No pity for O.J.

January 25, 1995|By Mona Charen

PITY THE unfortunate prosecutors in the O.J. Simpson case. The only thing they have going for them is the evidence.

There is a temptation among serious people to dismiss the trial of O.J. Simpson as a gaudy circus act. Certainly the attention of Larry King, Geraldo Rivera, the tabloids, Time, Newsweek and the rest has made it seem so. Nor does the show-biz defense team of strutting peacocks lend the trial an aura of gravity.

And yet, the outcome is important. If people do not have confidence in the proper administration of justice, the effect is deep demoralization.

There are multiple factors at play that point toward a mistrial for O.J. Simpson. Recent history has shown us that a jury is perfectly capable of concluding that unsubstantiated claims of abuse were sufficient to justify the cold-blooded murder of Mr. and Mrs. Menendez (the very wealthy couple) at the hands of their grown sons. Across the country, another jury similarly concluded that Lorena Bobbitt was justified in mutilating her husband, as he slept, in response to his brutal treatment of her.

Those cases were untainted by racial considerations. But there are reports that one member of the jury in the Simpson case has said that this is "payback time," referring to the first Rodney King verdict. If that can be proved, the juror will be replaced. But how many other jurors did he or she speak for?

Even before the DNA evidence (which is damning, in my `D judgment), the case against Mr. Simpson was simply overwhelming. He had a history of violence and obsessive jealousy toward his ex-wife. The violence was bad enough to cause her to fear for her life and say as much to a 911 operator. On the night she and her friend were killed, Mr. Simpson cannot account for his whereabouts. A chauffeur scheduled to take Mr. Simpson to the airport repeatedly knocked on the door and buzzed the intercom but got no response and saw no lights on in Mr. Simpson's home. Later, he saw a large black man enter the house. Only thereafter did Mr. Simpson come to the door, claiming to have fallen asleep.

Moreover, Mr. Simpson's behavior after the murders was consistent only with guilt. His world-famous attempt at flight was hardly what one would expect of an innocent man. Similarly, his lawyers' attempt to suppress every piece of relevant evidence can only be interpreted as consciousness of guilt.

And then there is the letter Mr. Simpson released while he was still a fugitive. Strangely, in all of the press mania about this case, the letter has received almost no attention. But psychologically, it is the most gripping evidence in the case.

The letter is addressed "To whom it may concern," which seems to refer to the public at large. He begins by saying, "First, &L everyone understand that I had nothing to do with Nicole's murder." That is not the expression of shock, dismay or perhaps even grief that one might expect from an innocent former husband. Nowhere in the letter does Mr. Simpson speak of attempting to find and punish Nicole's murderer. Instead, he waxes maudlin and self-pitying about himself, saying, "At times I have felt like a battered husband or boyfriend." Are those the words of an innocent man who has just discovered that his former wife has been brutally murdered? Of course not. Such talk would be utterly irrelevant. It is only relevant as a kind of perverted self-justification.

The blood evidence, of course, seals the case. And yet the defense team, grasping at straws, will cry, "Racism! Racism!" If even one juror grinds a racial ax, a brutal murderer will go free, and the rest of us will once again feel our confidence in American justice sag.

Mona Charen is a syndicated columnist.

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