Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Confession Of The Century?

Perhaps no one knows when O.J. Simpson hit bottom -- probably not even The Juice himself -- but it probably occurred sometime in the run-up to the 1995 slaying deaths of his wife and Ron Goldman, which I concluded as a journalist who covered the story nonstop from murders to acquittal were a consequence of a cocaine-fueled binge, a fit of jealousy, or most likely both.

In any event, it is sadly obvious that Simpson, whose good looks have faded at age 64, has been bottom crawling since then. I will leave it to greater minds to do the moral calculus on whether his October 2008 conviction of armed robbery and kidnapping in Las Vegas 13 years to the day of his acquittal and a jail sentence of nine years somehow makes up for him getting off in 1995.

My own view is that life -- and death -- don't work that way, besides which Simpson seems incapable of being chastened no matter how hard he looked once looked for "the real killers" and how much time he does.

That reality helps lend the air of unreality to his apparent forthcoming confession to the murders to Ophrah Winfrey, an "event" that sadly diminishes the cred of the former daytime television queen. Oprah, whose new OWN cable network is struggling to attract viewers, has stoked the pre-confession hype by claiming that she had a dream that O.J. had confessed to her. Horse hockey. Oprah wants to use O.J. to help put her network on the ratings map -- but only on the condition that he promise to use the opportunity to say he killed Nicole and Goldman.

The confession, if it is indeed made, will come with a hefty qualifier:

O.J. claims that he killed his ex-wife and her friend in self defense, an allegation that is easily rebutted should the case -- heaven forbid -- be reopened because he has been widely quoted by intimates as having acknowledged that Nicole snubbed him when he interrupted a meal she was having at a restaurant with her children, went home, worked himself into a rage and then went to her condo in the Brentwood section of Los Angeles. There is no evidence to his claim, nor was it alleged at the 1995 trial, that Nicole was wielding a large knife when she opened the front door.

At the 1995 proceeding, dubbed the Trial of the Century, nine of the 12 jurors were black, while reactions to the verdict broke down along racial lines with most African Americans unconvinced of Simpson's guilt and most whites convinced that the case against him was solid. My own view is that O.J. was as guilty as sin but justice was done in its own messy way because the prosecution did not prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

There was irony in O.J.'s contention that blacks were intentionally eliminated from the all-white Las Vegas jury.

This is because in a society that judges a person by the color of their skin, O.J. had something that few well-known black Americans can claim: He was so accomplished and at one time was so popular that, in advertising agency parlance, he was "race neutral." Ditto for Oprah.

That is to say that when most people looked at O.J. they saw not a black man who happened to have overcome a disadvantaged childhood in a broken home, but a handsome and gifted athlete who had found fame and fortune by parlaying outstanding college and professional football careers into a successful career off the field selling everything from men's footwear to rental cars, and later as a not-bad Hollywood actor. Who just happened to be black.

Two years after the murder trial, the Brown and Goldman families were awarded $33 million in compensatory and punitive damages in a civil trial that to O.J. seemed like a big joke.

He had bottom crawled to Florida after the murder trial where liberal bankruptcy laws shielded him from many of his creditors, and aside from an occasional dust-up on a golf course or nightclub, run-ins with cable companies for pirating their signals and other petty offenses, as well as his off again, on again "fictional" account of the murders, he was mercifully out of the news if not out of trouble until 2006 when Fox News announced that Judith Reagan had interviewed him for over four hours and had gotten him to confess on camera.

After harsh criticism, that bastion of cable news probity announced that it would not air the interview, while its parent company cancelled its deal to publish If I Did It, a Reagan-authored follow-up book. Like others before and after her, Reagan would regret insinuating herself into O.J.'s orbit. She was fired from one of the highest-profile jobs in publishing.

Then came the Las Vegas incident. And now the Confession of the Century.


The Reverse-Dad said...

Nice summary of the story thus far. Always interesting to catch up to OJ. His story is one I grew up with that serves a touchstone to my memory. I know where I was when I heard the verdict and I remember very well what my friends thought of it.

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