Sunday, October 12, 2008

What Goes in Vegas Stays in Vegas With OJ

Justice delayed is not justice denied in the case of OJ Simpson. 13 years to the day that a Los Angeles jury acquitted The Juice of two violent homicides, a Las Vegas jury convicted him of 12 counts of armed robbery and conspiracy. Hopefully the judge will squeeze the juice out of OJ.

LA couldn’t convict him. Neither could Florida in a road rage incident. But Vegas nailed him. Even OJ’s LA Dream Team of Johnny Cochran, F. Lee Bailey, Barry Scheck, Robert Shapiro, Robert Kardashian, and Gerald Uelman with the help of Alan Dershowitz would have had difficulty obtaining an acquittal when four of the five confederates testify against OJ as part of a plea deal, and hours of secret audio tapes point directly to guilt.

Yale Galanter, OJ’s attorney, stated that he thought the case was lost when the jury of 11 whites and one Hispanic was selected. If so, then that is poetic justice for 13 years ago when OJ won because of the jury selection.

To some extent the LA acquittal was an example of celebrity status, jock justice and double standards, mostly but not exclusively in Los Angeles. OJ, Michael Jackson, Robert Blake and initial hung juries in the cases of Phil Spector and the Melendez Brothers follow the path forged by Fatty Arbuckle in San Francisco in 1921, continuing through Errol Flynn (1943 –statutory rape), R. Kelly (child pornography – Chicago), and Sean “Puff Daddy” P. Diddy Combs (weapons violation in New York).

The acquittal more properly represents the Golden Rule of Law. The one with the Gold makes the rules. In other words, a defendant with ample resources can afford the best trial lawyers and expert witnesses to defeat the prosecution’s case. The Dream Team squeezed $4 million out of The Juice.

In addition, the LA jury sent a message of contempt to the LAPD. The community views itself as victimized for decades by the LAPD. They hold against it in police brutality cases, and now, through OJ, who rediscovered his Black heritage during the trail, against the LAPD. The jurors thought OJ’s history of spousal abuse was irrelevant.

While my limited perspective is infinitesimally small compared to the residents of South Central and Watts who constantly felt the brunt of LAPD Billy clubs, I saw a small example of the petty harassment that was common in the Hood.

Three of us from USF attended an ABA-LSD (American Bar Association Law Student Division) Ninth Circuit Meeting in 1968 at USC Law School. During a break, we walked along Figueroa Avenue for a short stretch. We witnessed two LAPD officers in a squad car pull over a black male in an older vehicle. They ordered the driver out of his car. One of the Officers hung back, cradling his three foot Billy club while the other frisked the driver with one hand with the other on his gun. They looked into the car, saw nothing, and then apologized to the driver because ‘the left rear tire was a little low.” I still remember it 4 decades later.

Johnny Cochran started his great career as a prosecutor with the LA District Attorney’s Office. He learnt where the skeletons were buried with the LAPD. Thus, the cross examination of Detective Mark Furman regarding Mark’s alleged racist conduct and remarks in the past, reminded the jury of their hatred towards the LAPD.

Three causes led to the debacle of the OJ Trial. First, Judge Lance Ito early lost control of the trial.

Second, LA’s District Attorney, Gil Garcetti, was concerned about the potential repeat of riots so soon after the Rodney King acquittals of four officers accused of police brutality, that he had OJ booked at the Central Jail rather than in Santa Monica, which would be the normal venue for crimes in Brentwood. The result was that the jury would inevitably be comprised of a large number of minorities from South Central LA. Indeeed, ten women and two men were selected for the jury. 8 of the 12 jurors were African Americans, one was half Native American and half white, and the 12th juror was a white female. No minorities were on the Las Vegas jury, although one was an alternate.

A subsequent jury pool in a civil trial in Santa Monica awarded $33.5 million in wrongful death damages against OJ in favor of the Goldman and Brown families.

Third, the ADA, William Hodgman, who was to be the strategist behind the prosecution, became ill before the trial. The remaining prosecutors, Marcia Clark and especially Chris Darden, were overmatched by the defense attorneys. Remember, “If the glove doesn’t fit, you must acquit.”

OJ is not a rocket scientist, but he has street smarts. OJ won the Heisman at USC because of his great football skills. He only played football for 2 years as a Trojan. He was a great high school player at Galileo High in San Francisco, but played two years at San Francisco City College before transferring to USC. Why CCSF? Even by the lax admissions standards of USC in the mid 1960’s, OJ could not get directly admitted to the Trojans.

OJ placed his house in his mom’s name, and then moved to Florida. The state has no income tax, but more significantly does not allow the primary residence to be seized by creditors. His NFL pension is untouchable.

We know that Nicole and Ron’s killer was a poor golfer because OJ pledged after his acquittal to search the globe for the real killer, at which point OJ engaged in relentless golf matches, usually at low green fees public courses. OJ now gets to play miniature golf in a small cell.

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