From the moment O.J. Simpson became a suspect in this double murder case, it was "in the air," perhaps as in no other case within memory, that he might get off despite the conclusive evidence of his guilt. In fact, even before the murders, it was in the air, Nicole presciently telling her close female friends that "O.J. is going to kill me someday and he's going to get by with it."
It was in the air from the day (June 17, 1994) when mental midgets stood atop the freeway overpasses holding "Go O.J., Go" signs during the slow-speed chase prior to his arrest. Everywhere one looked, it was in the air. People predicting confidently, "This jury will never convict Simpsonthey wouldn't convict him even if they were shown a film of him committing the murders." People carrying signs outside the courtroom during the trial declaring "Free O.J.," "Save the Juice," and even "Whether you did it or not, we still love you, O.J." The incessant jokes and tasteless comedy routines on TV and radio about the case, which could only serve to subliminally trivialize the murders of the victims. U.S. Senate Chaplain Richard Halverson beginning the Senate's day on June 23, 1994, with a "prayer for O.J. Simpson." The first juror called for questioning in the case happening to be juror number 32, the number Simpson wore throughout most of his football career, prompting Judge Ito to say, "I don't know if this is an omen," and Simpson to smile and nod his head in agreement. Marcia Clark, during jury selection, making one of the mostill-advised statements ever made to a jury by a prosecutor: "You may not like me for bringing this case. I'm not winning any popularity contests for doing so." Chris Darden's almost equally incredible and ill-advised statement to the jury in his summation at the end of the case: "Nobody wants to do anything to this man. We don't. There is nothing personal about this, but the law is the law." (Can you imagine being almost apologetic to a jury when you believe the person you're prosecuting committed a brutal double murder?)
To this day, virtually everyone refers to Simpson only as "O.J.," a friendly nickname that implies the speaker still likes Simpson or at most views him as one would an errant friend or relative, certainly not a brutal murderer. "How's O.J. doing?" Larry King would solicitously ask any guest of his who was a Simpson intimate and who had visited Simpson recently at the jail. These and many other small signs of respect, or awe, or affection, indicated that Simpson, even if guilty, might be given some break tantamount to a papal dispensation. In the absence of a powerful prosecution, it became almost a self-fulfilling prophecy that he would be found not guilty.
This feeling, this sense, which permeated every segment of our society, was obviously known to the jurors before they were selected, even manifesting itself during the trial. Because when something is in the air, it reaches everyone, by osmosis, by accident, or, if by no other means, by the weekly conjugal visits to the sequestered jurors. Surely, no one can doubt that the jurors were speaking to those loved ones who visited them in the privacy of their quarters. Everyone knew this. You don't have to take my word for it. What conceivable reason would Marcia Clark have had to beg Judge Ito not to let Simpson make a statement near the end of the case, when Simpson wanted to do so outside the presence of the jury, if she didn't virtually know that what Simpson said would get back to the juLÿry?
This "in the air" phenomenon couldn't help but contribute, in some way, to the eventual not-guilty verdict. It made it so much easier, either consciously or subconsciously, for the jury to give Simpson every benefit he was legally entitled to, and then some. In such an atmosphere a not-guilty verdict would no longer seem to the jury like the very worst thing that any jury could dolet a brutal murderer walk out the door a free man. They were just doing what everyone had already predicted they were going to do, and apparently if the jury was to believe the prosecutors themselves, what most people wanted them to do. Wasn't that really what prosecutor Darden himself was suggesting to the jury when he said, "Nobody wants to do anything to this man"? And what Clark was suggesting when she said she "wasn't winning any popularity contests"?
I've been asked to explain more than once why, right from the beginning, I was saying publicly that there was no question Simpson was guilty. I take no pride in having been the first public personality to come out publicly against Simpson. It just happened that way. I was asked by the media how I felt about the case way back in the early summer of 1994, and I decided to be candid. Before I tell you why I did, I should point out that some people objected to my having done so. One reason was the presumption of innocence in our society. Also, they felt that as a member of the bar, I should, therefore, not have spoken of Simpson's guilt before the verdict.
I spoke out in the Simpson case for two reasons. The main reason should be self-evident to the reader by now. The "in the air" phenomenon attending the Simpson case was, at least to my recollection, unprecedented for any criminal case. Because this was a highly unusual situation, I departed from my customary policy. There was no doubt in my mind that the "in the air" phenomenon had the potential of having a prejudicial impact on the prosecution's case, since the jury couldn't help but be aware of it and probably be adversely influenced in the process, and I was trying to counter what was happening. I obviously was unsuccessful.
There was another related reason I spoke out early on, months before the trial. I was disgusted by the tremendous groundswell of support for Simpson, even though two human beings had been brutally murdered, and all the evidence pointed to Simpson as the perpetrator. He had received 350,000 letters of support at the time, and although each revelation of his guilt the media learned of was clinically and dispassionately reported in the news, nearly all of the commentators on television nonetheless treated Simpson as if he were a very special human being, and not one of them dared to say one negative word about him. He was being given special treatment at the Los Angeles County Jail; thousands of people were calling in on radio talk shows asserting his innocence; some, unbelievably, stating or strongly implying that even if he was guilty, he's O.J., let him go, he has suffered enough. As I've indicated, even today, everyone still calls him O.J. You know, O.J. this and O.J. that. Well, he's no longer O.J. to me. He's Simpson. Someone who viciously carves up two human beings and leaves them lying dead in a pool of blood forfeits his right to any endearing nicknames, at least in my view. Again, why there was this enormous support for someone who had obviously committed two of the worst murders imaginable I don't know, but I personally found it repulsive and repugnant.