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OJ Simpson and Murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman: Analytical Review

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When OJ Simpson allegedly committed the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman the ensuing criminal and civil trials relating to these events began a media storm in which the subject of race figured very prominently. In the 90s racial tension between blacks and whites was very high, two years before this trial race riots had occurred in LA as a result of the vicious beating of Rodney King by the LAPD. This high tension caused a lot of issues in the news media because anger and resentment, perceived or otherwise, between blacks and whites on this case combined with the popularity of OJ Simpson at that time caused coverage to be so popular that almost any mention of the case got massive viewership.

This resulted in media companies giving the people what they wanted, interviewing and giving airtime to anybody even remotely related to the trial in a mad chase for better ratings. In this coverage, certain aspects of the case were focused on more than others because they got better ratings, this resulted in a skewed version of the case the jurors saw being presented to the nation. This paper makes the claim that the news media presented the facts and especially the outcome of the case to the nation in a way which overshadowed important aspects which helped to explain the verdict due to an overfocus on domestic violence and racism innate in the news media system.

In order to see why the news media representation of the case was a dangerous mischaracterization of the events within it, the basic facts of the case and the 2 sides’ arguments must be gone over in some detail. The prosecution was headed up by LA District Attorneys Marcia Clark and Christopher Darden and the defense was lead by Robert Shapiro and then later Johnny Cocharin, the team of lawyers involved in the defense were sometimes called the ‘Dream Team’ by the media due to the amount of money Simpson was spending on his defense.

The prosecution’s case consisted of establishing that Simpson had motive and then proving that he was present at the time of the murder to establish that he had the opportunity to commit the crime. To establish motive the prosecution showed that Simpson had a history of domestic violence against Nicole Brown, including a time that he had pleaded guilty to hitting her in 1989. They also established that the night of the murder Simpson had seen Nicole Brown and her sister at his daughter’s dance recital and that afterwards he had gotten a message from his then girlfriend that the relationship they were in was over. Next, to establish that Simpson was at the scene of the crime the prosecution displayed the gloves used to commit the murder, one of which was found at the scene and another in an alleyway behind Simpson’s house. They also had an eyewitness refute Simpson’s claim that he was at home that night. The strongest evidence, according to the prosecution, that Simpson was at the crime scene, however, was in the DNA gathered there. Simpsons blood was collected in several parts of the crime scene or on related objects like his car or clothes, sometimes his blood was found alongside Brown’s or Ron Goldman. His blood was found on the gloves, on his socks, and in and around his car. Alongside this hair resembling Simpson’s was collected on Goldman and Brown and the shoe prints found at the scene matched his shoe size.

The defense’s case rested on establishing that the DNA evidence had been contaminated and then corrupted in order to explain why Simpson’s DNA was supposedly all over the crime scene and various elements of evidence especially the gloves. They established this by showing that the DNA was contaminated when it was collected by Dennis Fung who collected the DNA using plastic bags instead of the recommended paper ones and who also did not refrigerate the evidence for 7 hours after collection. After discussing the incompetence of Fung, the defense opted to play ‘the race card’. They claimed that many people, chiefly Mark Furhman, had conspired to frame Simpson for the murder because of their alleged racism. They later cemented this by getting tapes of Mark Furhman repeatedly saying the n-word when referring to black people courtesy of a screenplay writer named Laura McKinney. With this disparaging mark on Furhman’s character the defense claimed that he and other LAPD officers had planted blood on Simpson’s socks and other articles of clothing in order to frame him. They supported this claim with the fact that the blood on the socks contained EDTA a chemical used to preserve blood by the LAPD who kept a preserved reference vial of Simpon’s blood to identify him or his DNA. Finally, the defense moved on to the gloves used by the murderer. They stated that the gloves found at the scene of the crime and behind Simpson’s house (one in each place) were planted there by Furhman, which explained why Furhman decided to break into Simpson’s house which is how much of the evidence was originally collected. They also showed that Simpson had trouble getting the gloves to fit onto his hand, Johnny Cocharin famously stated ‘If the glove doesn’t fit, you must acquit!”.

Given this basic overview of the two sides of this court case, one can see a fair case for why jurors might have ruled in favor of Simpson on this case. It is important to note that the prosecution had responses to most of the claims the defense made which helped to mitigate them, for example the prosecution showed that the levels of EDTA in the blood found on Simpson’s socks was within the baseline level found within human blood according to the EPA. However, there is a case for their being reasonable doubt, the chief detective in charge of the case was now a known racist and public pariah and the lab worker who had collected the most damning evidence had testified to making major mistakes in collection and storage of said evidence. However, many of the American people did not see this view of the case at the time because of the way the news media portrayed the case and consequently these people were unprepared for the jury’s decision.

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The court case was shown gavel to gavel on American television, a novel experience for many viewers and something which helped to launch court TV to great success in later years. Viewers who watched the entirety of the case on court TV would have gotten a good understanding of the case and why the jury was able to decide there was reasonable doubt in the case so quickly. However, not everyone viewed the case through this lense. Many people, especially white Americans got their news of the case through the white controlled news media. White americans who watched white people presenting the news saw a biased version of events, and black americans who watched black people present the news did as well. Black Americans were more inclined to believe topics of police corruption, especially when targeted at a black man than white people were so black controlled media presented the defense’s arguments more favorably than white controlled media. This lead to conflicting views of the case being presented to different groups of people which resulted in a split of belief about whether Simpson should have been innocent or guilty.

During the case white pundits in the media focused heavily on the fact that OJ Simpson and Nicole Brown Simpson had an abusive relationship, which supported the prosecution’s claim that this gave him motive to have killed his ex-wife. Obviously, since Simpson had plead guilty to beating his wife on at least one occasion there is merit to bringing up this aspect of the case, but there are issues with how this portrayed Simpson and Brown. Every time the two were mentioned, there would be a large, dark, forboding image of OJ Simpson, the accused murder and a bright image of the small, thin Nicole Brown Simpson. Images like these implied that Simpson had committed the crime without ever mentioning it by showing him as a dark, dangerous, black presence. These images also reinforced racial stereotypes held by many white Americans about black men hurting white women. The presence of racism in these news reports is evidenced by the lack of discussion of race in them. The media was in a sense ‘color blind’ during this case, barely mentioning the races of the two parties despite constantly showing images that showed their skin tones.

Months of reporting like this drove home the point that Simpson was guilty to many white viewers before the case was even fully presented. Since the news media was not keen on putting to words the issue of race, much of the defense’s case, especially aspects having to do with Mark Furhman’s and his partner Phillip Vannatter’s racist remarks were under reported while other aspects were overhyped. In fact the sensationalism of the news media during the OJ Simpson court case was second to none at that time. The amount of coverage it received was outrageous, CNN covered all 134 days of the case and events surrounding the case overshadowed other important news events. The NBA finals were interrupted for the car chase, and much of the Rwandan Genocide went unreported, these events were real news events that many Americans heard very little about because of the events of the trial. The popularity of this trial changed the media landscape forever as well, Guinness World Records lists the OJ Simpson trial as the most viewed trial of all time with daily average viewers of some coverage of it averaging 5.5 million. After the case many shows like Court TV gained popularity and the celebrity news and video channel TMZ was founded by Harvey Levin, a man who had covered the case for a local LA television station. The popularity of this case and its aftermath meant that virtually everyone had seen or read coverage of the case, not necessarily the same coverage but some coverage. This lead to the nationwide outrage generally by white viewers and celebration generally by black and minority viewers.

The most comprehensive evidence for the media’s part in misrepresenting and fanning the flames of national outrage at the Simpson verdict came after the trial was over. After news of the innocent verdict spread many newspapers and tv news corporations pointed to the fact that the majority of the jury was made up of a majority of black people. In a survey of op eds written after the verdict was released it was found that the vast majority of nationally syndicated columnists, those whose op eds would be seen by the most people, wrote about the verdict primarily from a racial point of view. The study found that there were 3 main viewpoints on race among the surveyed op eds: that the jury ‘voted their race’ meaning they voted to acquit because they were the same race as Simpson, that the race of the jurors was a major factor in explaining the jury’s decision, and that the news media’s reaction to the race of the jurors was indicative of race relations in America. The first viewpoint was by far the most common, especially among syndicated columnists with the latter two being more popular with guests and local columnists. The second viewpoint was only brought up in national papers on 4 occasions and the third viewpoint was virtually only present in local or unpopular papers.

The fact that the most common viewpoint among the surveyed op eds was one which assumed that black people were so angry about their perceived oppression that they would acquit a guilty man just because they shared the same race with him helps to explain why there was so much clamor raised over the outcome of the case nationwide. These op eds help to reflect the opinions of the average white person at that time. Not only were these opinion pieces written most often by white men they were also read mostly by white people helping to spread the idea that the jury ‘voted their race’ throughout the white population. This is an issue because it distracted from people talking about how there was a case for there being reasonable doubt in trial against Simpson, a viewpoint many black Americans were getting. In fact, mention of police misconduct in the case was so rare in these op eds that not only was it less common than topics related to race but also those of domestic violence, and socioeconomic status.

This data is troubling because it shows how overshadowed discussion of the reasons behind the controversial results of the case were in certain parts of the news media. Instead of spreading the facts of the case to the population to explain the reasons behind decisions made by the jury, newspapers were spreading misinformation that stoked racial divides amongst them. This is not to say that the defense was right and the prosecution was wrong. Many white Americans were justified in their beliefs that OJ Simpson was guilty, in fact a majority of Americans both black and white now believe that he was. The OJ Simpson Trial is a good example of why people should get their news from a variety of places.

It is important to address issues head on when it comes to news media, especially when discussing race relations. Getting all of ones news from a single source runs the risk that much of the information gained from this source might be biased in some way. During the OJ Simpson trial the news media was predominantly controlled and populated by white people which gave the American public and abundant amount of white people’s viewpoints on the case. However, if other viewpoints were taken into account information about the racism of the LAPD and the mistakes the force made in its work against Simpson people might not have been so unprepared for the verdict of the court case. From this court case it is apparent that diversifying the viewpoints from which one aggregates their news information is important to getting the full picture of current events.

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OJ Simpson and Murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman: Analytical Review. (2022, August 12). Edubirdie. Retrieved November 29, 2022, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/oj-simpson-and-murders-of-nicole-brown-simpson-and-ron-goldman-analytical-review/
“OJ Simpson and Murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman: Analytical Review.” Edubirdie, 12 Aug. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/oj-simpson-and-murders-of-nicole-brown-simpson-and-ron-goldman-analytical-review/
OJ Simpson and Murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman: Analytical Review. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/oj-simpson-and-murders-of-nicole-brown-simpson-and-ron-goldman-analytical-review/> [Accessed 29 Nov. 2022].
OJ Simpson and Murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman: Analytical Review [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Aug 12 [cited 2022 Nov 29]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/oj-simpson-and-murders-of-nicole-brown-simpson-and-ron-goldman-analytical-review/
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