Twenty years ago, the opening arguments in the murder trial of O.J. Simpson were given to the jury. Twenty years? Apparently time flies even when you’re not having fun. (Writing these columns is fun only after I’ve written them.)
Actually, the trial should have been in Santa Monica as was the civil case two years later. Many pundits blame the move to downtown L.A. on D.A. Gil Garcetti. Reportedly he wanted hands on control so that at lunch he could go over strategy with the prosecuting attorneys. (All the good it did them.)
Most experts speculated that if the trial had been held here, because of a much different jury pool, that O.J. would have likely been convicted. Then again, if O.J. had accepted a rumored plea deal, he’d have long ago been out of jail. This instead of currently languishing in a Nevada prison.
According to some sources, early on in the case, Robert Shapiro brought O.J. a deal from the prosecution. If he plead guilty to 2nd degree murder he would have received a 12 year sentence, meaning he’d be out in six. (Though he’d have a little explaining to do to his kids.)
O.J. not only rejected the deal but he demoted Shapiro and promoted Johnny Cochran in the hierarchy of the “Dream Team.” Alan Dershowitz recently described the team of battling egos as, “More of a nightmare.” (John Travolta will join the cast of Cuba Gooding and David Schwimmer when he plays Robert Shapiro in the upcoming 10-part FX channel TV mini-series, “The People v. O.J. Simpson.”)
While incarcerated during the trial, O.J. earned a reported $3 million by signing posters and footballs. This was revealed in the book “How I Helped O.J. Simpson Get Away with Murder,” written by O.J.’s marketing agent and confidant Mike Gilbert.
Gilbert claims to be guilt-ridden to this day. Apparently he advised O.J. to stop taking his arthritis medication so his fingers would swell up prior to the ill-fated trying on of the gloves. (Google “Mike Gilbert on Dr. Phil.”)
As for O.J. and the evolution of reality TV here’s my theory. The ratings of the O.J. trial were so spectacular that TV producers soon realized that it didn’t take scripts and actors to hit Nielsen ratings home runs. Enter O.J.’s best friend and lawyer, Robert Kardashian.
Apparently knowing his friend was guilty as sin, who can forget the shock on Kardashian’s face when the “not guilty” verdict was read in court. But who could imagine his ex-wife and their self-obsessed progeny would be part of a reality TV revolution that I contend has seriously diminished the collective I.Q. of the U.S.
Much as I try, I can’t watch TV today without seeing one or more Kardashians. They are shallow, talentless (unless having a huge butt is a talent) and yet are obscenely rich. In 2013, the family earned close to $100 million. (No wonder the country is consumed with narcissism, given it pays so well.
It’s probably of little comfort in prison but O.J. still holds a significant record in the NFL, that of a per-game rushing average one year of 141.6 yards. He must also hold the record for having gone from the most revered sports icon in America to the most reviled.
As for his guilt, I’m more convinced that O.J. killed Nicole and Ron than I am the sun rises in the East. And I’ve discussed the case with one of the greatest legal minds, Vincent Bugliosi. (We became friends following my review of his book “The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder.”)
Following the O.J. trial Bugliosi wrote “Outrage,” 400 pages of missteps in the prosecution’s case. It’s actually required reading in some law schools. “Nicole’s blood on O.J.’s sock was enough by itself to convict,” Bugliosi confided this past Sunday. He also told me that Marcia Clark received a $4.5 million advance for her book while Chris Darden got $1 million for his. (Nice pay for screwing up royally.)
We agreed the defense’s suggestion that O.J. was framed was laughable. At the time, tampering with evidence was punishable equally with the crime being investigated. Thus if Mark Fuhrman placed the glove at Rockingham he could have been faced the death penalty. Add to that, when the glove and blood were collected O.J. was in Chicago, and for all the police knew, he could have had an air-tight alibi.
It’s been 20 years since I believe O.J. killed two people and got away with it. But in so doing he also brought us Robert Kardashian who, like a cheap horror movie, paved the way for the entire Kardashian clan. Some things I just can’t forgive.
Jack Neworth is at facebook.com/jackneworth, twitter.com/jackneworth or firstname.lastname@example.org.