The infamous image of OJ trying on the bloodied gloves & them not fitting.
I love law and have done since I was a kid. From the age of 10 i wanted to be a barrister after watching the movie My cousin Vinny. There’s something about standing up in court and arguing a point articulately and passionately that gets my blood pumping so this trial is so fascinating to me.
Trial of the century
In January 1995 the trial of the century took place. it would be like nothing before it. It reshaped the landscape of the media and lasted 10 months. The trial was televised live and was an absolute media frenzy. It divided America and was whites vs blacks, it was all about race. All of the anger, the injustice, Rodney King et al, the pain bubbling over centuries imploded into this trial.
The trial was televised live to elevate the country’s understanding of the US legal system. It never felt like a real case but a media circus, people became famous and sold their story and made money off of this trial. It pushed the celebrity and was a shift in media information reporting to the most titillating headline grabbing infoporn.
The overwhelming evidence pointed to OJ being the murderer and the prosecution thought they had an open and shut case but so many factors led to this not being the case.
OJ was rich and famous. He had the money to pay for the best lawyers money can buy. He assembled what was called ‘the dream team’. He had about 9 lawyers and was spending $50,000 a day on them. OJ did autograph signings from jail and sold the merchandise, he was allowed to because he was not convicted. He signed 3 million dollars worth of pictures.
Johnnie Cochran was a civil rights lawyer. He was iconic to young blacks and young lawyers because he took on the police at a time when he wasn’t even allowed to talk to them in court. TV made him a hero in south central LA against the police. They had an engrained hatred for the police and didn’t trust them. They were recovering from Rodney King and he understood how to work them and effectively used and exploited and based the case on race and racism.
There was no doubt from the prosecution that OJ had committed the murders due to the overwhelming evidence. OJ’s blood at the crime scene from a cut on his finger, shoe prints from a shoe that had a limited number made that he owned. It was a domestic violence case that culminated in murder but there was a catalogue of errors made by the police at the crime scene and his lawyers took complete advantage.
Factors that shaped the case
- The trial was conducted in central LA because the police wanted to protect their interests with the black community, if it was moved to a white area it would have been a predominate white jury like the Rodney King trial. The jurors available for the lengthy time of the trial skewed towards a lower social economic and more diverse background, the jurors were predominantly black. The defence wanted black jurors because they felt they would be more sympathetic towards OJ.
- A black prosecutor was added to the team as a tactic to appeal to a predominate black jury, race was literally everywhere, it was a race trial more than a murder trial.
- The police made a catalogue of errors that was exposed and used against them by OJ’s brilliant defence. The police brought OJ’s blood back to the crime scene thus the defence said that his blood was planted, they already admitted they brought it there.
- The gloves were the crux of the case and OJ trying them on in court, the prosecution did not know if they would fit and got enticed into making him them try them on. OJ made a scene out it, the defence said they were planted.
- The investigative team touched evidence without gloves. The crime scene was highly publicised and documented by the media, the body was visible outside her house on a main road and they covered it with her sheet which had OJ’s fibres on, so evidence was contaminated and compromised.
- The detective in the case had a history and recording of himself saying he hated black people and that he could no longer be a cop because he couldn’t deal with them justly. Someone had to be blamed and it was him.
- The defence character assassinated those who witnessed against OJ to make their testimony not appear credible and then people refused to witness.
- OJ’s an actor. He’s been putting on an act most of his life and he knows how to play to cameras and when to turn it on. He used his charisma, the defense played games. Johnnie Cochran wore a kente cloth tie to court to show his “Africaness” to the black jury. SNL did a skit on it which is hilarious – link.
The race card
“All of a sudden he became black”. “We made him blacker”.
Here was this famous black rich sports hero who the black community was going to save and punish white people so they would know for once what it feels like to have injustice done to them. A travesty but a culmination of American living.
- The defence made OJ black when most of his life he avoided that side, he threw off the cape and now he’s one of them. He avoided race and now it had come full circle.
- They turned OJ into a civil rights cause and did not regret it, the entire case was lost.
- It was bigger than OJ and symbolic to has the mentality of America changed in the civil rights struggle or is it business as usual. If someone well-loved, famous and rich could have this done to them what hope would there be for the average black person.
- They used a real serious injustice – racial issues in defence of a man who didn’t want anything to do with the black community.
- It was judgement from their own people not whites in judgement of blacks as it’s been in history and it would be a victory for blacks.
- Regardless of whether he did or did not do it blacks wanted this to be a FU to whites and didn’t care. The lawyers backed them and the mishandling of evidence helped them.
A culmination of events in America’s history with black people, racism, police brutality with a parallel of OJ’s life jarred in the court room. It was a time of black unity or revenge. Johnnie Cochran was magical and it was to the black jury whose side are you on? The defence was so brilliant Nicole became collateral damage. OJ and his lawyers effectively beat the system set up by white people for white people, they played the game. These black lawyers out smarted the white cops when the notion was blacks are inferior and not as smart, on a level playing field it was a show and a blow. It was a step forward, for the first time they had some power, they could win at the same game and slightly be on the same playing field.
Johnnie got the final argument closing tag line – “if it don’t fit you must a quit”. Brilliance.
I believed at the time he didn’t do it, I believed his defence and his image so did black people. White people believed he did. Image is a very powerful thing.
You could see the old OJ had gone. Somebody who had it all and played it just right f***** it up so royally but his retribution wasn’t going to come from this trial.
You learn justice is not real justice. It’s manipulated by factors. Who you are, the colour of your skin, an engineered jury with engineered justice. When you’re rich you can buy justice and maybe famous to. It’s who you know, your position, your image is this real justice? It’s why people want to keep up the status quo because you can literally get away with murder.
Final part, the verdict & the aftermath OJ Made in America coming soon.