It’s funny how so many years later, the anger and the anger over the anger about OJ Simpson’s acquittal in California still lingers. The subject came up on the smoking docks of the company I worked at in Estacado. I can’t remember how Simpson came up, but almost immediately the two white participants in the conversation rolled their eyes at the idiotic California jury while the black guy immediately jumped to Simpson’s defense.

During the waning days of the trial, I was taking a sociology class where the case came up relatively frequently. The class was unusually white (I don’t remember a single minority, actually). After it had been announced that the jury had come to a verdict and before the verdict was announced, they took a hand count of how they thought the jury would rule. All but three said that they would find him guilty. I was one of those three. More-or-less from the moment that the demographic breakdown of the jury was announced, I was sure that we were looking at a hung jury. Once the jury was unhung, though, I knew that it wasn’t in favor of acquittal. Not within the three hours it took for them to come to their conclusion anyway. Shortly after, we heard the football players yelling down the hall “Not guilty!” “The juice is loose!” Having almost no black student population, the football players were the only pro-OJ demographic.

My sociology professor would relate to us the next day that she cried when she heard the verdict.

I am in the school of thought that Simpson was about as guilty as they come and I don’t believe that the defense team sufficiently knocked it down. I was of the school of thought that he got away with it because he was black. The jury was stupid.

The further away from it all I get, the less sure I am of any of that except for Simpson’s actual guilt. I still believe that I would have voted to convict and I don’t think I would have been wrong for doing so. At the same time, some of it comes down to what qualifies as “reasonable doubt”. I am not 100% sure that Simpson did it and to the jury that may have been enough (focusing on the word “doubt” rather than “reasonable” where I would focus). It’s also noteworthy that while I read daily articles on the trial and got commentary from my biased mother, I wasn’t in there for eight hours a day while the all-star defense team pounded, pounded, pounded away at the case to create just enough doubt to get an acquittal. Sheck cross-examined the DNA expert for something like eight days just hammering away at the DNA evidence to the point that it probably became difficult to hear all of the reasons that the evidence might-maybe-possibly not say what it clearly seemed to say without coming to believe that there were some holes.

The other thing I have chilled out on is the racial angle. Simpson did not get away with it solely because he was black and had eight black jurors. That’s not even enough for an acquittal and given that the non-black jurors came up with the same verdict in three hours suggests that it wasn’t purely racial. Beyond that, though, I think more important than Simpson’s race was his wealth and celebrity neither of which are attributable to his race (in any direct way). Set up the same evidence with either a poor black defendant or a rich white one and I would give the latter greater odds of acquittal. Then lastly, to the extent that the black jurors did unilaterally decide to line up in racial solidarity and the other four caved or were similarly biased), it’s worth pointing out that with a jury pool that was 40% white, there was only one white juror. That’s likely another attribution to Simpson’s deep pockets. None of this is to say that race did not inappropriately benefit Simpson, but it’s not clear to me that it was determinative at all.

So after all this time Simpson is going to jail anyway for a somewhat unrelated crime (I say “somewhat” because if it hadn’t been for the first, he wouldn’t have been in the position that invited the second). I’m sure a lot of former football players that I once knew are heartbroken.

Postscript: Generally speaking, race is a subject that we don’t cover here at Hit Coffee. I am making an exception here, so we’ll see how that goes. I ask that comments please show respect towards disagreeing parties. Accusations of racism, actual racism, and derogatory nicknames of the participants in the trial or the surrounding controversy are discouraged. Thank you in advance for not making me regret bringing the subject up.


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