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Add the Legal System to the List of the OJ Saga's Victims - February 5, 1997

Richard Brian McCarty

For some time now, I have made it clear I would not comment on the OJ saga. But since it is the second most important story of February 4, 1997, I will break my silence. My beloved South Carolina Gamecocks' win over Kentucky overshadows OJ in my eyes, and there was some speech given tonight by the President. In spite of that, I will write about the OJ saga.

I think it is unfortunate. The media, and all the media stars, from Jesse Jackson to the Goldmans to Evans and Novak, have ridden the OJ saga for what it is worth. There were only two victims and their families when this started, but now we can add the judicial system to the list.

Let me state clearly I believe in our system of justice. I have studied it. I have sworn to uphold it. I am proud of that. I am proud to strive to be a part of it because OJ is not the normal course of business in the courts. Even with biases, judges who legislate from the bench, and the power of money, our system is the best in the world, and much more often than not, renders justice.

I do not know whether or not OJ should have been held liable or should have been found guilty. I did not interview any witnesses, or look over any documents. I refuse to form an opinion about his guilt or innocence without doing so.

But, I did not have to be at the trial to see the effects of it. The media, and its players, are already quick to show that a black jury set him free, and a white jury held him liable. Never mind the differences in standards of proof. The racial lines are simple to define, and they will be the catalyst to drive some to call for massive reform of the legal system. It is tragic that there were not black jurors on the civil suit jury. Because, without them, a Pandora's box of racist and reform calls has been opened.

And such calls are not needed. Yes, there should be reform in some areas. However, I have sat and watched black jurors convict black defendants, and I have watched white jurors acquit black defendants. It happens in courtrooms across the nation daily. There are jury biases for sure. Sometimes jurors choose favorite attorneys, or feel sorry for litigants. That is the reason why they are there.

Jefferson and other founding fathers insisted that there be juries in the constitution's bill of rights. In Jefferson's eyes, juries were to be the people's supervision of the law--especially in criminal matters. They were to serve as a safety valve so that the people had a chance to find justice if the law did not give it. Over time, some elites, judges and lawyers have tried to reduce jury roles. I am now afraid OJ will give them the popular support to do so, and that would be tragic.

You see, the President and Congress are accountable to the people through elections. Judges are accountable through appointment, confirmation, and impeachment. And, the law itself is held accountable, at least in criminal matters, by the jury. Movements to remove that, only damages the power of the people over the law.

Juries are typically portrayed as only finders of fact, but they are more than that. They do hold the law itself accountable. They can ignore it ( though they can not be told to). And, that is not a bad thing. It may be one of us who stands accused of breaking a law that seemed unjust, or in a unjust situation where the criminal law does not suit the circumstances. We would want that jury to give us justice then.

But, in comes OJ, and the jury sets him free. People are outraged. And, the attorneys play the ego games that make all attorneys look bad. I cringe when I watch former Prosecutors get on television and talk about how the jury ignored mountains of evidence. I cringe also when I watch defense attorneys from the case talk about various issues. I know prosecutors who seek the truth and honest defense attorneys who work tirelessly. I wish America would sit and watch trials tried by them; and watch how mixed juries convict and acquit blacks. But instead, OJ stands out as what the legal system is all about.

The media will tell us that, because that is basically all many of them know about the judicial system. People who have spent three years keeping up with only one criminal trial and one civil trial will damn the judicial process ignorantly.

But, the system is more than that. I have discussed juries, but the criminal system is one that protects the innocent at the expense of sometimes letting the guilty go free. I can accept that. It is a limit on the power of government. It has been an interesting irony to me that some conservatives who otherwise would limit the power of government are the ones who claim outrage over the system in how the OJ criminal verdict was rendered.

And, even more interesting is that some liberals, who would otherwise champion the power of government and the courts to do good, are condemning the civil suit verdict. The civil courts are designed to allow the people to settle grievances they have with one another. To promote that, the burdens of proof are less than in criminal matters. I can live with that. Without it, we would have people trying to seize property and otherwise take matters in their own hands.

I know I am on my soapbox for the system. But, I am outraged at the ignorant arguments made recently because of OJ. The unfortunate makeup of the juries have created a debate about the system that is not necessary. It has clouded the judgements of otherwise prudent people. If you are concerned about either trial's results, I encourage you to take the time to learn about other cases. Look at your local courts and what goes on there. Then make your comments. Don't join the ignorant voices of OJ.

If there is indeed a problem with juries based on race, it is not the system's fault. It's the fault of the hearts of the people who sat on the jury. And, that is something that can not be solved by the government or the courts. Joining the ignorant voices of OJ would only add to that problem by allowing the system to take the blame for the wrongs of the people who sat on the juries

Richard Brian McCarty has worked on several political campaigns of conservatives. He holds a Juris Doctor from the University of South Carolina and a BS degree from Lander University. An experienced writer, McCarty's columns are written from a distinctly Southern point of view. He is sometimes Southern, sometimes conservative, sometimes humorous, and sometimes all three.


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