'Legal battle of century' an invasion of the senses


September 22, 1994|By Kevin Cowherd | Kevin Cowherd,Sun Staff Writer

Hyperbole reigns as never before. The president proposes to send a naval battle group and 20,000 troops against a tiny Caribbean nation whose army consists of 14 guys waving machetes, and it's labeled an "invasion."

Now the O. J. Simpson murder trial -- jury selection is scheduled to begin Monday -- is being called the "legal battle of the century." Of course, this is also what they called the famous Scopes trial of 1925, where courtroom titans William Jennings Bryan and Clarence Darrow argued the right of John T. Scopes to teach the theory of evolution in public schools.

Let's see how the two trials stack up:

Defendant as tragic figure

Scopes trial: Scopes reviled for breaking Tennessee law mandating that only the biblical account of the Creation be taught.

O.J. Simpson trial: O.J. draws snickers for role in horrid "Naked Gun" movies, which defense cites as evidence of a troubled mind.

Effect on trial venue

Scopes trial: Bible-thumpers, snake-worshipers, etc., pour into sleepy Dayton, Tenn., along with 50 newspaper correspondents.

O.J. Simpson trial: About 3,000 media members descend on L.A. and the downtown Marriott promptly cancels free Happy Hour buffet of Buffalo wings, steamed shrimp.

Journalism heavyweights

Scopes trial: H. L. Mencken of The Evening Sun files brilliant dispatches filled with insight and bombast.

O.J. Simpson trial: Taking notes in gallery, "Entertainment Tonight's" Leeza Gibbons whispers to colleague: "How do you spell 'evidence' "?

Memorable diversions

Scopes trial: Famed orator Bryan rivets spectators with thunderous preaching on the Bible.

O.J. Simpson trial: Dan Rather and Sam Donaldson brawl after arriving in identical safari jackets.

Memorable quotes

Scopes trial: "I begin to realize what life must have been like in Judea 1,925 years ago."

H.L. Mencken

O.J. Simpson trial: "I had a Quarter-Pounder with cheese that night, man. It was great!"

-- Kato

Prosecution's resume

Scopes trial: Bryan runs three times unsuccessfully for U.S. presidency.

TH O.J. Simpson trial: Marcia Clark visits Hair Cuttery three times for

help with out-of-control perm, now thought to be nesting sight for endangered piping plovers.

Pre-trial defense preparation

Scopes trial: Darrow tirelessly researches Darwin's theory that man has evolved from monkeys.

O.J. Simpson trial: Robert Shapiro poses in Jacuzzi for People despite wolverine-thick chest and back hair.

Defense strategy

Scopes trial: Darrow attacks fundamentalism, the belief that words of the Bible should be taken literally.

O.J. Simpson trial: When prosecution brings up bloody glove found on Simpson property, blood spots in driveway, damning DNA report, etc., Mr. Shapiro says: "Picky, picky, picky."

Pivotal moment

Scopes trial: Darrow cross-examines Bryan, who astounds courtroom with his statement that man is not a mammal.

O.J. Simpson trial: After testimony about O.J.'s wife-beating, his flight in the white Ford Bronco, etc., Mr. Shapiro says: "If we're going to bring up every little thing . . ."

Legal denouement

Scopes trial: Bryan revealed to be "profoundly uninformed on biological science."

O.J. Simpson trial: Mr. Shapiro stuns veteran law observers by asking Judge Lance A. Ito: "What exactly is a DNA report?

Bombshell incident

Scopes trial: Bryan collapses and dies three days after trial.

O.J. Simpson trial: Getaway driver Al Cowlings, in a classy move, reveals he dated porn actress Jennifer Peace.

Historic outcome

Scopes trial: Scopes found guilty; Tennessee law on teaching of evolution remains in effect until 1967.

O.J. Simpson trial: Kato is stunning upset winner in California gubernatorial race; exit polls indicate voters enamored with surfer jargon and vague testimony.

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