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NEWS, SOCIETY (permalink) 10.06.2005
where were you, thought-wise?
were you aware we just celebrated the ten year anniversary of the the OJ verdict? i didn't until i caught this great episode of frontline which was loaded with all sorts of current observations about this historic affair. one of the more poignant comments came from a ucla law professor, Peter Arenella, in regard to the performance of the defense team:

tragically, the american public doesn't seem to understand the role of the criminal defense counsel. even my first year students ask me frequently how can you as a criminal defense attorney ... represent a guilty person in good conscious. the point of an adversarial system is for the defense to force the prosecution to persuade a jury beyond a reasonable doubt of the defendant's guilt and a defense counsel's ethical role is to make the prosecution satisfy that burden of proof by challenging the credibility and persuasiveness of the prosecution's evidence.

i could definitely be lumped into the american public referenced here and have long been intrigued by this legal circumstance. i've always possessed a pollyanna notion that skilled defense teams were meant for the innocent and it was not morally clear to me how someone could fight to free a person they knew to be guilty (this obviously assumes a defendant admits the truth and/or crime to his attorneys or they otherwise come to know the truth), almost as if the trial should happen and if the dude's found innocent AND the defense team KNOWS the person is guilty, that some member of the defense team should step forward and assert that even though we won the case, we know our client is guilty of the charge.

an admission, to anyone in the legal circle feels like it should be enough, in my utopian vision at least. and i get that the landscape would change should this method be the norm. all i'm saying is it seems utterly bizarre to me that people go free when we have legal professionals walking around who know the defendant committed the crime for which they are accused, wherever that may apply.

a few more interesting points made in the show.

upon the verdict's reading in 95, you know, when the white population collectively sagged and the black population collectively rejoiced, the whites had a sense that the celebration was over what appeared to be an obviously guilty man, who was black, getting away with the murder of two people, who were white. upon re-interviewing many of the previous celebrants today, they admit to feeling he did in fact commit the crime, and they were not rejoicing that OJ dodged a murder charge but instead that a black man beat the system, a system that has long ravaged factions of their communities. beyond the irony that OJ was a man so accepted and revered by whites, the fact that it was orenthal james simpson seems to be irrelevant. but it is this vitally important distinction (that a great many of the blacks celebrating the verdict that day felt he either did it or was in some way responsible for it being done), i feel, was not made abundantly clear by the press back in 95.

i also heard multiple people say that the great flaw in the case was that certain parties of the lapd attempted, or very much appeared to have attempted, to frame an already guilty man and had they let events unfold naturally the case would have been much more winnable for the prosecution.

the only thing the pundits can agree on; the vivisection of this event does not have a final chapter. oh, and also that we really need to get cracking on the truth box.

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