In the chilly night air of Camp O.J.-by-the-Sea, the journalists were so intent on getting out the news that they didn't speak about the broad implications of the verdict.
There was a whirl of activity after days of waiting around, an emotional rush from working on the big story. But time hardly permitted instant introspection, nor did the working conditions.
Tuesday night, as you might have seen on television, the media, blessed with the most sophisticated transmission equipment, were reduced to techniques that were probably used in the Lindbergh kidnapping case, the 1930s trial of the century. With no cameras in the courtroom, reporters in an audio trailer signaled colleagues outside with cards visible through the glare of a scratched window--"Y," O.J. loses. "N," O.J. wins.
After the 8 Ys and the announcement that Simpson owes $8.5 million in damages, I walked through the parking lot. Helicopters clattered overhead. TV lights and the mindless shouting of the crowd gave the scene all the reality of a made-for-television movie. Hundreds of people were there, cheering as if they thought this verdict would give them an ounce of satisfaction. They're wrong. They'll get nothing from it, except for a one-night high.
Certainly, for the families of the slain Ronald Goldman and Nicole Brown Simpson, the verdict was vindication of their belief that Simpson was the killer.
But whatever this trial says about O.J. Simpson, the social issues raised in his two trials remain unsettled.
The two trials didn't settle the burning question of inequality of justice in our court system.
A predominantly white jury in a predominantly white courthouse gave one verdict. A predominantly black jury in a racially mixed courthouse gave another.
And this courthouse in Santa Monica is mostly white. I saw that in almost two weeks of jury duty there in December, in addition to the time I spent there on the trial. I don't need a study or a legislative hearing to tell how different this courthouse is from the downtown Criminal Courts Building. Walk through the halls and you can see.
It's true of the entire county court system. You get judged according to where you get tried.
That's not justice. That's not fair. There's something wrong with the system.
The race issue, raised in the first trial, also remains unsettled in the second.
Simpson attorney Robert Baker didn't play it the way Johnnie L. Cochran Jr. did. Reporters didn't fan through L.A. probing the race question as they did during the first trial. And, most important, this trial, not being televised, was not a dominant presence in our lives.
But as we will read in endless commentaries, and hear on the talk shows, blacks will see the outcome in Santa Monica one way, and whites in another.
The aftermath of this trial, played out in the media, will continue to expose the great divide in America: race.
Perhaps, in a way, that's good. Americans should talk more about race. This gives us an excuse to do it.
Talking about nuts and bolts, the trial did not restore the reputation of the Los Angeles Police Department's once renowned technical crime-fighting facilities. The crime lab looked as deficient in this trial as it did in the first. How long is it going to take for the LAPD to catch up with the 1990s?
As I said at the beginning, these weighty questions were mostly unspoken in the rush of getting the news.
People always ask reporters what they think about big stories, such as the Simpson case. It's a stupid question, especially in the heat of battle.
Small questions occupied the Simpson press corps on this, nearly the end of its long journey.
Who got the first word that a verdict was imminent? Larry Schiller, author of the Simpson book "An American Tragedy," who received a message on his pager, and ran shouting on the lawn in front of the courthouse, alerting his press corps colleagues.
Would NBC's David Gregory skillfully handle the assignment the entire press corps depended on--flashing the verdict signs through the audio room window? He did.
Would the verdict coincide with President Clinton's State of the Union speech? Whose story was bigger, the one in Washington or the verdict?
Big stories are games of inches, not occasions for introspection.
But we journalists who work in L.A.--once we have finished the work of reporting the verdict and its immediate aftermath--will spend many months, many years, dealing with the divisive issues left unsettled by Tuesday night's verdict.