Simpson needs a verdict before profiting from book

January 11, 1995|By ROGER SIMON

O. J. Simpson could not help himself.

He was in the grip of an irresistible impulse.

He had to write a book.

If he hadn't, he was in danger of becoming the only person not to.

Faye Resnick spent six weeks on the New York Times best-seller list with "Nicole Brown Simpson: The Private Diary of a Life Interrupted."

Two quickie paperbacks, "O. J. Simpson: American Hero, American Tragedy" and "Fallen Hero" had a shorter run on the list, but did well.

"Juice: The O. J. Simpson Tragedy" has sold about 125,000 copies and soon to be released is "Raging Heart: The Intimate Story of the Tragic Marriage of O. J. and Nicole Brown Simpson."

In addition, a book has just been published giving hints on how to watch the trial on television.

"The Trial of O. J. -- How to Watch the Trial and Understand What's Really Going On" has been written by a lawyer whose previous claim to fame was being the legal consultant to "L. A. Law."

According to a press release, his book reveals that the prosecution "must go first" and "to get a conviction the prosecution must convince all 12 jurors."

This will cost you $7.95.

So you can see why Simpson could wait no longer: His life was in danger of being sold out from under him, including by people who have never met him.

And from his 7-by-9-foot cell in Men's Central Jail, where he has already worked his fingers to the bone autographing more than 2,800 football trading cards (which were selling for $1,000 each as of last August) he has written (or dictated or been told about) a book.

It is titled "I Want to Tell You: My Response To Your Letters, Messages, Your Questions," and it will sell for $17.95 in hardcover.

Simpson reportedly will receive a $1 million advance for the book, which is considerably less than Newt Gingrich was offered for his book but considerably more than most accused double murderers get.

The book, which will be published soon by Little, Brown, raises an intriguing question: Does a man accused of two gruesome murders deserve to make money from the alleged killings?

There are "Son of Sam" laws, named for the infamous New York serial killer, in a number of states, including California, that prevent a convicted felon from profiting from his crimes.

But Simpson has not been convicted.

And since the law presumes him to be innocent, shouldn't he be able to cash in along with everybody else?

Well, yes. Because if he is innocent, he not only has been terribly wronged, he not only has been denied his liberty, but he has also lost his ex-wife to a murderer who still walks the streets (but apparently has been lying low since Simpson's arrest).

But what if Simpson is found guilty?

In that case, he should not be allowed to profit from his crimes.

There is one problem with Simpson's book advance, however: By the time a verdict can be rendered, Simpson may have already paid the money to his high-priced legal team.

And don't hold your breath waiting for the lawyers to give the money back.

According to California law (and most laws are drafted by lawyers and voted on by lawyers), defense lawyers can get paid from book profits whether the defendant is guilty or innocent.

And, gee, how surprising that lawyers would take care of themselves first.

But this is wrong. This is not just. It not only rewards murder, but cheats those who deserve the money: the families of the victims, especially Nicole and O. J.'s children.

And, therefore, I believe Judge Lance Ito should order all money from Simpson's book held in a trust until a verdict has been handed down.

If Simpson is found innocent, he should be given the dough and can pay his lawyers with it.

But if Simpson is found guilty, the money should go to the families.

Simpson has been quoted saying of his new book: "This is not my biography; this is my response to the public's response to me, to my pain, to my suffering."

But somebody should remind him that he is not the only one who has felt pain and is suffering.

There are two people lying in graves and two families who have suffered plenty.

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