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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.