It's called schadenfreude -- getting satisfaction out of someone else's troubles. It's not something to be proud of, but I must admit to having enjoyed every second of O. J. Simpson's agony as the court clerk read off a succession of guilty verdicts after his latest trial in Las Vegas. The former football star and double murderer was found guilty of kidnapping and armed robbery, crimes that occurred last year at a hotel in the gambling Mecca.
The verdict came in exactly 13 years to the day that Simpson was acquitted of the brutal slashing deaths of his wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend, Ronald Goldman. The 1995 verdict was an outrage to all decent people who had faith in the justice system. As television coverage showed Simpson smiling and shaking hands with his attorneys, the stunned looks on the faces of the victims' families tore at the heart and soul of America's value system. Viewers all over the world saw a heartless creature, who had exercised total control over his wife during a tumultuous marriage, get away with murdering her because she refused to take his abuse any longer.
Mr. Goldman, who happened to be with Ms. Simpson that evening, was merely in the wrong place at the wrong time as the knife-wielding savage added the young man to his rampage. When the story broke into the news headlines and the former gridiron star was arrested, his guilt-ridden face and sullen acceptance of his fate was patently obvious. But that was before a phallanx of legal beagles smelled the odoriferous blood of free publicity on a national scale and moved toward the scent like a bunch of ravenous leeches. And a motley crowd they were! From F. Lee Bailey to Robert Shapiro, to Johnny Cochran; wealthy barristers all, they combined a century of courtroom legerdemain to bastardize the justice system and turn a homicidal maniac free. They did it by putting everyone on trial but the defendant. The Los Angeles Police Dept. was blamed; in particular, Detective Mark Fuhrman, because he had once used the term, n****r. It didn't matter that he used the word ten years earlier during a taped interview with a writer who was working on a screenplay about police work in the inner cities.
There wasn't a scintilla of evidence that Fuhrman had ever used the word during his long and illustrious career as a detective in one of the highest crime areas of the country. Nevertheless, operating on the assumption that the predominantly African-American jury would find any use of the word, in any context, even in the privacy of a studio during an interview, as irrefutable evidence that the person using it is a racist, the defense badgered the detective on the stand, and the jury ate it up. Once the racist label had been emblazoned on Fuhrman's forehead, the putrid pack of petifoggers deflected the damning evidence against their client and made the trial all about racism. Of course, the fact that a black guy had practically decapitated two white people and left them lying in a pool of their own blood never registered so much as a blip on the racism radar screen.
Bailey, who made a career out of defending men who killed women (Dr. Sam Sheppard, Dr. Carl Coppolino and Albert DeSalvo, i.e. The Boston Strangler, among others,) was absolutely gleeful as he twisted jurors' minds to keep them from noticing that the trial was about justice for two dead victims, not about a careless utterance. Shapiro, who looked as though his heart, assuming he has one, was never in the case, did his part by finding forensic "experts" who would favor the murderer.
And who could forget Johnnie Cochran, an overpaid shyster if ever there were one, parading around the courtroom holding the infamous bloody glove and engaging in a rhythmic display of sophomoric banter: "If it doesn't fit, you must acquit." Acquit they did, to the gasping horror of decent people everywhere. The victims' relatives had to live with the fact that the monster who butchered their loved ones had been given a license to kill, ex post facto. Now that the animal has been rounded up again, perhaps this time they'll keep him in his cage. As for the so-called "Dream Team," responsible for setting the creature free the first time, they will surely get their reward in the Ninth Circle of Dante's Inferno, where moral turpitude is never a pardonable offense.
Bob Weir is a former detective sergeant in the New York City Police Department. He is the executive editor of The News Connection in Highland Village, Texas. Email Bob.