Actually, except to Simpson himself, it would not have made much difference at all. The defence lawyers would still have postured for oleaginous talk show hosts. Prosecution lawyers-and, alas, the judge-would have pursued book and movie deals as they contemplated moves to more lucrative private practice. Commentators such as myself would have continued pontificating. Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) morale would still have plummeted to dangerously low levels, and Chief Willie Williams would have weakly defended his department even as he packed his bags. The inept LAPD forensics lab, poorly led and under-manned, would still have become the easy target in every future trial where scientific evidence figures. Legislators would have initiated ill-considered laws reforming jury selection and voting, lawyers’ out-of-court statements, and in-court cameras.
Most significantly, the breathtakingly wide chasm between black and white America’s view of the judicial system still would have been starkly revealed-not only to shocked whites, but to the watching world. It is apparently no surprise to black Americans.
Not that America’s criminal justice woes are unique. I remind British friends who condescendingly offer legal sympathy that the Guildford Four, the Maguire family, and the Birmingham Six were also miscarriages of justice involving flawed forensics and dicey police.
What if there had been no camera in Judge Lance Ito’s courtroom? The Simpson circus (which term is an insult to trapeze artists and bearded ladies), atypical though it be, set back court television for years to come. But aren’t critics blaming the mirror for the image? The stench of slipshod police, sloppy forensics, and marginally proficient prosecutors, would still have risen to media nostrils. But, lacking images of Ito playing to the camera while forbidding others from doing so, images of Kato Kaelin’s utter vacuity being mistaken for personality, and images of Mark Fuhrman lying under oath with graceful ease, the flaws of California’s justice system would not have drawn the world’s disbelieving gaze.
What if Simpson were not wealthy? That’s easy. He’d already be serving the first year of his life sentence. In the US, as in the UK or any other nation, justice is open for everybody, but only in the same way as the Ritz Hotel. Legal aid lawyers are dedicated, highly competent, overworked representatives of impecunious defendants. On a typical day in LA there are 120 felony jury trials in progress: many involving legal aid lawyers. The average contested murder trial…