The Lizzie Borden of his era

October 14, 1995|By DANIEL BERGER

O.J. Simpson was acquitted because the glove didn't fit, two persuasive forensic experts disputed the police labs, the time line was tight and a key police witness was discredited.

That added up to reasonable doubt in the minds of most jurors.

The speedy decisiveness of the jury convinces me that most juries enduring the same nine months would have reached the same conclusion, despite the forensic evidence.

The result is not satisfying, because Americans demand closure. This is now unlikely in the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman, even if civil liability trials await.

Mr. Simpson did not beat the rap because he was a black defendant before a mostly black jury. He beat it because he was rich.

Only the freakishly well-financed defense could have produced the convincing forensic experts or uncovered the taped confessional of Det. Mark Fuhrman.

That is ground for hand-wringing about our criminal-justice system, but it is not new. What may be hard for some people to accept is that a black defendant has as much right as a white defendant to be filthy rich.

The racial division of the nation by this case is not only unfortunate but unjustified by the case, and false to the career of O.J. Simpson.

The defense played the race card to the extent that Judge Lance A. Ito allowed, but it was

there to be played. For that matter, the prosecution played the gender card to the extent Judge Ito allowed. A female prosecutor spent nine months communicating to a mostly female jury that a wife-batterer did this terrible thing. She failed to convince them.

Many women's-rights advocates, who had taken Mr. Simpson for a symbol of male arrogance and spousal abuse and demanded the death penalty, are furious.

Many black-rights advocates, who had turned him into a symbol of police victimization and a black achiever cut down by white society, were exultant.

Had the verdict been otherwise, the two reactions would have been exchanged.

But Mr. Simpson is not a symbol. He is a man, who did or did not commit murder. We do not know which, regardless of whether we think we do. But we do know the rules of the game: that guilt must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt, and that if a jury determines it was not, he cannot be tried for this crime again.

O.J. as symbol

Mr. Simpson is bound to let down those supporters who hailed his acquittal as a triumph of black solidarity, whether he marries his latest girl friend or not. Black solidarity was never his game.

If O.J. Simpson was a symbol of anything up to the moment of his former second wife's death, it was the possibility of racial integration in American society.

He was a hero mainly to middle-aged white males, who had been young football fans in his heroic playing days, and who dominate the market for airport rental

cars which he made a bundle advertising.

He was history, at best, to young black males who follow #F contemporary sport.

O.J. Simpson brought Americans of varied faiths, genders and hues together, as great sports figures and successful television personalities do.

If there was one bloc of people who found fault with him, it was those black females who think a good black man has no good business with white women and bothered to know whether he had.

Up to the moment of Mrs. Simpson's death, few people of any hue or gender cared to whom her husband had been married.

It seemed odd that the defense favored a jury from among those who might resent him. In hindsight, the defense seems to have known what it was doing.

The national reaction to the verdict refutes the great argument for televising trials: that the more people know of the criminal-justice system, the more they will respect it. The opposite is true. Justice is de-mythed, to its sorrow.

The fact that the trial was available for scrutiny has turned almost everyone, having watched it or not, into a greater expert on the evidence than the unfortunate jurors (who were deprived of remote controls with which to turn it off).

For what it is worth, the most celebrated domestic ''murderer'' in American history was Lizzie Borden, white female. She did not testify and was acquitted of doing in her parents with an ax, in 1892, living on until 1927.

Daniel Berger writes editorials for The Sun.

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