I went to the OJ Simpson trial

“Do you wanna come see the OJ Simpson trial? “

Did I??!!

I was on holiday in the USA, newly arrived in LA and my friend was inviting me to come see a court hearing (inappropriately) being described, by many, as ‘the hottest ticket in town’. He was reporting on the  biggest news story in the world for NBC and had been able to secure a pass for me for the afternoon. 

Of course I said yes. 

Dozens of television crew vans surrounded the court, small crowds were gathered outside, security was watertight with big guns. No doubt about it, this was an ’event’.

It was quite an experience. But one that I hope is never replicated in the UK. In the middle of the media circus, race baiting, showboating and people looking to sign book deals, were two dead people. Brutally murdered, said the prosecution, by the famous ex footballer on trial. Nicole Brown Simpson, his wife and her friend Ron Goldman. But, sadly, they weren’t the focus of the trial. Instead, the hearing became the ominous forerunner of the current obsession with race in the USA. The country and certainly the city of LA was divided, largely but not totally along racial lines. ‘Free the juice’ and ‘Let the juice loose’ were slogans we  heard on the way to the court from some homeless black people. They were being repeated across LA. It was all very political. Some people forgot the dead victims and made the accused, OJ, the one who had to be saved. He was, later, duly acquitted.

I remember the courtroom being surprisingly small, the judge, Judge Ito, even smaller. The members of the jury were dolled up to the nines, knowing the cameras and the world’s eyes were on them. I can still picture the long, painted nails and big hair of some of the women. 

Overall, the hearing had a shambolic air about it. Every so often the defence lawyers would huddle together, like an unruly rugby scrum and whisper  amongst themselves. Then one or two would approach the bench, to have, what looked to me, sitting at the back of the court, a quiet word with the judge. It was all a far cry from the strictly divided layout of the English courts. OJ’s team included, among others, Robert Kardashian, yes, father of ‘that’ family, Alan Dershowitz and the flamboyant Johnnie Cochrane.

The prosecution team was led by Marcia Clark who looked unsure and out of her depth as the defence team outgunned her with the seeds of doubt they planted assuredly in the minds of the jury. To add to her troubles, ex husband sold topless photos of her to the National Enquirer during the trial.
It was that kind of case.

There was something undignified about the whole affair, in fact, and I couldn’t help sensing that everyone in the room was unduly aware of the tv cameras and overly aware that their every word and gesture was being analysed by scores of body language experts and television talking heads.

On the desk edge in front of me was a plaque asking observers not to applaud which kind of summed up the whole spectacle. 

The afternoon I was there, the court heard evidence from LA detective Mark Fuhrman who found the infamous glove. I can’t say he was exactly an impressive witness.

Loathe as I am to say it, OJ himself was an incredible physical specimen. Very tall and broad, as you’d expect an American footballer to be but the charisma he exuded was so intense, you couldn’t take your eyes off him. He didn’t so much walk into court as glide in.

Nevertheless, on hearing of his death today and despite his acquittal all I can say is RIP Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman.