Rodney King was an Afro-American taxi driver who became internationally known after being brutally beaten by four Los Angeles Police Department–L.A.P.D.—white officers following a high-speed car chase on March 3, 1991. King was found dead in his swimming pool on June 17, 2012 at the age of 47.
After a three-month trial, a predominantly white jury acquitted the officers inflaming the angry citizens and sparking the 1992 Los Angeles riots. King had become overnight the symbol of racial tension in the United States.
More than 50 people were killed, more than 2,000 were wounded, and 9,500 were arrested for rioting, looting and arson, resulting in $1 billion in property damage.
On June 12, 1994, only two years later, another incident inflamed the City of Los Angeles, and the whole country as well. On this date, Nicole Simpson, ex-wife of O.J. Simpson, and Ron Goldman, Nicole’s friend and restaurant waiter, were found murdered outside of Nicole´s Bundy Drive condominium in the Brentwood area of Los Angeles. The two bodies were discovered at 12:10 a.m. on June 13, 1994 by a man taking his dog for a walk.
The results of evidence found in the scene of the crime and further investigations revealed that former football star, Orenthal James Simpson, was the main suspect of the killings. Simpson was commonly known as O.J. Simpson or “The Juice“. He was one of the best known personalities in the country. He was attractive, athletic, charismatic, excellent humor, intelligent, and people-oriented. Everybody loved him, who couldn’t?
The trial began on January 24, 1995 and was televised by Court TV and partially by other cable and network news outlets. The media exposure made celebrities of many of the principal figures in the trial, including the presiding judge—Lance Ito.
The principal figures at the trial were:
- Marcia Clark—Deputy District Attorney, as the lead prosecutor
- Christopher Darden—Clark´s Co-Counsel
- Defense Team a.k.a. The Dream Team: Johnnie, Cochran, Robert Kardachian, F. Lee Bailey, Robert Shapiro, Alan Dershowitz, Carl E. Douglas, Barry Scheck, and Peter Neufeld.
- Presiding Judge—Lance Ito
The trial was a media circus. People paid hundreds of dollars to get in and enjoy the show. Crowds gathered everywhere to follow on television sets, what was going on inside the arena. Attorneys and prosecutors insulted each other as if on a public drama scenario. Judge Ito cried before the jury. Planes flew above the venue with floating bannersreading, “Marcia, I love you”. Tensions and emotions were sky high, not to say about the racial division between whites and blacks. The “N” word hovered above the court like a ghost. The race card was always there, until the show was over and the lights were turned off. In less than four hours of deliberation, the jury came with a unanimous verdict—Not Guilty!
In my opinion, the case was lost due to major errors of judgement by Chris Darden and Marcia Clark, (e.g., making O.J. Simpson trying to fit the gloves before the jury, thus the famous phrase, “If it doesn’t fit, acquit.=; and placing Mark Fuhrman, detective of the Los Angeles Police Department, on the stand). These two gargantuan legal errors lost the case. The writing was on the wall–-Meme, Mene, Tekel, Parsin. The trial of the century was over, the lights were turned off and everybody went home.
As soon as the dust settled, O.J. Simpson moved to Florida to shield his remaining assets. In 2008, he was convicted of kidnapping and armed robbery in Las Vegas after attempting to steal sports memorabilia. O.J. was sentenced to 33 years in prison. He will be eligible for parole this year 2017.
Fred Goldman, filed a civil suit and in 1997, a jury found Simpson liable for the wrongful deaths of Ron and Nicole. He was ordered to pay $33 million; they received less than half of that.
I saw the whole trial on television here in Panama. It was then broadcasted live by Channel 8 from the former Panama Canal Zone. Channel 8 was operated by AFRTS (American Forces Radio and Television Service). Needless to say, I was glued to my chair.
If you are studying Law or just a history fan, you can stream the FX miniseries, “The People Vs O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story”, from Netflix. This excellent TV series brings “The Trial of the Century” back to the spotlight 21 years later. I saw the last episode last night.
“Money is the only way to get justice.” That phrase was used by Johnnie Cochran while discussing the case with his colleagues.