OJ2: The System's Slant

How the Power Structure Rigged the Civil Trial

Revolutionary Worker #892, February 2, 1997

As we go to press the "civil trial" of O.J. Simpson is going to the jury. Only nine jurors are needed for a verdict in the wrongful death suit filed by the families of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman. And powerful forces have been at work to bring in a guilty verdict against O.J. Simpson. But anyone who imagines that justice will be served by such a verdict is mistaken.

When the jury reached a not guilty verdict in October 1995--based on "reasonable doubt," they were right. It was a good thing for everyone that they did this. Justice demanded the acquittal of O.J. Simpson in this case.

On close examination, the so-called "mountain of evidence" presented by the prosecution was full of serious problems--including a strong possibility that the police manufactured evidence to frame O.J. Simpson. From the beginning of this case, the L.A. police had violated Simpson's rights when they entered and searched his home without a warrant. Then a proven racist "found" a bloody glove--that ultimately didn't even fit Simpson's hand. Simpson's blood was carried around for hours in a vial by LAPD--at the scenes where his blood drops were later "found." All kinds of crucial blood evidence was only produced weeks after the first investigations--when the Bronco and the crime scene had been left unattended. Police perjured themselves on the witness stand.

The Fuhrman tapes arrived, revealing the true face of U.S. police--a brutal and racist face. The Fuhrman tapes described the motive and the M.O. in detail of cops who have a deep hatred of Black people--not just poor Black folks, but also Black men like O.J. Simpson who drive expensive cars and date white women. Enforcers like Fuhrman see it as their mission in life to knock these Black men down, keep them in "their place," pursue and humiliate them. The prosecution knew much about Mark Fuhrman from the beginning and went right ahead with him as a cornerstone witness in their case as part of their "mountain of evidence." Given all this, the only reasonable verdict was not guilty.

The L.A. DA and the police failed to railroad a man to prison based on tainted evidence. Many new people had their eyes opened by the Fuhrman tapes and other exposures of the police. And the verdict of the jury made it even harder to ignore what the trial revealed. For millions around the world--who had their eyes open--it was the LAPD and the state that ended up on trial.

Today, we still do not know who killed Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman. And because this system has been in charge of the investigation, the world may never know. But people who want progress and justice need to get clear on what is at stake in this case. People who really care about the rights of oppressed people, women--and the rights of the people against a very oppressive state apparatus--need to look behind the propaganda.

The Court of "Public Opinion"

"I personally thought he was guilty. But that's almost beside the point at this point. Now I'm thinking that this is about the legacy of police violence in Los Angeles.... It was so incredible to see the look on the police faces when the verdict was read. It's like they had an itch they couldn't scratch, like this shiver went up their spine."

A white businesswoman from a
wealthy neighborhood in L.A. after the October 1995 acquittal of O.J. Simpson

The power structure has been very determined to use this civil trial to reverse the verdict of the first trial and get the "right" verdict this time, both legally and "in the court of public opinion." One dimension of this has been the systematic slanting of "reportage" in the media--made easier because the trial has not been televised.

Throughout the trial the press has reported on points made by the prosecution (plaintiffs) but failed to report on what the defense did in cross-examination. Then when the defense put on its case there was a change--the cross-examination of the prosecution got more coverage--but the bias remained the same! When the much awaited testimony of O.J. was put on, there should have been lots of interest in what he had to say, but it was downplayed and almost all we heard about was how he was confronted by the plaintiffs during cross examination about the photos that purportedly show him wearing Bruni Magli shoes--which supposedly the murderer wore.

Bias in reporting the details of the case has only been part of an all around offensive by the power structure to achieve the verdict they desire in the courtroom and to develop the "public expectation" (or to reinforce the expectation they have already systematically created among many) that a judgment against O.J. Simpson is the only correct verdict. So while "talking heads" in the media, TV hosts and entertainers work the "court of public opinion," the legal system has come down with favorable rulings for the plaintiffs and restrictions on the defense.

And why? Because the power structure was so severely stung by the verdict in the criminal trial, and in particular the basis on which that verdict was reached--with an implied but unmistakable judgment against the LAPD and the police more generally--at the very least they wanted to rehabilitate the image of the LAPD and strengthen police powers all across the country.

Since October 1995 the system has been "on a mission" not only to reverse the legal verdict through this so-called civil trial going on now but also to create a division in society around all this that is favorable to the ruling class--that whites were all outraged and Black people were more or less complicit in an "outrageous" verdict.

As we have written in our previous coverage, there were significant numbers of white people who did react to the first verdict like this, but not all white people, by any means, had this reaction to the verdict in the first trial. By the media's own biased polls at the time of the first verdict some 30 percent of white people interviewed thought the verdict was just. And those who reacted negatively to the verdict were systematically conditioned to have these sentiments by an orchestrated and broad-ranging campaign of public opinion, involving the media very broadly, from "entertainment" to the "news."

Not only was there an all-around effort to mold public opinion as the first trial went on, but then, when the verdict was announced, the ruling class responded to the blow it had received with this verdict by first decreeing what the polarization was in response to the verdict (Blacks in favor, whites outraged) and "crafting" the "news" to portray such a polarization. Then they set out--through constant reference to these "decreed" and "crafted" divisions--to create and reinforce such confusion and divisions. It was a classic example of a favorite device of the ruling class--which is to tell people what to think by telling them it is what they already do think. In all of this the power structure has relied on the many loyal and tested voices in the media--who are schooled enough in police mentality and arrogant enough to decide that someone is guilty of murder, whether or not the evidence is tainted or in spite of the fact.

Changing the Laws
To Change the Verdict

From the beginning of this trial, the state has cruelly played on the deep anger and frustration of women over domestic violence--claiming that this legal system is working to give justice to battered women like Nicole Brown Simpson. Many who hoped that attention from this case would help bring about tougher new laws to help the cause of abused women were convinced that "a wife-beater has gotten away with murder."

We know that O.J. beat Nicole--and that at times she feared for her life. But the fact that he beat her does not prove that he murdered her. And it would be very harmful to allow the legal system to condemn someone for murder on the basis of suspicions and statistics. But here again the system has manipulated the sentiments of the people to support dangerous legal precedents--in particular around materials written by Nicole before she died.

On the legal front, in the civil trial, the laws were actually changed to help the prosecution. Due to this change in law, Nicole Brown Simpson's diary was ruled to be not "hearsay" and was admitted into evidence.

After the Simpson criminal trial--and in anticipation of the civil trial and with the determination to get the "right" verdict this time--the California State Legislature changed the hearsay law to allow evidence such as Nicole's diary. Ron Goldman's father Fred Goldman (who has now left his regular day job to head up a reactionary "victims" organization) personally went and lobbied for this law in order to be able to change the rules for the civil trial. Now, does anyone think that Ron Goldman's father would have succeeded in changing the law if the U.S. ruling class was not behind it?

The hearsay rules are complicated but the basic point related to this case is that if something is written, quoted or recorded by a person who cannot be cross-examined on the witness stand about the truth of their statements, such statements cannot be allowed in as evidence. This is to prevent people telling lies about others which cannot be challenged in court.

So this change in the law on hearsay evidence is not only an example of how the power structure is going to great lengths to get a guilty verdict in this case, but also how the things they are doing have negative impact--setting very harmful legal precedents--far beyond the Simpson case.

Judge Fujisaki also allowed in evidence references to a lie detector test Simpson apparently took and "failed"--when, as just about all "legal experts" agree, lie detector tests are inadmissible in civil as well as criminal trials because they are known to be scientifically unreliable. The judge also allowed in evidence material from a book which contains information from Simpson's legal defense team--in other words information which is legally supposed to be "privileged information" between attorneys and their clients.

After letting questioning on the lie detector test "sit" with the jury over a week-long break--Fujisaki then responded to further objections to all this by the defense by instructing the jury to "forget" any questions and responses it had heard concerning lie detector tests! This was pretty obviously an attempt by Fujisaki to "have his cake and eat it too"--to expose the jury to this illegal testimony and let it "sit" with them for a period, and then to cover himself in terms of "reversible error" on appeal. And, as a number of commentators have pointed out, by bringing this up again--supposedly to instruct the jury to disregard this evidence--Fujisaki was in fact reminding them of it.

Then Fujisaki allowed in what was obviously hearsay testimony from a worker at a battered woman's shelter about an alleged call from "someone named Nicole" who was supposed to have said something to the effect that her husband was stalking her. The defense objected that this was not only hearsay, but was also unsupported by any records, and that there was no proof that this call was actually made by Nicole Brown Simpson or frankly no proof whether it was received at all. But the judge allowed this testimony in, anyway. And apparently this not only shocked "legal observers" but was a surprise gift for the plaintiffs' lawyers who probably did not even expect to get this testimony in. Then once again, Fujisaki told the jury to "disregard" some (and only some) of this testimony from the worker at the battered women's shelter.

Is there a pattern here? Stay tuned. Yes, at the end of the trial Fujisaki allowed in an undated letter supposedly written by Nicole to O.J.--again, hearsay evidence.

Things have been so blatant that even "mainstream commentators" on CNN talked openly--some approvingly, some with resignation, and some with genuine concern about the violation of legal procedures--about how Fujisaki has decided that Simpson is guilty and the judge is "steering the jury to a verdict" accordingly.

Judge Denies Evidence of Police Tampering with Evidence

This judge--with obvious "instruction" from on high--is clearly determined to go even further than Judge Ito did in the criminal trial to tilt the playing field in favor of the prosecution (plaintiffs).

In fact, one of the "reversals of reality" that the ruling class through its media has carried out is the notion that somehow Ito made things too easy for the defense in the criminal trial when in fact his rulings favored the prosecution. For instance, how many people know or remember that Ito prohibited the jury in the criminal trial from hearing most of the Fuhrman tapes--including the parts where Fuhrman talked about how he (and by implication the police generally) regularly planted evidence and framed people as well as beating confessions out of them.

And again, one of the most decisive things in this civil case has been the moves by the judge to rule out of order (or to obstruct as much as possible) the most essential aspect of the defense--namely the planting of evidence by police, beyond mere "botching" of evidence, in addition to perjured testimony, not only by Fuhrman but also by Vannatter and other cops. Because whether or not Simpson actually committed these murders, it is clear that police set out to "create" and "doctor" evidence in order to make him appear guilty--something which should not be allowed to be passed over or covered up. But the whole issue of Mark Fuhrman and the question of whether he planted evidence was ruled irrelevant by Judge Fujisaki.

Fujisaki went even further than Judge Ito--the defense was not allowed to present evidence of racism or bring Fuhrman to the stand. So while the defense was allowed to bring up the police tampering in their final remarks, there was no evidence of racist motives--which were clearly spelled out on the Fuhrman tapes--allowed during the trial that could be pointed to by jurors to support the defense theory!

Meanwhile Mark Fuhrman has been interviewed in magazines and on television--so even with Fuhrman being exposed for what he is there are continual efforts to "rehabilitate him." This is just another example of how badly the ruling class was stung by the verdict in the first criminal trial--and how important it is for them to take the taint off their enforcers.

The verdict in the first trial was just--and the people should not let the system get away with reversing it.

This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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