Three Similarities Between The Zimmerman And O.J. Simpson Verdicts



1. The defendant was found not guilty in court, though clearly guilty in the public’s eye.

19 years ago, Orenthal James Simpson, better known as OJ, was put on trial for the murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman. Black Americans nationwide followed the trial like a court TV drama. Glued to their TV sets, the Black community kept up with every new development in the eight-month case until the jury reached its verdict. When OJ was found “Not Guilty” the verdict was not met with outrage at the injustice, but elation. Black Americans could be seen in the streets shouting with joy. It was a scene that harks back to the days of Civil Rights Movement.

What irony then that the Black community responds very differently when George Zimmerman is found “Not Guilty” in a similar trial. Instead of being glad that the man’s reputation was cleared, they become infuriated at the broken justice system, and rightly so.

But, wait a minute. Isn’t it the same thing? Where was this righteous anger when OJ Simpson, whose guilt is now something of a running joke, was set free?


2. Society effuses sexism when alluding to the trials.

The OJ Simpson trial stirred up some sexism, like an agitated beehive. The phrase “to go OJ” was added to Urban Dictionary. It’s a term I’ve heard young men use casually before. Basically, when a man gets upset at his girlfriend who’s getting on his nerves, he might feel tempted to “go OJ” on her. When probed about the justice of the trial, some men willingly admitted they believed OJ was guilty but stated “the bitch got what she deserved.”

I’d never read so many mentions of the gender of the jury in any court case until the Zimmerman trial. Journalists seem to go out of their way to mention the jury in the Zimmerman case was comprised completely of women. Oh, and in case you didn’t notice, six of the six jurors were female. And did we mention there were six women on the case? Six! I read a New York Times article (yeah, yeah, I know) that pointed out that fact as if to say “Don’t you think something’s wrong with that?” Or maybe it’s just me.

We know what they are insinuating: perhaps, the trial would have proceeded differently had there been fewer women in the jury box. Those women let their emotions cloud reason and that ultimately affected the verdict. Women let the guilty man go free.

This insinuation is so ludicrous that it’s difficult to formulate an adequate response. Let’s just say it proves that feminism is still very necessary today.


3. Justice was not served.

Let’s treat trials fairly, regardless of race. Let’s push for justice no matter the case. Face it; the “beyond a reasonable doubt” clause has been used to get some of the vilest villains off for the most heinous crimes. Just plant the seed of uncertainty in the hearts of the jury. “Did he really say that?” “Are you 100% sure that’s what you saw?” When faced against such weak prosecution, like in the Zimmerman trila, winning the case is as simple as creating a catchy catchphrase (If the glove doesn’t fit, you must acquit).

I do wonder what might have happened had Zimmerman been Black and Trayvon been White. I’d hate to think, like many others, that Zimmerman would have been found guilty in that instance due to racial prejudice. But, given the history of our country, that seems to be the case.

The jury would be predisposed to believe he was, in fact, guilty by nature. The Two-Faced prosecution’s only job would be to affirm that racist inclination. I do believe that’s what happened in the Trayvon Martin case. The mostly-White jury may have already entered the court on Zimmerman’s side thinking, “Of course it was self-defense. Trayvon was probably up to no good.”

In a sense, it’s understandable that so many would celebrate the fact that OJ Simpson was found “Not Guilty” decades ago. The injustice was a kind of justice in a way. Finally, a Black man got off where thousands of White men preceded him. You can understand why some would see it as a victory. But this is simply not the way to go.

The solution is not white guilt either. Because a disproportionate number of Black men are found guilty due to racial prejudice doesn’t mean we should now start letting a disproportionate number off to balance the scales. Instead, let’s work to make sure all defendants are tried fairly.

So, let’s be outraged. Protest. Organize. Affect change. But, let’s do it no matter who’s on the stand. Protest whether the freed criminal is Black, White, Hispanic or whatever. Our primal desire should be pure, unadulterated justice. I hear she’s blind.

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image – Flickr/@Stwo