The O. J. Simpson case is in the news again thanks to the premiere of the FX network miniseries.
A little perspective from 1995:
Simpson Jury Rejects Word Of Racist Lying Cops
BY NAOMI CRAINE
A Los Angeles jury decided unanimously to reject the word of lying, racist cops and voted to acquit O.J. Simpson on two charges of murder October 2. The jury made the right decision.
By the time the jury went into deliberations, the case against the former football star had become, in fact, a trial of the police and their standard method of operation. Particularly damning for the cops and prosecution were audio tapes of their key witness, detective Mark Fuhrman, using repeated racial slurs and bragging about beating up and framing numerous people.
"I think [Simpson] probably did do it," the daughter of juror Anise Ascherback quoted her mother as saying. But "there wasn't enough evidence." The jury voted for acquittal, Ascherback said, "because of Mark Fuhrman."
The murder of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman was a horrific crime. When their bloodied bodies were found in June, 1994, O.J. Simpson, who had beaten his wife on numerous occasions, became the prime suspect.
The cops did what they always do - they began assembling the case they thought would guarantee a conviction. The rights of the accused, which workers guard jealously, are irrelevant to them.
Fuhrman, by his own admission, searched Simpson's yard without a warrant, where he says he found a bloody glove that was a key piece of evidence. Blood samples and other physical evidence were handled haphazardly - a fact a couple of jurors pointed to in explaining why they voted "not guilty." These procedures are so typical, the cops and prosecutors thought nothing of it. Fuhrman was praised for his work by the prosecutors and higher-ups in the police department.
From the beginning, Simpson's attorneys hammered away at the actions of the police, accusing Fuhrman and other cops of planting and tampering with evidence and of being racist. The defense got a boost when taped interviews between Fuhrman and an aspiring screen-writer were released. In the interviews the cop uses the epithet "nigger" at least 30 times - a word he swore under oath he had not used in 10 years - and describes in graphic detail beating and torturing suspects in a mostly Latino housing project.
After small portions of the tape were presented to the jury, Fuhrman declined to take the stand for further questioning, citing his Fifth Amendment right to avoid self- incrimination.
Not the trial workers get
Simpson didn't get the same treatment working-class people, whether Black or white, receive. A millionaire, Simpson was able to hire several of the best defense attorneys in the country. And Judge Lance Ito allowed him to do what few workers ever get an opportunity to do - present the record of the cops and make it possible to challenge their evidence. Because of his high-priced legal team and the widespread distrust of the Los Angeles police department, Simpson was able to get the fairest trial money can buy in capitalist society.
This stands in stark contrast to what working people face when they find themselves in court. The main cop who testified against framed-up unionist Mark Curtis in Iowa, for instance, had been suspended from the police force in the past for brutalizing suspects and then lying to cover up his actions. The judge, however, ruled that the jury could not be told this fact, let alone review the cop's entire record.
The same week Simpson was acquitted, 10 men who follow the Muslim faith were found guilty of seditious conspiracy in New York on the word of a paid FBI snitch. The prosecution had not one shred of physical evidence against most of the defendants, yet all face between 20 years and life imprisonment as the U.S. government put its full weight behind the frame-up.
Many innocent working people sit on death row, not able to afford high-priced attorneys.
As two young workers on the Santa Fe railroad in Los Angeles - one of them Black and the other white - told a Militant correspondent, "If we were on the stand [instead of Simpson], we would have both gone to jail."
Normal functioning of cops, prosecutors
The functioning of the Los Angeles Police Department and district attorneys was no aberration. It is exactly how the cops function across the country, all the time. This has been exposed in recent months not just in Los Angeles but in Atlanta, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia, and elsewhere. And the prosecutors work hand-in-glove with the cops. They're an inseparable part of the same system.
"This has been going on for years in our country to the Black people," Bonnie Beasley, a 55-year-old woman in San Francisco, told the New York Times following the Simpson verdict. "In every city there is a Fuhrman."
The trial highlighted how discredited the police have become. The Times reported September 25 on interviews with dozens of perspective jurors across New York. The big majority said they would distrust the word of the cops. Many of those interviewed cited Fuhrman as an example.
From beginning to end, the big-business press has played up what they call a "racial divide" over the Simpson case, citing the fact that a much higher percentage of Blacks than whites polled said Simpson should be found "not guilty." The key factor in this "divide," however, is class and experience with the cops, not race.
Workers who are Black and Latino bear a disproportionate brunt of police brutality and frame-ups, and therefore know first-hand what the cops do routinely. Many workers who are white also have similar experiences with the cops, and greater numbers do every day. With the Fuhrman tapes and other recent revelations, more workers than ever before distrust the cops' word, including the two white women who were on the jury that acquitted Simpson.
For many people the verdict does not resolve whether O.J. Simpson murdered Nicole Simpson and Ronald Goldman. Only O.J. Simpson himself knows that for sure. It is a matter of record that Simpson physically abused his wife more than once. When he was caught, he pleaded no contest and got a slap on the wrist from the court - a $970 fine and counseling, which he was allowed to do by telephone. This sorry record demonstrates how little the cops and courts really care about wife-beating and other violence against women.
The jury wasn't in a position to correct what the cops and courts failed to do about O.J. Simpson's wife-beating. The choice before them in the murder trial was to accept the cops' tainted evidence or to acquit. They made the right choice.