Simpson experts lack requisite criminal past

July 20, 1994|By MIKE ROYKO

If there's a lack of balance in the news coverage of the O.J. Simpson affair, it shows in the choice of legal experts and commentators hired by the TV networks.

There are a few prosecutors and judges. But most of the experts are criminal defense lawyers who gained fame and wealth by winning freedom for assorted nasties and slimeballs.

Because they are defense-minded, they see the trial as an elaborate game in which motions to suppress evidence and aiming zingy questions at nervous witnesses are more important than getting at the truth.

At times, they have formed a virtual cheering section for Simpson's lawyers, while almost hissing the police and the prosecution for having the sheer gall to look for evidence and clues.

To hear them tell it, if a cop does something more than write a parking ticket, he borders on fascism.

What they say is interesting and even educational. But if there is to be a balance, it seems to me that the networks ought to have some cops as expert commentators.

During a break in the action, it might be refreshing to hear some experienced street dick say to one of the criminal lawyers:

"Well, counselor, when I arrive at a crime scene and there is a dead woman with her head almost lopped off, and a dead guy with more holes than a shish kebab, the first thing I think of is, 'Who the hell did this and how can I find him?' That's where our jobs are different. The first thing you think of is, 'Who did it, how can I get him off the hook, and can he pay?' "

And since this is a criminal case, the most glaring omission should be obvious: None of the commentators are criminals. Or if they are, they haven't been caught yet.

If you watch football on TV, you know that at least one expert member of every broadcast team is an ex-football player. The same is true of most baseball and basketball broadcasts. But here we have a criminal case that is being broadcast much like a major sports event, with breaks in the action and expert color commentary, but not even one of the commentators is a criminal.

If there is anything we have no shortage of in our population, it is criminals. I'm sure that some would be available for color commentary, probably for a lesser fee than the defense lawyers are getting.

And they are probably paying more attention to this case than anyone else in America is.

In fact, I have heard from one prison inmate with views on the Simpson affair.

He is Jimmy Ray Blackwell Sr., who is doing a stretch in the Rowan Correctional Center, near Charlotte, N.C., for a firearms conviction.

He wrote: "I am currently in solitary confinement for assaulting another inmate, and I have been keeping up with the Simpson ordeal through the Charlotte Observer newspaper.

"I know that my thoughts and opinions don't count for nothing because I have been in and out of the prison system for the past 14 years.

"I know and have met men that have done the same kind of crime that Simpson is accused of. The guys I know wasn't rich and wasn't no football superstar, and were sentenced to die for their crimes.

"What I've seen so far is all about Simpson and how he feels. Well, what about that beautiful Nicole and the innocent waiter and how they felt? No one is speaking of them. They are the ones people should be grieving for.

"I know that if I had killed two other humans, I would definitely receive the death penalty. Sometimes I don't understand this system at all. Just because he is some famous dude, is it OK for the rich and famous to kill and they don't have to worry?

"They tell me that if I get three felonies, I automatically get life and no ifs and buts about it.

"But the way this is going, somebody is going to come up with O.J. Day.

"Well, thanks for listening."

And if other criminals read this column and have opinions on this case, don't hesitate to drop me a line.

Why should lawyers be the only ones whose voices are heard? After all, if lawyers are so smart, how come Jimmy Ray is in solitary confinement?

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