The OJ case was remarkable in that it encapsulated all the deficiencies apparent in our criminal justice system. Part of the difficulty of recognizing the problem is that it is so easy to dismiss incompetence without recognizing its systemic nature. The vagaries of state law and tradition make it easier to dismiss aberrant events in other jurisdictions. Illinois laughs at the foibles of Wisconsin judges and police. Even the antics of Buffalo Grove and Arlington Heights are merely sources of entertainment to the rest of us, unless you are the one being stopped. Regardless of his guilt, if OJ had been tried in Chicago he would have been convicted.
As OJ demonstrated in the Bronco episode he couldn’t even break the speed limit. He was framed in Vegas for running his mouth. He didn’t murder his ex and her boyfriend, he hired it done.
Put yourself in the shoes of the Los Angeles police. OJ’s plane is in the air when the two victims had their throats slit, the kids aren’t disturbed, and there is no evidence. It was obviously a professional job. I suppose if this were television they would devote their efforts to finding the hit man. Good luck with that Matlock. Do you really want all the copycat clones in Malibu hiring hit men?
-Hey cheaper than a divorce.
It was also obvious who paid for it. So they decided to smear up OJ. Rule number one: don’t disrespect the police. Bless them for trying. This seems a little risky, what if OJ had an alibi for the time before he was in the air? People don’t really have servants nowadays and celebrities value their privacy. Conversely even though older people remember OJ running through the airport in the Hertz rent a car commercial, detouring to kill his ex and her boyfriend before making the flight seems over scheduled.
Unfortunately the police went overboard on the evidence. Blood in the Bronco was more than sufficient. The, hat, the shoe, the glove, the socks, where was the underwear? The stuff they grabbed hadn’t even been worn yet. Memo to police, when framing celebrities, look for signs of wear on their clothing. Rule number two: don’t disrespect the jury. It is well documented that police coerce confessions and influence witnesses, why should they stop at physical evidence?
Vincent Bugliosi wrote a book Helter Skelter where he described his prosecution of Charles Manson. He put on a very quick case and then let the defense talk their client into a conviction. At the end of the interminable defense Bugliosi got up and said something to the effect of:
-Remember me? You know he did it, right?
The jury was so furious at the defense that they convicted Manson even though he wasn’t at the scene of the crime. Unfortunately the Los Angeles prosecution hadn’t read the book, and they traded blows with the defense, answering their every point. At the end of a yearlong trial, the jury met; someone said:
-Does anyone still care?
Someone else on the jury raised their hand and the case was decided.
DNA evidence has revealed the total failure of our court system. In Illinois it was proven that half the people on death row were wrongfully convicted. This doesn’t mean that the other half was rightfully convicted. It means that they were able to prove that half were wrongfully convicted. As Governor Ryan observed if we can’t decide these cases correctly what makes you think that we are doing any better on any other cases, criminal or civil? We would do better flipping a coin. We routinely convict the innocent and free the guilty. We haven’t progressed from the day of stocks and witch dunking. Governor Ryan went on, rightly or wrongly, to be convicted on suborned testimony of conspiracy charges.
Now that DNA evidence is understood, the establishment is attempting to paper over the immense breach of reality revealed by all the falsely decided cases. What we should be discussing is how to improve our court system. Instead we are indulging in CSI fantasies of justice. Someday a new technological wonder will arrive and once again we will be shocked, shocked I tell you, at all the injustice.
How should we improve the courts? One obvious issue is that it is the incompetent lawyers who become judges. The OJ case demonstrates how dangerous this Dilbert Principle can be for selecting judges. I have never heard of someone entering law school because they want to be a judge. The most successful lawyers never see the inside of a court room unless they get caught. I propose that the pool of lawyers be subject to service as judges, perhaps for five year terms, just as citizens are subject to jury service. The sitting judges should favor this system as it would open up more opportunities for them.