2nd Year Law Student
The University of Dayton School of Law
Recently, the top news story on all three major news networks was the auction held to sell O.J. Simpson's few remaining possessions. The auction itself was not a surprise as his accusers truly want to see him pay the exceedingly ludicrous judgment. However, I did find rather surprising one auction participant who bought some of the items and then took them to city hall the next day and burned them.
This person's actions made me realize that some Americans may never get over their anger about Simpson's acquittal more than three years ago. But people are more than just upset, they are completely outraged. Their continual anger is especially a mystery to me as I am one of the few remaining people willing to publicly admit that Simpson was innocent. I once thought the anger many people felt about the Simpson acquittal would have subsided by now and those individuals would have found something to do with their lives.
My optimism was guided by the notion that when other celebrated trials ended in controversial verdicts and the public took their short time to vent their frustrations, the end result and relevant players became nothing more than a faint memory. For example, does anyone know or care what William Kennedy Smith, Christian Brando, or Bernard Goetz are doing today? No one got upset the multiple times John Gotti was acquitted before finally being sent to prison. Hell, Charles Manson and Ted Bundy combined never received this much attention. In those cases, much of the public vented their frustrations at the system for a few months and then returned to their regular lives.
For many reasons, the Simpson case seems to represent an entirely different problem. This case represented the first time the American public felt a black man "got off" for a crime without receiving any punishment. Many people believe he beat the justice system. Interestingly enough, the concept of Simpson beating the justice system has especially aggravated white America to such a degree that they feel they must watch his every move in hopes that someday he will slip up and finally ask forgiveness for the murders. Some people must be thinking, "If we follow him while he goes to get a fish sandwich, he just might tell us why he killed those poor two innocent, defenseless white people."
One prominent Cleveland attorney told me that White America would not be satisfied until Simpson was dead. I was naive enough to disbelieve her. I now believe this woman was quite perceptive. White America seems to have taken it very personally that Simpson is not groveling before them asking for mercy. I'm sure they feel pain every time a news camera shows him playing golf or walking out of his home. It's rather tragic many people, who never knew the victims or the accused, took this case so personally.
The real question which must be answered is why many people take the outcome so personally and want to see Simpson dead. What makes his case so different from the other aforementioned celebrated cases? Do some people not understand why the "reasonable doubt" standard is used in the criminal system? Are we, as a society, ready to toss the system created by my Founding Stepfathers just because some people do not like one jury's verdict? Perhaps this case will never die because it has provided more jobs to out-of-work and washed up trial attorneys as commentators that any other event in American history.
The Simpson case has taught minorities a very important lesson. No matter how the law is written, I will always be stopped more often by the police. I will always be the last recipient of a home loan. I will always cause white women to immediately clutch at their purses at the sight of me. Mere change of the laws, in isolation, will not alter people's conduct and attitudes. Until we can begin the dialogue about those views and potentially see past those dangerous attitudes, we cannot progress as a society.
Race, Racism and the Law
Vernellia R. Randall
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