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OJ verdict: A sampling of newspaper opinion Compiled by United Press International ------

Los Angeles Times: Los Angeles wakes up today to an unsettling reality: It is a city in a nation so divided that we cannot even agree on what we all see when we look at the same picture. The acquittal of O.J. Simpson is a verdict that displeases many. It sticks in the craw of those who considered Simpson guilty. But the American system of justice properly puts a very heavy burden on the state to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.... The trial is over; the jury has spoken. One of the more repellent reactions to the verdict was the loud cheering that erupted in the street outside the court and elsewhere when the verdict was unsealed by Judge Lance A. Ito. The cheering, even for Simpson fans, was wildly inappropriate considering the unfathomable anguish of the Brown and Goldman families.... The public and the political leadership of this troubled city must come to grips with how a case that at first raised pointed issues of domestic violence toward women could ultimately have turned into a sad commentary on American racial divisions. Polls showed most whites found the mountains of circumstantial evidence accumulated by the police and prosecution to be convincing beyond a reasonable doubt, but most African Americans felt possible police misconduct raised that doubt...ultimately its (government's) case was undermined by sloppiness by Los Angeles Police Department officers and criminalists and the county coroner's office, and by continuing concern about racism within the police force.

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The best evidence in the world will not stand up in court if jurors have doubts about its integrity. If there is an political message in this verdict, it is that the mayor, the City Council, the Police Commission and the chief of police must act without further delay to root out the remnants of racism. ------

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The Sacramento Bee: On one point there can be little disagreement. Rarely has there been a case in which there were so many contaminating factors: a hero- celebrity, media frenzy, race, gender, a set of incipient revolts by jurors who were sequestered too long, a police force long suspect by much of its community. Against that noise, the complex technicalities of genetic markers, blood types and one-in-a-million statistics may have been seen as little more than complicated sources of delay. But so far even that is only speculation. Perhaps there are only two certainties at this point. The first, clear from the evidence in the case itself, is how much damage even a few racist cops can do to a system that harbors them. Mark Fuhrman, fairly or unfairly, has sown seeds of doubt about the credibility of police officers across America. The other is that this case was so extraordinary that the larger verdict so many people seem to want from it may never be clear. ------

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The San Francisco Chronicle: Until and unless the O.J. Simpson jurors explain the reasoning behind their stunning not guilty verdict in Los Angeles yesterday, the world will be left to wonder and speculate. What is clear is that the nine-month murder trial has illuminated and opened a national debate on some of the most volatile issues that bedevil America - race relations, rogue cops, domestic violence, celebrity and wealth, criminal justice and the media. Nearly forgotten in the trial's sensational conclusion are the victims -- Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman -- hacked to death by a murderer who is on the loose. Who was not moved by Fred Goldman's anguished post-vedict statement: 'Last June 13, 1994 was the worst nightmare of my life; this is the second...The prosecution didn't lose today, I deeply believe the country lost today.' What, then, can we make of the trial and the verdict? ------

The New York Times: Whatever one thinks about the shockingly swift acquittal of O.J. Simpson, this 'trial of the century' has left a stigma on criminal justice that could take years to repair. There was considerable scientific and circumstantial evidence incriminating Mr. Simpson in the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and ronald Goldman. Many people who followed the trial closely on television will continue to believe him guilty.... Still, a jury with solemn instructions of 'reasonable doubt' ringing in its ears rendered a verdict of not guilty. It was understandable given the relentlessly exposed bungling of the Los Angeles Police Department. Its investigators made so many errors that the mountain of evidence against Mr. Simpson began to look like an eroding sandpile. The prosecution compounded the police bungling when it put Mark Fuhrman, a racist detective, at the center of its case....Since Mr. Fuhrman was alone when he found one of the most incriminating pieces of evidence, a bloody glove, and since he may have been in a position to tamper with other evidence, his exposure as a racist threw doubt on much of the prosecution's case and allowed the defense to play the race card. ... The defense team...tarnished its triumph with a prejudicial appeal to the predominantly black jury to look beyond the simple issue of Mr. Simpson's gult or innocence and send a message to society.... In the end, this will be remembered as a case that was disrupted by the police. NEWLN:more

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Chicago Tribune: Even before hearing from the jurors, however, some lessons can be gleaned from the Simpson trial. One is about the importance of cleansing police departments of poisoned apples like Mike Fuhrman. Any prosecution that relies on the work and word of a creature so malign and morally deformed as he is will be in trouble from the start -- and deservely so. Another is about the educational value of televised trials. For all the foolishness and excess that occurred outside the courtroom, that single, remote-controlled camera inside the courtroom allowed more Americans than ever before to witness the justice system at work. If what they saw was less than edifying, the fault is not the camera's but the system's.' ------

Arlington Heights (Ill.) Daily Herald: Why didn't the evidence of spousal abuse carry as much weight with women jurors as racial concerns may have played with some jurors? We may not know until those who passed judgment begin to speak, but one possible explanation is that domestic violence, widespread as it may be, is still considerably less pervasive that racial bias. Many white Americans may begin to understand now, if they did not before, that they simply have no frame of reference -- no demeaning, degrading or otherwise ugly experiences -- that permits or compels them to view the police and the justice system the way many black Americans do. The verdict, then, may well constitute a learning experience for many white Americans. ------

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Daily Southtown (south suburban Chicago daily): How could it be? How could the jury have ignored the scientific evidence, including the DNA, the bloody gloves, the blood in Simpson's car, the mixture of his blood and the blood of the victims? How could the jury overlook the fact that the defense had no believable explanation for Simpson's whereabouts at the time of the murder?' ... 'There were holes in the prosecution case -- the lack of a murder weapon and the lack of eyewitnesses, for example. Combined with the racial factors decribed by Cochran, the holes apparently created a reasonable doubt in the minds of jurors. That's the way the system is supposed to work. It is built on the premise that it is better to allow guilty parties to go free than to imprison and innocent man. ------

The Harrisburg, Pa., Patriot-News: The word 'verdict,' judges often remind jurors, comes from the Latin term 'vere dictim,' meaning 'truly said.' When the jury is given the case, they are charged to ponder the evidence, apply the law and deliver the truth. After less than four hours deliberation, the jury declared the truth to be that O.J. Simpson is not guilty of slashing to death his wife and an acquaintance in a murderous rage 15 months ago in Los Angeles. What led the jury to its conclusion? Why was almost a year's worth of evidence -- some of it riveting, much of it mundane -- disposed of so quickly? Those are the issues that will be mulled over in the coming months. In the meantime, O.J. Simpson, after spending more than a year in jail awaiting trial, is once again a free man. If the evidence appeared to outsiders to be overwhelming in favor of conviction, we must remember that the jury and the public did not have access to the same information. It was the information which reached the jury that turned the case. Good verdict? Bad verdict? A qualitative assessment is irrelevant. All that matters is that the jury delivered the truth and the case is done. Perhaps some day another suspect will be produced, tried and convicted of the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman. But it will not be Orenthal James Simpson. It is now time to ease into the post-O.J. period. Those who had come to depend on the live courtroom coverage in all its excitement and ennui, the daily bulletins, the digests and analyses and Leno/Letterman commentary may feel a little let down in the coming weeks. Considering the progress of the case over eight months, most court watchers, professional and amateur alike, expected jury deliberations to take at least two weeks. But frankly, we're glad this trial is over. There is much else to attend to. For the principals of the case, there are lives to restore, children to raise, interrupted careers to revisit, transgressions to resolve -- and a great range of attitudes to examine. For the rest of us, it is back to real life. The so-called 'trial of the century' is done; let's get down to business. NEWLN:more

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The Atlanta Constitution: Reasonable doubt is the hurdle the U.S. criminal justice system must overcome before it can send any person to prison. It is not enough to think a suspect could have committed a crime, had motive to commit a crime or probably committed a crime. Before depriving a person of life or liberty, a jury must be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that he did it. Those who hoped for perfect justice are undoubtedly disappointed. O. J. Simpson's family believes he was unfairly smeared. Relatives of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman believe a killer has gone free. But a long-suffering jury of 12 citizens labored in an imperfect system to do the best job they could. And that was no easy thing. ------

The Washington Post: A screenwriter who brought a script resembling the O.J. Simpson saga to Hollywood would surely be turned away on the grounds of overdoing stereotypes. The defendant was a handsome, engaging, black sports hero who had made friends and inspired fans across the spectrum of American society. None of them wanted to believe that he committed a crime. The victims -- his glamorous, blond ex-wife and her unfortunate male friend who turned up in the wrong place at the wrong time -- were sympathetic. And the really bad cop, the witness whose testimony was critical to the prosecutor's case, was a white bigot whose whole history lent weight to the suspicion that he just might have planted evidence to destroy a black man. The supporting case was a stereotypical stew: the high- powered, high-priced lawyers, the yuppieish female prosecutor, the California surfer-type guy called Kato Kaelin. There was something here for everybody's prejudice, for everybody's fear, for everybody's anxiety and/or contempt. With all this baggage, it was probably inevitable that millions of observers would have been disappointed no matter how the case came out. Yesterday's acquittal of Mr. Simpson certainly stunned and disappointed those who thought the government's evidence was overwhelming, even as it satisfied those who believe that the system -- and in particular the Los Angeles Police Department -- is so rotten and biased as to provide room for a reasonable doubt in any case where race is a factor. It is only speculation that the jurors, nine African Americans, two Caucasians and one Hispanic, came to their conclusion by that route, but it is likely. We hope that they will speak out in the coming days and that they will be candid about their reasoning process. ... ------

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The Washington Times: Notwithstanding the swiftness with which the jury in the O.J. Simpson case reached its verdict, you couldn't really blame the experts, analysts and professional trial-watchers who expected something different -- in particular, highly protracted deliberations leading to a hung jury. The trial seemed, at various points, more of a piece with the circuses of a declining Roman empire than with the pursuit of facts in an especially grisly double murder. The fame of the defendant, the slickness of his high-priced counsel, the beleaguered and sometimes confused prosecutors, the weeping judge, the racist detective -- and then the endless (and endlessly fascinating) stream of commentary and analysis from the nation's best prosecutors and criminal defense lawyers, to say nothing of the David Letterman 'Top Ten' lists and the 'Dancing Itos' on Jay Leno. The courthouse upon the arrival of F. Lee Bailey and Johnnie Cochran yesterday afternoon had some of the flavor of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion on Oscar night. The scene outside after the verdict ran more toward a post-Super bowl hometown victory celebration.... The trial is over, but the speculation must go on. What was on the jurors' minds? Based on the shortness of the deliberations, it's clear they spent little time on the particulars. Was the prosecution case really so bereft of evidence as to make it possible to evaluate and dismiss all of it in three or four hours? That is understandably hard for any reasonable person who watched the trial to fathom. And this in turn means that something else was going on. Whatever it was, it wasn't good. Boredom and frustration from long sequestration? Jury nullification? Radial solidarity from a three- fourths black jury? Too much chaff from the defense to fly through? We don't know. We have trials by jury not because the result is always justice, but because no one has come up with a fairer way to ascertain the facts of a case. The O.J. Simpson case is a reminder of that. ------

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Foster's Daily Democrat, Dover, N.H.: What decided the case so quickly? Unless some of the jurors are willing to grant interviews in the next few days, we'll probably have to wait until some of them get their books published. And what about Judge Lance Ito - the man on whose shoulders was set the burdon oof making sure the case reached a conclusion? We have a feeling history will be far kinder to him than were the instant analysts each day. It's a hard one to call, even if you take out the ingredient that all events occurred in southern California. But, yes, we think the system worked. But maybe it's as much hope as it is belief. And what about Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman? The testimony and evidence was not great enough to convince a jury that O.J. Simpson killed them. Who did kill Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman?

The Dallas Morning News: Leaders in the legal community should search their souls and ask if the Simpson trial is the image they want to present of justice in America. The excesses of the trial have underscored the need for reforms in court practices. Those reforms need attention now, not after the next high-profile mud-wrestling event. -- Is it fair to subject juries to the punitive seclusion that the Simpson jury endured? It was in seclusion 262 days. Perhaps juries should be sequestered only if jurors' lives are in jeopardy. Fewer Americans are going to be willing to spend months in isolation after hearing about the strains on the Simpson jury. -- Should attorneys be given such free rein to leak evidence in the media? Or should Judge Lance Ito have restricted the attorneys on both sides with a gag order that would have prohibited trying the case on the morning tv shows? -- Would it help reduce the time-consuming theatrics in such high- profile cases to limit cameras in the courtroom or limit attorney showboating? Should such large teams of attorneys be restricted to one spokesperson in court to limit repetition? Those are the kinds of questions that can be addressed in a constructive way by the legal profession even if many questions in the Simpson case remain an unresolved mystery. The most troubling question of all remains, if not O.J., who? Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman lie dead and buried. Someone murdered both of them. That grossest of rights violations would be compounded if their killer or killers were not made to pay for these crimes.

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