In 1995, OJ Simpson was tried for the murder of Nicole Brown Simpson (his ex-wife) and her friend, Ron Goldman. Surprisingly, the twelve jurors found OJ Simpson not guilty in spite of a lengthy and highly publicized trial. I believe the jury’s not guilty verdict was a result of many reasons. The defendant was a popular athlete and actor whom many looked up to and admired. His main defense lawyers, Robert Shapiro, and Johnnie Cochran were top notch. During jury selection, both defense and prosecution used stereotypes and background checks to predict whether OJ would be found guilty.
The jury was composed of nine blacks, one Hispanic and two whites, meaning the majority was minority. Out of the twelve jurors, nine thought that OJ was less likely to be a murderer because he was a professional athlete. Another solid reason for OJ’s release was that his defense lawyers claimed that there was police fraud and that the DNA evidence was mishandled. The Jurors heard over and over again about the Los Angeles police department and major miss conduct. This trial was the most highly followed criminal trial of all time.
National surveys following the trial showed the differences between how blacks and whites viewed the case. In fact, the Los Angeles government and police feared major racial riots if OJ was convicted. The city of Los Angeles has had prior racial riots because of police brutality, police fraud and racial discrimination. The most severe riot was in 1965. During this time Los Angeles had major racial discrimination. Blacks and Latinos were prevented from moving into predominately white neighborhoods.
Tensions were high and the Watts riot occurred because a black man and his family were unfairly arrested and beaten in front of a crowd of predominately black individuals. This was the tipping point of unfair treatment and discrimination. Another major race riot resulted in the beating and arrest of Rodney King. In this situation, an unarmed black man was beaten in front of a crowd of people. The police exhibited brutal force while other officers merely stood by. The trial against the offending officers had to be moved to another county so that there would be a fair trial.
Unfortunately, all the officers were acquitted, and the 1991 Los Angeles riots occurred because the public was outraged. Eventually, these officers were found guilty in federal court. These two cases tie directly into the OJ Simpson verdict. Police fraud, pubic opinion, and racial tension all play together. Many minorities believed in Simpson and had such a negative opinion of the Los Angeles police department and the court system. These reasons are why I believe the jury found OJ Simpson not guilty. OJ was later tried for the same crime in civil court where he was found guilty.