Tuesday, October 04, 2005

The OJ Verdict

Frontline, a show that I rarely miss, ran a piece tonight on the O.J. Simpson verdict.


That's what I thought when I first heard the topic. But I thought I'd give it a try given the reputation of the program.

Wow. In the tradition of quality journalism that is Frontline, the show was thought-provoking and revealing. BTW, at the link above, you can find further information as well as a link that will allow you to watch the complete program online, a feature I love about PBS.

The examination by Frontline zeroed in on the issue of race, and how the verdict changed America's view of race. Drawing on current interviews of the key players in the defense, prosecution and media, a retrospective emerges that provides a clarity that was not so easily available at the time. Time has a way of doing that. It also occurs with the unfolding of the events over the past ten years (yes, it's been that long).

For example. Does anyone really doubt that domestic violence often leads to spousal murder? In 1995 the level of denial that women were being murdered by their husbands was rampant. Post O.J., and perhaps because of it, studies have revealed this as occuring at epidemic levels and has attained a level of conventional wisdom today that was not in existence in 1995.

How about the idea that the L.A.P.D might frame a defendant to "tighten up a case"? Certainly time has proven that this is not only possible, but is common. Scandal after scandal in the L.A.P.D. (and in other law enforcement agencies) has cracked the benefit of doubt enjoyed by police, and the public trust held by law enforcement. Particularly post 9/11, it is now highly imaginable that law enforcement officials can be and often are highly incompetent, if not outright corrupt. And who in the post Law and Order world doesn't know that if questioned by police, you should immediately "lawyer-up"

And finally, the obliviousness of white's to racism in America.

By-in-large, white Americans were shocked by the O.J. verdict while black Americans cheered. Whites seemed to find the response of blacks to be confusing and certainly contrary to the evidence. Back then, it seemed fantasy to believe that the police would actually be so racist or incompetent as to convict an innocent man. But after the events of the last five years including Katrina and the large number of folks in prison who've been released after proven innocent (incidently, often do to the efforts of O.J defense attorney Barry Scheck and The Innocence Project) , can anyone really doubt the possibility that O.J. may have been framed by a racist cop, Mark Furman? Or that the L.A.P.D was incompetent in processing evidence including DNA? This is the crux of what is to be learned from O.J., and now Katrina. Despite the many gains over the past 100 years, there is still much work to be done to end overt AND covert racism in our country.

The question remains regarding O.J. Was a black man framed by incompetence and racism? Or did a rich man use the best resources available to get off? A law student discussing the case in his class made what seems to be the most salient comment. He said, "everybody knows that O.J. was a guilty defendant that was framed by the L.A.P.D. Ironincally and in hindsight, I think he hits the nail right on the head. And in retrospect, I suspect the jury got it right.

P.S.: Next week's Frontline examines torture in Iraq, asking if the Bush administration set the tone, or was it a rogue soldiers that cause the torture of Iraqi's at Abu Grahab.


At 3:37 PM, Blogger Graham Jones said...

thanks for letting me know about Frontline shows being available in full online. Another instance of good journalism and available online is Channel 4 News in the UK. Try it - it's really good.


At 3:51 PM, Blogger Greyhair said...

Thanks for the link!


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