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Simpson Jury, Public Perception

October 16, 1995

Listen to Gerald Uelmen's specious arguments (Commentary, Oct. 10):

1) "What we overlook is that the sequestered jurors saw a different trial than the television viewers." 2) " . . . The jury didn't even share . . . the public exposure of the racist rantings of Detective Mark Fuhrman." 3) " . . . The verdict of public opinion [is not] sanctified by an oath."

He makes these arguments knowing that lawyers involved in the O.J. Simpson trial are under investigation by the State Bar of California for their behavior; he knows that his client was not under oath when he was coaxed by a member of the bar to proclaim his innocence; he knows that his team blemished several detectives, as having smeared blood on his client's floors, his car, along his driveway and planted a bloody glove. But, stupid public that we are, we knew too much; we were swayed by "the heart-wrenching tears of the victims' families in the corridors and the tabloid headlines."


Los Angeles


* Uelmen seems surprised that a majority of white Americans believe that the jury in the Simpson trial was sending a "message." Gee, where was he during Johnnie Cochran's closing argument? Cochran begged and pleaded and demanded that the jury send a message. In the face of that fact, what else are white Americans supposed to think but that the jury did exactly what Cochran wanted?




* Re Ronald Brownstein's "Washington Outlook," Oct. 9: The assumption that the not guilty verdicts were based upon the African American jurors accepting the defense counsel's argument that an acquittal would "strike a blow against racism" is, at best, speculation and, at worse, itself an inadvertent playing of the "race card." Is Brownstein saying that African Americans are incapable of listening to the facts and making an independent, intelligent decision based upon the information presented to them in court?

Many Americans, including those of us who happen to be African American, may disagree with the verdict. Nevertheless, it is insulting and unfair to assume that, solely because of race, 12 jurors accepted the defense counsel's argument. Particularly in view of the jurors' statements to the contrary.

Absent clear and convincing evidence to the contrary, we must give the jurors who sacrificed a year of their lives the benefit of the doubt when they assert that their decision was based upon the facts represented to them in court. To disagree with these jurors is entirely permissible, but to call them racist is simply wrong.

Perhaps, as Brownstein argues, a few more white people will vote Republican because of this verdict. However, I am thoroughly convinced that after the verdict, like before, the overwhelming majority of white voters will support candidates, Republican or Democrat, because of their positions on issues of concern to voters, not because of the outcome of the Simpson trial.


Los Angeles


* What scares me the most about Cochran's insistence that race play a major role in determining the Simpson case is that this will, indeed, further divide our nation. We will all lose if we allow this case to steer us away from trying to build a society where character, not race or the color of one's skin, defines who we are and what we can achieve. Somehow we have to rise above this Cochran mentality and make sure that those who will use this case to further polarize us do not prevail.


Laguna Beach


* With the intense, suffocating media pressure on high-profile trials today, no jury can render a verdict that isn't influenced by their own preservation and self-service. Jurors in such cases cannot simply melt back into their homes and neighborhoods and disappear. Hunted down and treed like fur-bearing animals, they must answer--to the media, to their neighbors and to their racial peers.

It's not surprising in these cases that evidence is dismissed or ignored in favor of the path of least censure by the prying hordes and angry packs to which these jurors must answer.




* Re "Obsession: Did the Media Overfeed a Starving Public," Oct. 9:

It's healthy that the media are taking a look at themselves in regard to the Simpson case. However, perhaps the public needs some introspection too. Every day of the year there are important news stories. Yet, how many people read a newspaper or watch quality news broadcasts?

Former labor reporter Henry Weinstein remarks, "I sure wasn't ever asked to go on 'Larry King Live' to discuss the decline of the American labor movement." Or the problems of education or health insurance or unemployment, etc., etc. There's an old saw that says citizens get the politicians they deserve, which seems to imply lack of civic involvement, interest and concern. Maybe that's true for what we get in the media also. If we only go for the sensational, then that's what will be on the menu.



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