In Contempt

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For more than a year, Christopher Darden argued passionately and tirelessly, giving voice to the victims in the O. J. Simpson murder trial. But few people knew that he was fighting a deeper, more insidious battle—against racism that came from all sides. When the case was over and O. J. Simpson was set free, the disheartened prosecutor bore the anguish and disillusionment of millions of Americans. He also carried wounds that perhaps no other black person has ever felt as deeply. Now, out of the sensational frenzy ...
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Overview

For more than a year, Christopher Darden argued passionately and tirelessly, giving voice to the victims in the O. J. Simpson murder trial. But few people knew that he was fighting a deeper, more insidious battle—against racism that came from all sides. When the case was over and O. J. Simpson was set free, the disheartened prosecutor bore the anguish and disillusionment of millions of Americans. He also carried wounds that perhaps no other black person has ever felt as deeply. Now, out of the sensational frenzy of the 'trial of the century' comes a haunting and poignant memoir of duty, justice, and the constant, powerful undertow of American bigotry. This is an unflinching look at a justice system kidnapped by a racist cop, shameless defense lawyers, a starstruck judge, and a dysfunctional jury. Darden is stunningly candid about his own performance—including the brash decision to put the gloves on Simpson—as well as the strong relationship forged between himself and Marcia Clark.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780783818580
  • Publisher: Cengage Gale
  • Publication date: 8/28/1996
  • Product dimensions: 6.41 (w) x 9.53 (h) x 1.28 (d)

Meet the Author

Christopher Darden is a fifteen-year veteran of the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office and an Associate Professor of Law at Southwestern University School of Law. One of the key prosecutors in the case of The People of the State of California v. Orenthal James Simpson, he lives in Los Angeles, California.

Jess Walter is the author of six novels, including the bestsellers Beautiful Ruins and The Financial Lives of the Poets, the National Book Award finalist The Zero, and Citizen Vince, the winner of the Edgar Award for best novel. His short fiction has appeared in Harper's, McSweeney's, and Playboy, as well as The Best American Short Stories and The Best American Nonrequired Reading. He lives in his hometown of Spokane, Washington.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One



The clerk, Deirdre Robertson, stumbled over his name, and for just a moment, a last bit of hope hung there on her voice. But I knew. I'd known from the beginning, from the moment I walked into that courtroom a year earlier and saw that jury. I could see in their eyes the need to settle some score. And I was the only prosecutor who knew what the score was. Still, to hear it announced like that was like a swift baseball bat to the stomach.

"We the jury in the above entitled action, find the defendant, Orenthal James Simpson, not guilty of the crime of murder...upon Nicole Brown Simpson, a human being..."

A human being.

"My God," I muttered. "My God, my God, my God." Next to me, the other lead members of the prosecution team, Marcia Clark and Bill Hodgman, whispered after me, "My God." I watched Simpson and his lawyer Johnnie Cochran pump their fists and smile fiercely and I wanted to scream.

I turned to face the jury, to show them my disgust. My eyes caught those of Juror 247, reportedly a former Black Panther. Earlier in the trial, Judge Lance Ito had asked Cochran to get tickets to the UCLA-Miami football game for Juror 247, and Simpson's lawyer had gladly obliged. That's what this trial was about. Juror 247 and I stared at each other while the courtroom erupted, all at once, in a collective gasp, a rejoicing shout, and the tortured hiss of Fred Goldman: "Murderer!" Finally, Juror 247 looked away from me, at the floor. As he left the courtroom, he raised his fist in a black power salute, and I was saddened that one of the symbols of my idealistic youth was being used to celebrate a killer's release. As thejury filed out of the box, my head swung around the courtroom until I settled on O. J. Simpson.

He turned to Kim Goldman, made eye contact with her, and smiled slyly. He'd done it. He'd killed her brother and, in spite of all the evidence against him, had gotten away with it. His eyes swept past the Brown family too. He'd won. He had told Nicole that he could kill her anytime, anyplace, and that he could get away with it. Well, he'd done it. And now it was over.

I stood, trying to get my bearings. One of the defense attorneys, Robert Shapiro, walked toward me, but I brushed him aside. Judge Ito immediately left the bench, locking himself in his chambers, which was where he belonged. I wanted nothing to do with him or the "Dream Team." I reached the door and looked back with disdain at the courtroom where I'd spent the last nine months. Alone, I turned away, walked through the double doors of Criminal Department 103, and never looked back.

I never got a chance, of course, to cross-examine him. And as I stood in the hallway, waiting for an elevator, I didn't want to anymore. I just wanted to talk to him, make sure he knew that he hadn't fooled all of us and that his "Dream Team" hadn't fooled most Americans. A criminal defendant, much like a lawyer, can forget sometimes that what is admissible in court isn't necessarily true and what is inadmissible isn't necessarily false, that a not guilty verdict doesn't mean you are innocent.

I wanted to tell him that there was another court that would hear his case one day, with a judge who would try racist cops and murderers separately. A court where everyone will have to account for his actions alone, without lawyers or jurors or overworked prosecutors. A court where there will be no need for DNA, gloves, or Akitas, and the only witnesses will be the eyewitnesses, Ron Goldman and Nicole Brown.

As I stepped on the elevator, I thought about Ron and Nicole and was filled with images that continue to haunt me. I could see exactly how it happened, in fact I see it still, much more vividly than I'd like, much more often than I want to. And every time I see it, I want to confront him, to tell him that I can see inside his heart and that I know what happened:

Through the window, you watched Nicole put away the dishes, didn't you? She finished and then she lit some candles and you watched her, the way you had watched her so many times before, on so many dry runs. She stopped suddenly and looked out the window, but she couldn't see you, because it was dark outside and well-lit inside. All she could see was her own reflection and, for just a moment, you both stood staring at the same thing: her frightened face. She reached into a drawer and grabbed a long kitchen knife, her knuckles white around the handle. You were impressed. You knew how afraid she must be to grab a knife. Nicole had told you and everyone else how frightened she was of knives, that it was her worst phobia, this irrational fear that one day she would be killed with a knife. She looked around the condominium and then set the knife back on the counter. And she went back to lighting candles.

Candles! That really got you, didn't it? You couldn't believe that she would light candles. That was yourritual, something that let you know she was ready to be taken. It infuriated you that she might be lighting candles for someone else. You moved along the bushes outside the window, watching her, the way you had watched her before. Was there a voice pulling you? Pushing you? Goading you? Or was it just matter-of-fact, slow and measured?

Was it because you owned her? I know you believed that she was yours from the time...

In Contempt. Copyright © by Christopher A. Darden. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 22, 2007

    learning experience

    This is a great book, although the case is 13 years old, after reading 'In Contempt' I understand the workings of a major trial in the spot light. The book is written very well. The reader will finish the book with 'Contempt' for the jury that let a killer go free. But you will see how that happened.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 9, 2005

    The ultimate book to make you think of the law of today and the past

    I am only 15 years old and reading this book made me feel as though I understood his views perfectly. His guilt, work, and concern for his cases was not only for his good, but also the people he was representing. I love reading about cases and this book out of all just blew me away. It was as though I could understand his ideas and the way he took things and relate to it as if I was a part of the case. Mr. Darden you are a very powerful man and you have been through alot and didn't let it affect your dreams. I admire you for that. We really do need more lawyers like you today.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 27, 2000

    A Compelling read

    Christopher Darden paints a vivid picture of a justice system gone awry due to a slick defense attorney crying wolf (the race card). I recommend this book to anyone who even had a passing interest in the Simpson case.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 24, 2000

    In Contempt, Lessons for All People

    In Contempt was excellent reading. I was totally amazed at what Chris Darden went though during this trial. Contrary to popular opinion, I as a Africian American, believe that OJ Simpson committed the murders in cold blood. I commend Mr. Darden for his diligence and professionalism. Too bad he is no longer practicing law, we need more lawyers, police officers and citizens like him. Kudos Chris!!!

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