Reno focuses on fairness of criminal justice system Simpson verdict prompts recommitment to effort

October 13, 1995|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

WASHINGTON -- Attorney General Janet Reno said yesterday that in the aftermath of the O. J. Simpson verdict she will recommit herself to make the criminal justice system "as fair as I can and make it appear to be fair."

While saying that "one jury verdict should not reflect on a whole system," Ms. Reno remarked on the debate raging across the nation about the fairness of the verdict and the factors underlying it.

Her comments are the closest the nation's chief law enforcement officer has come to directly commenting on the Simpson trial, which captured the attention of the nation, but, she insisted repeatedly in recent weeks, not hers.

At her weekly meeting with reporters, she was asked whether she was surprised by "this apparent racial gulf" of opinion about the fairness of the justice system to blacks and whites.

"I use this verdict as an opportunity to recommit myself to doing what I've been trying to do for a very long time -- make the system as fair as I can and make it appear to be fair," she said.

In 1980 as Dade County state's attorney, Ms. Reno's office failed to win the convictions of four white police officers charged in the beating death of a black insurance salesman, Arthur McDuffie.

Those verdicts touched off widespread rioting in Miami's black neighborhoods, but Ms. Reno met with the black community and listened to complaints, managing finally to convert calls for her resignation to expressions of support.

Speaking of the Simpson case, Mr. Reno said: "When a jury returns a verdict, there are going to be some that are disappointed and others who are happy. And one jury verdict should not reflect on a whole system.

"There are judges and prosecutors, public defenders and police officers who day after day do their job in a magnificent way -- being fair, giving the appearance of firmness and fairness that is so important, and also trying to reach out to solve so many of the nation's problems that end up in the court system, whether it be drug abuse or youth violence."

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