Finding insignificance in Simpson outcome

April 12, 1995|By MIKE ROYKO

"I was talking to my bookie," Slats Grobnik said, "and the odds are getting real big that O.J. will beat the rap."

That's what most legal experts say -- that there will be a mistrial or a not guilty verdict. Either way, Simpson will wind up a free man.

"Well, if that happens," Slats said, "this country is gonna have to deal with one big question."

Yes, whether the legal system really works.

"Nah, that ain't the big question."

Of course it is. Even now, serious doubts are being raised about the jury system and the way selection can be manipulated by sharp lawyers and consultants. And the concept of equal justice for all, when the accused is rich, is also under fire.

"Sure, but if O.J. walks, that's not the big question."

It isn't? Then what is?

"So what?"

What do you mean, so what?

"I mean, that's the big question."

The big question will be, "So what?"

"You got it."

That's ridiculous. If there is convincing evidence that Simpson is guilty but he goes free, you can't just shrug and say: "So what?"

"Sure I can. Look, I'm even practicing. So what, so what, so what? How's that?"

That is not an intelligent response.

"Why not? Would he be the first guilty guy to get away with murder?"

No, I suppose not.

"You bet. Look at that lawyer in the Chicago suburbs and his lover boy. All the evidence says that one of them killed the lawyer's wife. But the lover boy beat the rap, and the husband ain't even been charged with jaywalking."

Such things happen.

"Or those two California brothers who bumped off their rich ma and pa. I guess the jury felt sorry for them because now they are orphans."

Another unfortunate case.

"So, why is the O.J. case any different? What do you think will happen if he walks -- maybe thousands of blond white women in L.A. will go out on the streets and riot?"

No, that's unlikely. But there could be sufficient public outrage to bring about a reform of the jury system.

"Oh, sure. Like the politicians who'd have to change the laws ain't mostly lawyers, they're all banged-up blond wives and bad-luck waiters."

But the spotlight of public opinion would be turned on flaws in the criminal justice system with an intensity never seen before.

"Right," said Slats. "So that means Ted Koppel will stay on the air for an hour instead of 30 minutes, and he'll have on some real mean-talking women from New York and some lawyers and some black guys, and they'll all yell at each other. And I'll say, So what?"

But you can't simply say, "So what?" Have you no social conscience?

"I used to have one, but then I found out that I slept better and didn't get heartburn if I just said, So what? You ought to try it."

No, I can't. If the jury rejects compelling evidence, it will be an outrage and every self-respecting pundit and editorialist will be obliged to seek meaning and significance in the case.

"Oh, sure, there will be more than enough meaning and significance to go around. Like how is O.J. going to lead the good life in California after he goes broke paying off the lawyers?"

How he will again live the good life? You consider that significant?

"Sure. Just watch, that'll be the big story."

Nonsense. Who would pay him to do anything?

"That shows how much you know. If he can come out with a best-selling book while sitting in the jug, imagine how many new books he could peddle if he goes on 'Larry King' and the 'Today Show' and talks about how he's still in love with Nicole and is looking forward to seeing her in heaven. Hey, and what about movies?"

Movies? What decent movie studio would have anything to do with him?

"Why does he need a few decent movie studios when all the rest will be trying to buy his story? Remember, to a lot of people he'll be a bum. But there's a lot of people in this country who think that it's no big deal if a superstar football player gets a little ticked off at his wife."

People are not that insensitive.

"Just watch. He'll be able to sell his autographs for 100 bucks a scribble."

Preposterous. Would you pay $100 for his autograph?


See? You do have a conscience.

"Sure. I'd offer him $50 and resell it for $100."

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