All through the trial I raced home at night to catch Geraldo Live! on CNBC, bravely dodging the arrows of more scholarly friends who failed to understand that cable Geraldo is much upscale of broadcast Geraldo. And all trial long I stewed, outraged by the cynical Rivera claiming that there was no way on God's Green Earth that the predominantly black jury would convict the African-American defendant. And when the jury, after reexamining the unrefuted testimony as to O.J.'s alibi ("I was sleeping," he told the limo driver; he was out doing chip shots, said Johnnie Cochran at the trial–after the Bronco cellphone call at 10:03 p.m. was discovered), I knew they had overcome the jive. They saw through the rap, the manipulation, the silly little summation rhymes. The jury of 12 had turned its back on the Mother Lode of black victimization and found this one murderous man guilty as charged.
I hadn't been this wrong in a couple of days.
Sometime between the murder and the verdict, the 100-billion-to-one blood evidence evaporated into a swamp of moral indignation. O.J. Simpson, the man whose ability to run for yardage had landed him a USC scholarship, fame and fortune in the NFL, starring roles in movies, celebrity status, and babes, babes, babes, had incredibly been reborn as a po' black child. A lynch mob victim. Who said the jury rejected DNA evidence? They were mesmerized by the recombinant gene splicing that O.J.'s suited surgeons performed miraculously before their very eyes.
O.J. started the trial rich. He ended the trial black. The surgical procedure he underwent cost a pretty penny–it was not a simple matter to rebirth Simpson as a victim of racist Amerika. Some in the inner city have noted that the most contact the adult O.J. ever had with the African-American community was the nine months he sat before the jury. After the verdict, cheering black supporters were wont to tell reporters: Now O.J. should come back and spend some quality time with his people.
His people. That was the cynical view. That the jury, even the 10 women, were his people. Not Americans, not triers of fact, not individual human beings. There's something powerful going on here, because no one disputes that O.J. Simpson was a vicious wife-beater. Indeed, he cavalierly joked–in the exercise video outtake–about punching the missus. This, after a criminal conviction for punching the missus. An unrepentant, laughing wife-beater. And "his people" want to claim him for their own?
His people. The Geraldo view was that the downtown jury wouldn't care about the incontrovertible blood evidence. That the flashy lawyer with the preacher cadence would hit every hot button, asking police officers on the stand where they lived–if it happened to be Simi Valley. That a Martin Luther King Jr. quote or a reference to Hitlerian genocide would blur the jury's sight of the defendant's blood spattered all over the scene where Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman died horribly violent deaths.
His people wouldn't care about the evidence, suggested Geraldo, who himself was fully aware of O.J.'s guilt. The DNA evidence might have been botched every which way–but how you get a one-in-a-billion false positive here, there, everywhere–that's really incredible police work!
How Skinhead Fuhrman could plant the DNA without leaving one shred of evidence involved real planning. Funny that Fuhrman did not reveal the same evil genius when he lied about the n-word after leaving dozens of hours of tape-recorded conversations around for the defense to use as sensational impeachment.
The LAPD exhibited all the normal bureaucratic foul-ups, not the least of which was a failure to can Officer Fuhrman back in the Pleistocene Epoch, whence he sprang. Police boobs left virtually every detail untidy–just like every big time crime scene. They're the schemers? The Three Stooges as brilliant conspirators, planting O.J.'s blood into all the laboratories? This turns the Keystone Cops into mad scientists masterminding the frame-up of O.J. Simpson–the same wife-beater they had coddled through years of screaming 911 calls.
The preposterousness of it all. Can you imagine the windfall to be showered on the one cop who'd rat out the rest? The movie deals! And if the LAPD laid a well-fitting glove on him, the wrongful termination lawsuit money would flow like the blood at Bundy.
But the defense lawyers reinvented O.J. Simpson, this blessed child of Country Club America, and turned him into one of his people. The ugliest thought, one that should not be pondered long, regards what would have turned out had the dead ex-wife also been one of his people.
And sobbing through it all is the distraught Fred Goldman. He is a man obsessed with justice and broken by the "justice" he has found. He is pitied as an innocent bystander who, traumatized by tragic events, just cannot appreciate the subtle logic of the system. I'm afraid I'm one of his people.
Contributing Editor Thomas W. Hazlett (email@example.com), an economist at the University of California at Davis, is a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.