn't see it on TV because my then-fiancee Debbie and I were driving home from an appointment involving our wedding, which at that point was just four days away.
As the foreperson prepared to read the verdict we pulled over, and somewhere around Cottman Avenue and Roosevelt Boulevard, sitting in our car, we heard those incredibly unjust words.
Simpson had beaten the charges of murdering his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and a young man named Ron Goldman. He had nearly decapitated the mother of his children, and had gotten away with it thanks to an incredibly inept prosecution and a high-powered, highly competent, and expensive defense team.
Reaction to the verdict once again highlighted the racial disparity of America. Almost to a one, white Americans saw the verdict for the true injustice that it was. A cold-blooded killer with a history of spousal abuse had finally killed the woman, and now a jury had let him off despite overwhelming evidence of his guilt.
The large majority of black Americans instead cheered the verdict. They did so not as much for any belief in the innocence of O.J. himself, but because, as they saw it, an African-American had beaten a justice system that many of them felt had wrongly convicted innumerable blacks over the course of its history.
A black man had beaten the unjust system was how they saw it, and his own personal actions be damned. Of course that should be an embarrassing position for any black American to take. That is particularly so for any black woman who has ever been the victim of abuse and intimidation from a black man.
In any event, Simpson got away with murder that day. However, a civil jury in a later court action found him appropriately liable for the killings, and choked off his financial resources.
For his part, Simpson said that he would begin a search for "the real killers", and publicly set about said search on golf courses across America. He even had the unmitigated gall to write a book titled "I Did It" in which he described how he committed the murders.
The courts confiscated the book rights and turned them over to the families of the murder victims. Thus what was finally titled "If I Did It" was published, with proceeds going to the victim families. But Simpson himself continued to walk the golf courses of America for more than a decade as a free man.
In the recent case for which he has been found guilty, a verdict came down exactly 13 years to the day after his previous 'not guilty' verdict in the murder trial. It involved a completely separate incident.
Simpson was loaded for bear with a handgun when he and some associates raided a Las Vegas hotel room in an effort to take items of sports memorabilia which he claimed were his own. The jury in this case found him guilty of robbery and related charges which included the weapons charges.
This week, a judge sentenced the now 61-year old Simpson to between nine and 33 years in prison. In admonishing him after the sentencing, she stated that she could not tell during the trial if Simpson was "arrogant or ignorant, or both" and stated that she now knew the answer. That answer, of course, was that he is both.
The man known as 'The Juice' then squeezed out a few crocodile tears as he continued to proclaim his innocence. The fact of the matter is that O.J. Simpson is guilty as sin, and the fact that he was walking around for the last 13 years was a travesty of justice to Americans, an insult to the Brown and Goldman families, and an inexcusable spit on the graves of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman themselves.
That the arrogant and ignorant criminal murderer finally tripped up in his life to the extent that he could not wiggle his way out of it finally begins to set things right.
The two trials were unrelated, had nothing to do with one another, and yet it doesn't feel that way. It feels as if justice is finally being served. It feels as if a murderous killer who thumbed his nose at society is finally going to face the truth of a life behind bars that is the minimum he deserves.
As Goldman's father said yesterday, the verdict will not bring Ron and Nicole back. But what it does is put a killer where he belongs, behind bars, and for a long time.
Here is to hoping that he spends the rest of his life there before he has to stand before the ultimate judge at the end of his life. At that point, a billion Johnny Cochrane's won't help him escape final judgment.