Saturday, October 04, 2008

(Partial) Justice 13 Years Later... O.J. Simpson Is Guilty

A jury in Nevada convicted O.J. Simpson yesterday of armed robbery. In a poetic reminder of O.J.’s horrendous crime long ago, the verdict came in 13 years to the day that O.J. Simpson was acquitted of murdering his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ron Goldman. Although overwhelming evidence confirmed O.J. Simpson’s guilt in those murders, including blood in his car and O.J.’s confessional statements, a largely black jury acquitted him.

The acquittal was unjust and shocking; the reaction to the acquittal was equally shocking. In New York City people feared racial riots before the verdict. Fearful, huddled groups of commuters stood in long bus lines in the middle of the afternoon to escape the city. Because most of the buses were scheduled for end-of-work pick-ups, there were not enough of them. People had to wait in long lines standing on the streets for hours fearing for their physical safety at every moment.

After the verdict, groups of blacks were dancing in the streets, while whites were perplexed and dismayed. Suddenly, people who had seen each other just moments before as individuals to be judged by their own, individual characters, saw each other instead as members of a racial collective. On that day, what mattered was not who you were, but the color of your skin.

That day also provided shocking evidence of how much damage the vital principle of individualism has suffered in this country. Groups of people saw justice in racial terms. For many blacks (and many whites), the essential fact in the O.J. Simpson trial was that blacks had been enslaved and persecuted in the past. Therefore, acquitting O.J. was a justifiable act of revenge for all those years of persecution.

Lost in this illogic is that O.J. Simpson is a single man, and Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman were single individuals. It was O.J. who murdered them and Simpson and Goldman who were his victims. By appealing to the false standard of “group justice,” justice was denied for each of these individuals. “Group justice” meant that O.J. Simpson would not be punished for his crime.

Collectivist thinking is not just the province of racism. Marxist collectivists also deny our individuality and see our identity solely in terms of belonging to the class of “the rich” or “the poor.” Thus, it is okay to “soak” the rich to “give” money to the poor. Isn’t that the essence of the government’s subsidy of “poor” homeowners over the years that led to our current financial crisis?

As we think not just about this financial crisis but about all matters of justice, remember that the essential unit is the individual. On that basis, I applaud yesterday’s verdict in the O.J. case and commend the prosecutor, judge, and jury. Although O.J. has not been punished for the crime he committed nearly 15 years ago, he is going to jail and that is where he belongs. Yesterday, the primacy of individual justice was affirmed. In that sense, this verdict reverses the grave injustice committed 13 years ago.

5 comments:

Rick "Doc" MacDonald said...

I disagree that the verdict on O.J.'s current trial outcome reverses the "grave injustice" committed 13 years ago. I hope that I'm correct.

His trial was about his current crimes and the verdict should only have been the outcome of serious deliberations regarding those crimes alone. That is the principle our founders fought to establish and preserve.

John Adams defended British troops following the Boston Massacre in the face of a universal desire for revenge. A jury, hostile to the King of England, listened to the evidence and found those troops not guilty. The main premise for John Adams's defense strategy was the supremacy of the rule of law.

Many of us did not like or agree with the outcome of O.J.'s murder trial. Many of us feel a bit of glee to find him facing a sentence that reflects what we think he should have faced 13 years ago, and that's O.K.

What would not be O.K. is for a conviction to now have been agreed upon because of a perceived injustice involving a case decided long ago. That would be an even more egregious injustice than the murder verdict because it would justifiably diminish or end all faith in the concept of the rule of law as supreme. Mistakes and misjudgments will be made from time to time, but the system must always lean in favor of protecting liberty and never in favor of limiting or removing it.

Galileo Blogs said...

Rick,

I agree with you completely. Here is the key part of my post in reference to your comment: "Yesterday, the primacy of individual justice was affirmed. In that sense, this verdict reverses the grave injustice committed 13 years ago."

To be clearer, I could have added the word "only" to the second sentence, so that it read: "In that sense only, this verdict reverses..."

O.J. should have been and presumably was solely judged on the facts of the current case. None of the parties -- prosecutor, defending attorney, judge, nor jury -- should consider for even a second the facts of 14 years ago. Fortunately, it appears that the jury served its charge well. In an article I read this morning, the jurors reported that during the deliberations no juror ever mentioned O.J.'s trial from 14 years ago.

The intention of my post is very much in support of your point: individual justice means judging each person as an individual, based only on the facts pertinent to the case being tried. If my point was unclear, I accept your clarification wholeheartedly. Thank you.

Regarding John Adams, his defense of the British soldiers was a courageous testament to his understanding of the principles that our Revolution was fought for.

Paul Hsieh, MD said...

The best response I've seen so far in the news is:

"With a prison term, maybe Simpson can find real killers"

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/10/06/SPKQ13BTTV.DTL&feed=rss.sostler

Paul Hsieh said...

Here's the full URL:
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/10/06/SPKQ13BTTV.DTL

Galileo Blogs said...

Paul,
Your comment reminds me of a newspaper cartoon I saw at the time of O.J.'s trial. O.J. had announced that he was hiring a private detective to find the "real killer." The cartoon showed O.J. wearing a Sherlock Holmes cap and holding a magnifying glass. He was following a trail of footprints that led in a circle back to himself.

I couldn't find the cartoon on the web, but it certainly captured the absurdity of O.J.'s statement. Of course, now that he is in jail, he will only need to look in the mirror to know that the real killer is behind bars, even if it is a different crime that brought him there.

On a separate note, I do hope that this trial was fair. Any defendant, including O.J., deserves a fair trial. Assuming it was, he has found his proper home.