by | Oct 1, 1995 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

I went to court once. For a speeding ticket. I had an attorney who thought he could get me off. This attorney asked the police officer a few questions about his radar unit, and the judge listened as if he were a school teacher listening to a kid explain why he hadn’t done his homework.

It was over quickly. The judge banged his gavel, said, “Pay the fine,” and I did, and that was that. I felt embarrassed for even trying.

Of course, you could say I didn’t try hard enough. My attorney, for example, could have investigated where the police officer had been that day, and with what seedy characters he had been seen. He could have dug into his past to find whether he’d ever disagreed with my column. He could have found people who said this cop hated the media.

We could have brought in experts to say that radar guns can be unreliable, that they can be pointed at the wrong car, that human error can make for sloppy results, and that distracted cops can be sloppy. We know this, because a cop told it to a screenwriter.

And in the end, if my case were being tried before a jury, my attorney might have convinced them of a reasonable doubt of my guilt. It would have cost me a fortune, but I might have been acquitted.

All of which wouldn’t have changed one basic fact:

I still did it. What jury didn’t hear

There are 12 people sequestered in a jury room now, with the future of a football star and suspected murderer, O.J. Simpson, in their collective hands. And you wonder whether they will be able to see through all the smoke and mirrors and silver-tongued conspiracy theories that have been tossed in front of them these last interminable months.

In some ways, those 12 people are the most naive group in the country when it comes to the Simpson Saga. Think all of all things they didn’t see while they were locked away:
* They didn’t hear the full length of the Mark Fuhrman tapes.
* They didn’t hear Ronald Goldman screaming to the TV cameras that O.J.
“murdered our son.”
* They didn’t read or hear Faye Resnick or Al Cowlings, they didn’t hear about the contradictions in Kato Kaelin’s testimony — compared to the book he planned on writing — they didn’t read about O.J. copyrighting his name to get a piece of all the merchandising.
* They didn’t see the photos and gossip columns about Johnnie Cochran and F. Lee Bailey hanging out in the swanky LA eateries each night, schmoozing with entertainment hot shots who can make them rich when this is all over. They haven’t watched the endless hours of Court TV, CNN and CNBC coverage, with some of the finest minds in America debating night after night what the jury should be thinking.

All the noise and fireworks that have surrounded this affair have supposedly been vacuumed away from the 12 weary people in that jury room, keeping them clean and focused on the trial. Frankly, that is the only hope for justice that exists.

Because we, the American public, are useless when it comes to Simpson now. We have been contaminated with talk shows and analysis. We have made up our minds with the aid of Geraldo Rivera, Gary Spence, Ted Koppel, Liz Smith, CNN, Newsweek, Time and Rush Limbaugh. We have been dipped like apples into a hot vat of noise and opinion, until it’s hardened around us like a shell.

And the shame is that it keeps us from what should be central to any murder case:

The suffering of the victims.

From horror to circus

Two people are dead. This may be the only thing that has not changed since the trial began. Two people are dead. This crime has gone from horror to circus, from a funeral to David Letterman’s Top 10 List.

But the two people are still dead. They will laugh no more, take no more walks. Their families have passed one Christmas without them, and another is coming. Dead is dead. All the publicity in the world doesn’t change that.

Did you know that networks already have sold advertising time — at a premium — for the hour following the jury’s decision? They figure everyone will be watching TV then, and what a great chance to sell soap or insurance? Do you think they care about the families who will never see their kids again? Ha. These guys get together, grin and say, “Ted, can you imagine the number we’ll do!”

This is what a murder has come to in America. Ad rates. The truth is, we would have all been better people if we’d been locked away every night once the trial was over.

Instead, it’s up to 12 human beings who don’t know what they missed — and don’t know how lucky they are. We can only hope their wisdom matches their patience, and they can see through baloney the way that judge did the day I tried to wriggle away from the truth.

We await.


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Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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