Legal system faces test in O.J. Round 2
Football legend O.J. Simpson faces multiple felony charges stemming from an alleged armed robbery in Las Vegas.
CONFLICTING accounts of a confrontation in a Las Vegas hotel room last week have emerged since O.J. Simpson was arrested and charged with multiple felonies. Unfortunately, if Simpson's last trial is any indication, the evidence might be less important than the twisting of the legal system to achieve the intended result.
In Simpson's trial 11 years ago for the murder of ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman, the verdict clearly was one of jury nullification. The panel wanted to send a message to prosecutors and the Los Angeles police that Simpson had been treated unfairly because of his race. Judge Lance Ito essentially allowed the late Johnnie Cochran, Simpson's chief attorney, to make that argument, and that glove fit the jurors.
Call it payback or, as in sports, a makeup penalty, Simpson's arrest is popular regardless of what happened last Thursday at the Palace Station Hotel & Casino. Simpson and three associates allegedly robbed two sports memorabilia dealers at gunpoint in the hotel room. He has denied that any gun was used and claims that the memorabilia taken from the room belonged to him.
Will it matter? As proved in Simpson's 1996 trial, jury nullification works, since acquittals cannot be appealed by the prosecution. A vigilante jury intent on convicting a person regardless of the evidence, or lack thereof, can be overturned by the trial judge or on appeal.
Judge Ito's facilitation of the Dream Team's strategy worked for Simpson in his murder trial. Assuming the current case will go to trial -- the public will demand it -- and Simpson opts for a jury trial -- which would be a mistake -- a panel intent on righting the verdict in Simpson's murder trial is not likely to deliver the payback over exculpatory evidence, nor should it.
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