Sunday, January 1, 2017

2016 Top Ten List #4 O.J.: Made in America

O.J.:  MADE IN AMERICA – made for TV                        A-                   
USA  (450 mi)  2016  d:  Ezra Edelman

An extraordinary, well-researched and in-depth documentary, made as part of the 30 for 30 series for ESPN, the film is part of a continued effort by ESPN to link sports as an integral part of American history.  While ostensibly a biography of former football star O.J. Simpson, known as “The Juice,” one of the first blacks to become acceptable to corporate America, featured in a variety of lucrative advertisements, running through airports for Hertz rental cars, OJ Simpson Hertz Commercial 1978 - YouTube (30 seconds) before shortening his athletic career to make movies, becoming a familiar household name for several decades, even earning a spot as one of the announcers for Monday Night Football, this film also examines the surrounding racial climate in Los Angeles, including a scathing indictment of race relations and the rampant police brutality directed primarily towards blacks.  Whether intentional or not, this extensive seven and a half hour exposé, told in five parts, of the life and times of O.J. Simpson is at heart a deeply probing study of the effects of denial, both personal and societal, where for decades the largely white LAPD (Los Angeles Police Department) continued to brutalize blacks with impunity, where there was no accountability within the justice system, routinely allowing bad cops who should have been fired or jailed for their excessive use of force to go free, while the impact of societal indifference to the overwhelming presence of racism resulted in riots and civil unrest from the Watts riots in August of 1965 to the LA riots in April of 1992 following a verdict acquitting four white police officers in the vicious beating of Rodney King.  During this period the seething anger in the black community from the daily routine of military style arrests was barely even noticed by whites who refused to recognize any racial disparity, though these aggressive tactics only targeted minorities.  At the same time, in a strange inverse of racial roles, Simpson’s white wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, a daughter of wealth and privilege, was subject to years of domineering abuse from Simpson, both physical and psychological, where domestic violence took the form of stalking and spying, which led to outrageous jealous accusations that escalated into repeated violent attacks, where the seriousness of the incidents was ignored and covered up and instead allowed to fester and grow more dangerously malignant, culminating in her murder where she and an innocent friend Ron Goldman were brutally stabbed to death on June 12, 1994, where Simpson was the only suspect.  A lengthy 10-month trial followed vividly captured on television, with gavel to gavel coverage on CNN, including daily clips with extensive legal analysis on the other stations, branded as “the trial of the century,” the story above all other stories, where the amount of attention became little more than celebrity worship, becoming the most publicized criminal trial in American history, where the defense actually put the LAPD on trial, a tactic that successfully earned Simpson an acquittal of all charges in October 1995, though no other suspects ever materialized.  White America was astounded and outraged by the verdict, while blacks were elated in the outcome, though it wasn’t Simpson they were happy for, but the fact that the trial outcome discredited the undisputed power of the LAPD, where the evidence suggested police officers may have routinely lied and mishandled evidence in criminal cases all along.  This division along racial lines becomes the central focus of the film, mixing football glory with the Watts riots and the Rodney King beatings, where there’s an attempt to make it all appear seamless, like an impressionistic mosaic where it’s all happening simultaneously, viewed as part of the same moments in history.
The film traces Simpson’s youth to the housing projects of Potrero Hill in San Francisco, the remnants of abandoned army barracks, where his family had migrated west from the backbreaking farm work of Louisiana that offered little hope for a future.  While his mother Eunice worked the graveyard shift as a hospital administrator, his father was largely absent, leaving Simpson alone and unsupervised for long periods of time where he and other kids often committed petty thefts.  When he and some other kids were caught playing craps in the high school rest room, a teacher hauled them into the principal’s office, informing on what he saw before exiting the office, with Simpson following him out the door.  When the principal asked where he was going, he indicated he was just helping return this group of offenders to the office, getting away scot free.  Perhaps more significantly, Simpson stole the beautiful girlfriend Marguerite from his best friend, eventually marrying her.  Together they had three children (one drowned in a tragic pool accident a month before his second birthday), but his tendency, like his own father (who we learn later was gay, a noted drag performer in San Francisco during the 80’s), was to never spend much time at home, but to roam whenever and wherever he wanted.  Simpson made a name for himself as a running back playing football in junior college, becoming the most sought after athlete to enter a Division 1 school, earning an athletic scholarship to play at USC, which designed their entire offense around his running game, as his speed and size stood out, where if he could break through the line, he could score touchdowns with spectacular runs.  USC is a private institution serving the wealthy and privileged, nearly entirely white, yet it’s surrounded by a black ghetto, where life on campus couldn’t more closely resemble an ivory tower existence, where Marguerite described it as “like a resort, it’s beautiful.”  This college experience allowed Simpson access to some of the richest men in southern California, all of them white, allowing him to realize his dream of being someone important and recognizable.  Simpson made headlines playing football, where some of his amazing runs are among the greatest ever seen in college, winning the Heisman Trophy in 1968 as the most outstanding college football player, where he still holds the record for winning the award by the largest margin of victory.  As many as 70 of Simpson’s friends, former teammates, and business acquaintances are featured in the film, providing extensive background information from people of all walks of life who knew or worked with this man, where his outer demeanor couldn’t have been more pleasant, as he was affable, loved plenty of company, and was generous to a fault, while surrounding himself with people of wealth and influence.  In fact, Simpson refused to see himself as black, claiming “I’m not black, I’m O.J,” distancing himself from the black community during the height of the Civil Rights era of the 60’s, separating himself from other notable black athletes of the times who promoted black activism, such as Muhammed Ali, Jim Brown, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Bill Russell who collectively made claims of black discrimination, jeopardizing their potential earnings by taking a more militant stand against the continued mistreatment of blacks in American society.  Simpson, who was also a track star (he was part of the USC sprint relay team that broke the world record in the 4X110 yard relay in 1967, a time that was never equaled in an event that no longer exists, having been uniformly upgraded to meters in 1976), avoided other black athletes who supported a boycott of the 1968 Olympics, a position endorsed by Martin Luther King, Jr., an event largely boycotted only by black athletes, however, where black sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos won medals but wore black gloves and raised a fist high into the air in a black power salute during the playing of the national anthem during the medal ceremony (The man who raised a black power salute at the 1968 Olympic Games ...).  Both were immediately ushered home by the Olympic committee which later stripped them of their medals a few months later on October 17, 1968. 

Despite one’s knowledge of the O.J. case, this film unearths a plethora of witnesses that drop bombshell after bombshell of new revelations, helping the viewer put not only the incident and the trial in its proper perspective, but the times in which they occurred, ultimately revealing a tale of two cities, where Southern California depicted a Hollywood police culture through Dragnet (1951 – 59), a popular TV series where hardnosed police detectives went strictly by the book, never wavering an ounce from official department policy, where everyone is treated in the same professional manner, regardless of the crime committed, but they always end up solving the crime and getting their man.  But there’s an entirely different version of the police that citizens witnessed in plain sight, spending little time in black communities except to ride in and make arrests, where racial discrimination and police brutality were standard operating procedures.  Surviving an era of notorious police corruption, Chief Parker reigned from 1950 until mid-July of 1966, when he died while receiving a commendation, the longest serving police chief of Los Angeles history, where they named a police headquarters after him.  But in order to keep the troops in line, transforming the department into the modern age, he resorted to quasi military procedures, creating an overtly racist police department with the superintendent actually recruiting officers from Klan rallies, where the involvement with black communities was to swoop in to arrest an offender, place him in a car and drive away, with no interaction whatsoever with the surrounding community.  In this manner, the police and the black community remained separate entities with no contact with each other, each growing more and more distrustful of the other, where the police became thought of as an all-white occupying force, using brutal tactics with nearly every arrest, literally manhandling and beating offenders, developing a reputation for strong-armed tactics, none of which appeared in the police reports or court testimony, where their official position was a mythical illusion, while the reality was starkly ugly and brutal, like living in a war zone, traumatizing an entire community where blacks were routinely beaten when making arrests, a tactic rarely seen in the white neighborhoods.  This led to an open rebellion in the Watts riots of 1965, and the fatal shooting of an unarmed Leonard Deadwyler by police in May of 1966, allegedly for making a sudden move during a traffic stop after running several red lights, as he was anxiously trying to get his pregnant wife (in the car) to the closest hospital, which was nearly 20 miles away, as there were no hospitals at the time in poor black neighborhoods.  His wife hired a young 28-year old Johnny Cochrane as her lawyer to sue the city for negligence, where under arcane rules at the time, a defense attorney was not allowed to ask questions directly to the court, forcing Cochrane to whisper questions into the ear of the deputy district attorney, who would begin each question with, “Mr. Cochrane wants to know,” which is simply amazing to see in archival footage, while also documenting the shooting of Eula Love in front of her own home in 1979 by two white police officers, who were never charged with any misconduct, all of which led to declining confidence in the police.  Racial tensions only exacerbated following the murder of teenager Latasha Harlins in 1991, happening just days after the Rodney King beating, who was shot in the back of the head by a Korean-American store owner who apparently thought the 15-year old black girl was stealing a juice box, but never saw the money in her hand.  While fined $500 and sentenced to community service, the convicted killer, subject to 16 years for voluntary manslaughter, never served any jail time.  The black community was outraged afterwards, where this event was considered one of the catalysts of the 1992 Los Angeles riots, burning the store to the ground, with the mayor’s office estimating that 65 percent of all businesses vandalized were Korean-owned.       
Into this racial divide walks O.J. Simpson, a black man beloved by white people as they view him as not threatening, a football hero with a winning smile and a warm personality, who they view as a “safe” black athlete that shies away from all the protests and political controversy.  The film intercuts footage of Bobby Kennedy on the campaign trail announcing the death of Martin Luther King with clips of Simpson joining comedian Bob Hope on stage as the USC football team is recognized for their successful season, with Hope congratulating USC as one of the few college campuses in the nation without “a riot, a demonstration, or even a sit-in.”  As the nation was riveted by a variety of social issues, from poverty, racism, civil rights, feminism, and the Vietnam war, Simpson showed no interest in any of that, where he was drafted #1 by the Buffalo Bills in the pros, but in his first year he played on a beleaguered team whose coach was fired for ineptitude.  Going through a revolving door of coaches, the team floundered until they brought back a heralded former coach Lou Saban in 1972.  Drafting a formidable offensive line that was deliberately constructed around his running talents, Simpson immediately ran for over a thousand yards in each of the next five seasons, winning the rushing title four times, having a record-breaking year in 1973 when he was the fastest player to reach 1000 yards in just 7 games, becoming the first and only player to break 2000 yards in a 14 game season (the NFL expanded to 16 games a season in 1978).  Simpson was an All-Pro for six seasons and remains the only player to run for over 200 yards in six different games.  His career was cut short by an injury in 1977, traded to San Francisco afterwards where he played for only two more years, and was inducted into the football Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility in 1985.  Simultaneous to his football career, he built a 25-year acting career in Hollywood, perhaps most noted for his comic appearances on the film NAKED GUN (1988), playing a police officer constantly finding himself in the midst of mayhem in a wildly exaggerated, hilarious satiric spoof of a bumbling and professionally inept police department, a critical and commercial success that led to two sequels in 1991 and 1994, each one grossing between $50 and $90 million dollars.  Simpson was a household name, sponsoring ads for Hertz, Chevy, Pioneer Chicken, HoneyBaked Ham, and various soft drinks, viewed as an American success story, even joining the booth of Monday Night Football games in the mid 80’s coinciding with his induction into the Hall of Fame.  During this run, Simpson met a young 18-year old Nicole Brown in 1977 while she was working as a waitress at an exclusive, upscale, Beverly Hills nightclub for the rich and famous called “The Daisy.”  Though still married to his first wife, Simpson proclaimed he would marry Nicole almost at first sight, dating heavily at the time, where the story is reported she returned home after their first date with ripped pants, explaining afterwards that he was a bit “forceful.”  Simpson also bought his infamous Rockingham mansion that same year in 1977, located in the exclusive, all-white Brentwood neighborhood, a hilly, canyoned, affluent and secluded community on the Westside of Los Angeles, California, known for its thick foliage and gated security fences, where blacks constitute 1% of the population.  Divorced from his first wife in 1979, Simpson married Nicole in 1985, five years after his retirement from football.  Their marriage would produce two children, Sydney and Justin, though once again, Simpson had a reputation for straying from the family nest.  Hard to imagine what those two kids must think of this film, as it may be the first time they have ever been exposed to such extensive detail about their father’s life.  

Eight different times the LAPD visited the Simpson home on domestic violence calls, yet in a culture of enablement that hero worships athletes and completely lets them off the hook (think Johnny Manziel in today’s age), the police failed to file reports and just walked away, where nothing was ever done about it.  There was never any demand for personal accountability with Simpson, who was never referred for counseling or anger management behavior.  Considering all the friends and associates, including members of the police force, so many knew what was going on, but so few did anything about it, which is the real tragedy behind this event, as looking back in hindsight, it feels so preventable.  Yet domestic violence remains to this day, some twenty years later, largely ignored by society at large, where people want to sweep these incidents under the rug and pretend they never happened, especially when there’s high-profiled athletes involved who are used to a sense of entitlement.  We’ve learned victims aren’t to be believed due to their own internalized fear, as Nicole Simpson was petrified at the time and scared for her life, where even she denied publicly that there was any truth behind the reports of violence, claiming everything was fine, knowing just the opposite was true, as she was being terrorized by her husband, secretly keeping in a safety deposit box the photos of the repeated beatings to her face, which are simply monstrous and grotesque, as well as the handwritten letters of apology from Simpson, which were only discovered after her murder.  Simpson pleaded no contest to spousal abuse in 1989, where he was sentenced to community service, which was basically spent organizing a celebrity golf tournament.  Finally divorced in 1992 after seven years of marriage, there were attempts at reconciliation, where Nicole moved to her own condominium just five minutes away on Bundy Drive in Brentwood, yet Simpson continued to lord over her, as if she was his personal property, becoming especially abusive when she befriended gay men, even resorting to spying on her through the window of her own home, observing her having sex with other men, which was usually followed by blind rage, where a 911 call in 1989 records him going ballistics, breaking down the back door of her home while screaming and attacking her.  Never was he ever arrested nor did he spend a single night in prison.  All of that came afterwards, as it was after midnight on the night of June 12, 1994 when the bodies were discovered by a neighbor out walking his dog, where even more horrific are the gruesome murder photos of the double murder with both victims lying in a pool of their own blood, both stabbed repeatedly and ferociously at the home of Nicole while both kids were sleeping upstairs, completely unaware of what happened, ironically in the same neighborhood where Marilyn Monroe’s ambiguously debated death occurred 32-years earlier in the early evening hours of August 4, 1962.  Goldman worked as a waiter at the restaurant where Nicole and her family had eaten dinner earlier, discovering a pair of glasses left behind by Nicole’s mother.  After his shift was over, Goldman went to Nicole’s house to return them.  Simpson had no alibi for the time of the murders, but took a late night flight to Chicago, where a limo driver picked him up at his residence just before 11 pm, claiming the house was dark when he arrived a half hour earlier, with no answer to repeated buzzing at the intercom.  The limo driver testified at the trial that he saw a “tall black man” enter the front door of the residence coming from the driveway, after which the house lights were turned on and Simpson answered the intercom, claiming he overslept and would be right out.  The luggage was already packed and was observed sitting outside the front door when the driver arrived.  Simpson reportedly took a midnight flight to Chicago on business, where blood along with a matching glove missing from the crime scene were found at his residence, so a warrant was served for his arrest by the morning of the 17th, where Simpson was expected to be charged with the double murder, where as many as 1000 journalists were waiting for him to turn himself in to police headquarters that morning accompanied by legal counsel, but he was a no show.  By 2 pm that afternoon the police considered him a fugitive from justice.  

In the end, finally confronted with arrest, what does this bold and brazenly violent man do when confronted with arrest?  He pathetically runs away and tries to hide, escaping with a large sum of cash and his passport in his white Ford Bronco, the same one found with blood from the crime scene, where a helicopter news team is able to pick out the vehicle and follow it down the freeway on Interstate 405, covering the event on uninterrupted live news television, where the car was being driven by Simpson’s longtime friend Al Cowlings, eventually tailed by a squadron of twenty police cars that keep their distance, all slowed down to about 35 mph, with 9 helicopters joining the chase, where Simpson reportedly had a gun to his head.  It’s a surreal moment when people on the freeway swerve over to his car and wave and cheer, or urge him to pull the trigger, with the whole world watching while it’s all captured on television.  Once O.J. failed to surrender, the event became a media sensation, with an entire nation asking simultaneously, “What’s happened to O.J.?” who even today is considered “the most famous American ever charged with murder.”  Once cellphone contact is made with an obviously irritated Cowlings, who dials 911 to get the police to back off, it turns out O.J. is running home to his mother, eventually returning back to his Rockingham estate, obviously ashamed of what he’s done, unable to live with himself and accept the consequences of his own actions.  With a gun to his head, was he going to commit suicide live on national TV?  Arriving at his home, but refusing to get out of his car, a police hostage negotiator finally talks Simpson into surrendering, but only under cover of darkness.  As he’s being driven away in a police van, engulfed by a mass of people who were there to support him and cheer him on, O.J. responded, “What are all those niggers doing in Brentwood?”  Those comments are painfully ironic.  It’s staggering that a man who refused to identify himself as a black man was suddenly forced to identify with being black in his defense, where the rallying cry was that he was a victim of a sick system, the racially detestable LAPD that obviously had their own motives.  Law professor Alan Dershowitz, part of the famed “Dream Team” of lawyers selected for Simpson’s defense, actually tipped off one of his former students, Jeffrey Toobin (now with CNN) who was working as a legal analyst for The New Yorker magazine, about Mark Fuhrman’s history as a dirty cop, which caused him to comb the basement files in the bowels of the LAPD searching for lawsuits filed against him.  Instead, what he discovered was a suit Fuhrman filed against the LAPD for forcing him to continue working in the Watts neighborhood, which was causing him insurmountable psychological stress and aggravation due to his personal hatred for blacks and Hispanics, using a litany of racial slurs to describe them, where his deep-seeded prejudice and hostility towards minorities was indisputable, leading to Toobin’s report of the significance race plays in this particular case, An Incendiary Defense - The New Yorker  Jeffrey Toobin, July 25, 1994.  Mark Fuhrman was a cop with serious problems, where his lawsuit was filled with repeated incidents of excessive use of force against blacks, claiming that he actually enjoyed breaking the arms and legs of blacks, repeatedly using the n-word to describe them, where he was so psychologically damaged from hatred against blacks that he wished to be relieved from duty.  This guy was a time bomb about to explode, but supposedly improved his outlook with the help of therapy, yet he was the first detective to arrive on the premises of O.J.’s residence on the night of the murder where he claims he discovered bloody footprints leading from Simpson’s white Ford Bronco directly into his bedroom, while also discovering another bloody glove matching a similar glove at the crime scene.  From the police position, this was overwhelming evidence against Simpson, but considering the cop, the defense believed he planted evidence.    

The degree of hysteria surrounding the wall-to-wall news coverage never felt like a murder case, instead it felt like a media circus, where news was no longer circumspect and investigative, with its facts beyond reproach, but newspapers and the media were guilty of overkill, saturating the daily news cycle with this one story, simply feeding the public exactly what it wanted, where the national news started resembling the salacious details of outlandish made-up stories seen in The National Inquirer.  There’s no doubt that the trial seemingly went on forever at the time, consuming nearly an entire year, becoming thoroughly fixated on this one subject only.  Mark Fuhrman was a tainted cop, who stated under oath that he never used the n-word while carrying out his duties as a police officer, yet court documents suggested otherwise, as his own case file mentioned it repeatedly, while also providing 12 hours of taped recordings of Fuhrman providing realistic ideas for a fictional screenplay about cops in LA which was filled with Fuhrman using the n-word, also exaggerated claims of framing people, torturing and killing victims while getting away with it, creating a fantasy world of a city run by out of control, white supremist cops, but his fictionalized world incredibly matched the black stereotype of dirty cops in the LAPD.  Only in Hollywood could someone actually unearth something like that.  Barry Scheck was the attorney who became associated as a DNA expert, yet his job was not only to question the police handling of evidence, questioning the professionalism of their own standards and in turn the validity of the scientific evidence proving Simpson’s blood was at the crime scene, but more importantly, his job was to confuse the jurors and provide a seed of doubt in their eyes, suggesting it was entirely possible that the LAPD planted evidence on the crime scene that was favorable for a conviction.  To this end, he mesmerized a viewing audience with scientific theories that sounded plausible, but what they had to do with this specific case was clouded in confusion.  To a white audience, this would be inexcusable, as science is science, hard to refute, but to a black community that was used to authorities fudging the evidence, this happened all the time, so it was not only plausible, but likely.  The defense attorneys hammered home this possibility, which, when added to a racist cop, suggests evidence could easily have been planted.  The question, though, was whether it was ever established evidence was planted in this case.  Scheck’s arguments were all supposition and maybes, never once directing any proof to that assertion.  Due to the prevalence of blacks on the jury, black defense attorney nonpareil Johnny Cochrane didn’t have to argue in complicated legalese, but simply had to ingratiate himself to the jury and become relatable and trustworthy, as opposed to the prosecution attorney Christopher Darden whose style was closer to burying his head in his notes like a prepared speech while making little eye contact with the jury.  Having to explain the extraordinary scientific certainties of DNA evidence largely went over the head of the jury, where the complexity became lost over time, as what they could more easily understand was what Johnny Cochrane constantly reminded them of, how cops routinely mishandle and tamper with evidence, as that’s closer to their real life experiences of being black growing up in Los Angeles. 

Yolanda Crawford and Carrie Bess, two black women who were members of the jury speak openly throughout the film, offering candid views as the trial proceeds, which is like keeping a scorecard throughout the event, both offering a vantage point that amounts to a window directly into what the jury was thinking.  In one instance, Bess provides her own brutal assessment, “I lose respect for any woman who’d take an ass whooping when she don’t have to.”  While sitting in jail, O.J. generated $3 million dollars towards his own legal defense by signing autographs, which was still legal at the time as he was not convicted of committing any crime.  The merchandise sold like hotcakes, expertly adding the signature to other memorabilia like jerseys, photographs, or footballs.  Simpson’s legal bill was $50,000 per day over ten months, amounting to a $15 million dollar defense, the best that money could buy, and don’t think they didn’t earn it by putting on a show.  A perfect example is the judge allowing the jury to visit Simpson’s home, despite the fact no crime took place there, as the murder occurred at Nicole Simpson’s nearby address.  In preparation for this visit, the defense team observed a winding staircase with pictures on the wall, none of which featured any family members or any other black people, as they were all photos of Simpson with his prominent white friends.  The defense removed those photos and replaced them with family shots and photos of Simpson with black people.  While this is a sham of reality, becoming utter theatrical spectacle, the showmanship of the defense was allowed by the judge, who himself became mesmerized by the public spectacle surrounding the case.  One of the defense attorneys mentioned that if O.J. had been Hispanic, there would have been a Mariachi band greeting the jury in the driveway.  Losing co-attorney Marcia Clark remains quite infamous even to this day, especially following such a devastating loss, receiving a $4 million dollar book deal and her own TV show after the trial, yet to this day, she remains oblivious to what happened, as she continues to believe the LA cops failed to achieve credible evidence in their initial interview with Simpson, which was without an attorney present, instead allowing him to ramble incoherently instead of pinpointing where he was at a specific time and place.  Co-counsel Christopher Darden was guilty of the most basic legal rule— don’t ask a question for which you don’t know the answer—incorrectly allowing O.J. to try on the bloody gloves before he was certain of the result.  Little did he know what went on behind the scenes leading up to the dramatic event, which is they didn’t fit, as Simpson strained and struggled to get them on, largely due to the fact his physician took him off his arthritis medicine for the two or three weeks leading up to that event, so he could barely move his hands.  Judge Ito was wrong to remain so starry-eyed about being the center of Hollywood attention, allowing the defense far too much leeway in straying from the strict legal confines of the case, yet she never blames herself for anything that went wrong.  She continues to bear no responsibility whatsoever for the fact that she and her partner got schooled on national TV by a more prominent legal team, whose professional expertise ran circles around the prosecutor’s case. 

From a Los Angeles jury pool that was initially 40% white, 28% black, 17% Hispanic, and 15% Asian, the final jury composition was 10 women and 2 men, consisting of 8 black women, 1 black man, 1 Hispanic man, and 2 white females, one of whom was also half Native American.  Two of the jurors had college degrees, nine had graduated high school and one had no diploma.  In the initial vote, only two found him guilty, as O.J. became a symbol of black persecution, where it was all about Fuhrman and racial injustice in the city of Los Angeles, where O.J. became the perfect victim, because he had the money for his legal team to portray him that way.  Even worse, after the racist revelations, when Fuhrman was brought back to the stand, he pleaded the 5th to every single question, refusing to answer on the grounds that it could incriminate him, something no police officer had ever done before.  It was simply incredible.  Having O.J. try on the gloves over a smaller latex glove was ridiculous, and he sold it for all it’s worth, as did the legal team, coming up with the defense slogan of the trial which was reiterated in the final summation:  If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit.  But the heart of Cochrane’s closing argument had little to do with Simpson, instead demanding that the jury stop the malicious practices of the LAPD, challenging them and their racial integrity by asking them, whose side are you on?  “Stop this cover up.  If you don’t stop it, then who?  Do you think the police department’s going to stop it?  Do you think the DA’s office is going to stop it?  Do you think we’re going to stop it by ourselves?  It has to be stopped by you.”  Then in a moment of legal hyperbole, Cochrane compared Fuhrman to Hitler, claiming it was our moral obligation to stop hatred before it dominates our lives.  The irony, of course, is that he was using racial injustice to defend a man who cared nothing about the black community, where lost in the process was what actually happened to Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman.  After 267 days of witnesses and evidence presentation, 1105 pieces of evidence, 45,000 pages of trial transcripts from 133 witnesses, the verdict was reached in 3 and a half hours.  Hard to believe there was any real jury deliberation, where the overall belief was people were simply exhausted and tired of the entire process and wanted to go home, reaching a verdict before the morning was done.  To the moving strains of Dvořák’s “Going Home” Largo from his 9th “New World” Symphony, Antonin Dvorak - New World Symphony ~Largo~ - YouTube(12:07), which happens to be the same music used at Vice President Joe Biden’s son’s funeral last year, the not guilty verdict is announced and Simpson is released from custody, causing utter jubilation in the black community.  As it turns out, more than 70% of blacks believed in Simpson’s innocence, while more than 70% of whites believed he was guilty, so the predominantly black jury acknowledged they felt a moral obligation to reverse the ”injustice” of the Rodney King verdict and finally give a black man his just due, a decision that elated blacks across the country, tired of a history of oppression and police brutality, where the thinking was it was good to see the police take one on the chin for a change.  Whites, on the other hand, were shocked and outraged, none more anguished in the court than Goldman’s mother Sharon, who was simply distraught, as there was no one else’s blood at the crime scene, just O.J. Simpson, Ron Goldman and Nicole Simpson, two of whom were murdered.  That left only one remaining suspect, and he was just set free of a double murder.  There are no other suspects in the case.  Ironically, one of the black men on the jury put up an upraised fist when the decision was read in a black power salute, where it turns out he happened to be a former member of the Black Panther Party.  Who knew?  The jubilation of blacks was accompanied by absolute resentment towards whites, an event that was unprecedented, as they literally danced on the graves of two murdered white people.  The message being sent was—now you know how it feels—as blacks have historically been arrested and convicted for crimes they never committed, while arresting white cops have always gotten off scot free.  Now that the shoe was on the other foot, it was a strange kind of justice, as it didn’t address the charges of murder in the courtroom, but instead took on a larger issue, namely a history of lynchings and murder of black people at the hands of whites.  But the bottom line is that after this one euphoric day, life goes on, and blacks have the same hard road ahead of them, where this likely changes little.  In the end, the winner was not the black community, but a rich black man named O.J. Simpson.

While essentially a prolonged and well documented discussion on race in America, the fallout from the trial remains divisive, even among Simpson’s legal team, where Robert Shapiro went on The Barbara Walters Show to announce he felt relying upon the race defense had betrayed a sense of moral justice, claiming he would never work with Cochrane again and refused to ever speak to F. Lee Bailey.  Whites, especially his neighbors in Brentwood, unleashed a furor of anger and hostility towards O.J. where he was ostracized, as people felt he was a wife beater and a murderer, calling him names whenever they saw him in public.  O.J. was no longer welcome at the prestigious golf country clubs where he was once the only black member.  It was left to the Goldman family to bear the brunt of the outrage and the agonizing pain of their loss, making sure they hounded Simpson for the rest of his life seeking justice, even if it was only in a civil and not a criminal case, where one only had to prove it was more likely than not that he committed the crime, making sure Simpson could not profit on his victory, as two years later he was found guilty in a civil court and ordered to pay $33.5 million dollars in damages for the two murders, more money than he was worth.  As a result, Simpson lost the house in Brentwood, which was subsequently torn down, and he moved to South Beach, Florida, financially supported by his substantial football pension which could not be touched by the courts, living a tawdry life of excess and degradation, hanging out in strip clubs, doing as many sexual threesomes as he could, where he was associating strictly with the lower elements of society, hangers on, people that continued to fawn all over him like the celebrity he was, living the high life, all the while thinking there would be money and girls in it for them.  He got a $700,000 book advance for a story suggesting how he might have done it, entitled If I Did It, Confessions of a Killer, which was a weird and twisted way others felt they could get a confession out of him, but it was all a game, an act, where he felt the world was passing him by and he was losing his business opportunities to cash in on his celebrity status.  A judge squashed the book deal, awarded the rights to the Goldman family, his biggest debtor, who published the book as if it were O.J.’s own confessions of murder.  In a strange way, this twisted, make-believe fantasy mirrored the fictitious screenplay by Mark Fuhrman, where in each case a searing reality rose out of supposed fiction.  While O.J.’s life was in disorder, his agent and others were stealing his sports memorabilia, hiding it, storing it somewhere, and then selling it to the highest bidder.  When O.J. heard about this, he considered it stolen merchandise and in September of 2007 became interested in getting it back, setting up an anonymous buy with a man in Las Vegas who supposedly had $100,000 worth of O.J. memorabilia to sell. Simpson decides to bring a couple guys with guns to scare the life out of these posers, assuming they would back off, which they did, but for their own protection they captured it all on video, which is all the evidence they ever needed.  Cops were called, and O.J. was once again arrested, where one of his own testified against him, claiming he led the assault, and they threw the book at him in what amounts to overkill, receiving the harshest justice possible, as he was sentenced, exactly 13 years to the day from when he was originally exonerated, to a 33 year sentence, matching the number of millions owed in restitution for the double murder he supposedly did not commit.  He was charged with burglary and armed kidnapping for screaming out for no one to leave the room, but no one was abducted, no one was harmed, yet he was truly victimized by a system that once miraculously set him free.  Now he’s languishing in a Nevada state penitentiary wondering how the hell he got there, becoming just another screwed black victim of “white justice in America.”    

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