The Books: “Outrage : The Five Reasons Why O.J. Simpson Got Away With Murder” (Vincent Bugliosi)

Next in my Daily Book Excerpt:

004050.JPGThe following book in my true crime section is:

Outrage: The Five Reasons Why O. J. Simpson Got Away with Murder, again by Vincent Bugliosi. The title of this book “Outrage” pretty much says it all. Bugliosi, famous prosecutor (mainly of the Manson murderers) weighs in on the OJ case. NOBODY comes out of this one unscathed. Bugliosi is PISSED. He did not wait for his temper to cool before writing this book. He wrote it in the midst of his fury.

EXCERPT FROM Outrage: The Five Reasons Why O. J. Simpson Got Away with Murder, by Vincent Bugliosi.

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 saying confidently, “This jury will never convict Simpson — they wouldn’t convict him even if they were shown a film of him committing the murders.” People carrying signs outside the courtroom during the trail 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 victimes. U.S. Senate Chaplin 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 most ill-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, certailyl 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 in 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 trail. 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 rooms. 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 jury?

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 do — let 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 what most people wanted them to do. Wasn’t that really what prosecutor Darden himself was suggesting when he said, “Nobody wants to do anything to this man”?

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 proide in having been the first public personality to come out publiclyl 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 presumptiopn of innocence in our society. Also, they felt as a member of the bar, I should, therefore, not have spoken of Simpson’s guilt before the verdict.

Contrary to common belief, the presumption of innocence applies only inside a courtroom. It has no applicability elsewhere, although the media do not seem to be aware of this. Even the editorial sections of major American newspapers frequently express the view, in references to a pending case, that “we” — meaning the editors and their readers — have to presume that so-and-so is innocent. To illustrate that the presumption does not apply outside the courtroom, let’s say an employer has evidence that an employee has committed theft. If the employer had to presume the person were innocent, he obviously couldn’t fire the employee or do anything at all. But of course he not only can fire or demote the employee, he can report him to the authorities…

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 carves up two human beings like sides of beef 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.

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13 Responses to The Books: “Outrage : The Five Reasons Why O.J. Simpson Got Away With Murder” (Vincent Bugliosi)

  1. Candace says:

    That’s very powerful. I read Darden’s book (I bought it from a second-hand store, having decided that no one would profit from me on the case), and he didn’t appear to be happy with the verdict. In keeping with my ‘financial boycott’ I’ll hit the library and read this.

  2. syd says:

    I never really thought about the presumption of innocence only applying to the courtroom. I mean, it should be obvious, but it seems to be treated as one of the Commandments. Though shalt not judge thy neighbor guilty until a jury of his peers has done so.

    Interesting. Guess I’ve been guilty of drinking the kool aid. Damn.

  3. red says:

    syd – you’re so right about the Commandments thing! I ran into that assumption quite a bit when I would declare: “Scott Peterson is SO GUILTY” and people would chastise me that in our society someone is “innocent until proven guilty”.

    I always thought about Bugliosi whenever that happened.

  4. Dave J says:

    You already know that’s one of my biggest pet peeves. The legal presumption of innocence was never meant to be a reason for people external to the proceedings to suspend common sense. Indeed, to say as Bugliosi does that the presumption only applies in the courtroom is correct but may not go far enough: only the judge and jury are truly bound by it. It would be unfair to go so far as saying that prosecutors approach every case with a presumption of guilt, but while it’s not exactly PC to say so, if you’re going to be honest, you recognize that most people who are arrested are, in fact, guilty.

    A related thing that bothers me is an attitude I perceive on the part of at least TV talking-head defense attorneys to always defend any criminal defendant. I mean, why? This person is not your client. You have no duty to be a zealous advocate for them, and it would seem to me that knee-jerkingly making up whatever excuse you can think of for every criminal under the sun hurts your credibility. It’s like crying wolf: if you don’t save it for your own cases, is anyone going to buy it when “you always say that”?

  5. MikeR says:

    And now we have Robert Blake running around on the loose as well. Maybe he and OJ will pool their resources and form a “Search For The Real Killers” organization. Of course, they’ll both be so exhausted from all the searching that most of the money will have to be used for Caribbean vacations…

  6. red says:

    DaveJ: Very interesting. I remember you and I disucssing this “innocent til proven guilty” thing before. One of the other things that Bugliosi is outraged by is the whole “talking head” phenomena. He crucifies those people. The “experts”. It’s a great book – although it will PISS YOU OFF. as it is meant to do, I believe.

  7. red says:

    MikeR – makes me think of one of Chris Rock’s MANY funny things he had to say about OJ.

    His message to the dumbass jurors:

    “This wasn’t about RACE, people. This was about FAME.”

  8. popskull says:

    I like Rock’s bit where he says black people were running around going “We won! We won!” and Rock asks, “What the fuck did we win?!”

  9. red says:

    hahahahaha right!!


    “If OJ weren’t famous – he wouldn’t even BE OJ. He’d be driving a bus and he’d be Orenthal, the bus-drivin’ murderer.”

  10. Laura says:

    OJ is one of those people that just sicken me. He’s so damn smug and arrogant. He knows he did it, he knows we know he did it, and he lives to bask in the fact that despite what we all know, he got away with it.

    The one thing Bugliosi touched on was something that bothered me during that whole mess. Everything was about OJ.

    I remember watching some stupid news show during the trial. They played a video tape of Nicole at their daughter’s First Communion. Nicole stood behind the girl, lovingly stroking her hair as they walked up to the Priest. Very subtle, but a total Mother/Daughter moment. And it struck me. This wasn’t about OJ, about fame, or about all that other crap. He murdered the mother of his two kids, and took something from them the worst thing you can take from a child. The Prosecution did do a horrible job, and I think having the damn thing televised was the worst thing. Instead of being a trial about justice, it was a reality show for all of America to watch. OJ ought to be parked in a cell next to Scott Peterson.

  11. red says:

    Laura –

    Bugliosi had been boiling over about the verdict – and it was a photo of OJ Simpson playing golf, grinning like a happy man – that finally made Bugliosi pick up his pen. It was his demeanor AFTER the verdict that pushed Bugliosi over the edge.

  12. Dave J says:

    One thing that people involved in the criminal justice system seem to normally understand, but to often lose sight of (and allow the public to lose sight of) was best summed up this way, though I’m afraid I don’t remember by whom: “It’s not about the perpetrator. It’s not about the victim. It’s ABOUT THE CRIME.” Lose sight of that, and you lose sight of why the whole giant institutional edifice exists in the first place.

  13. Dave J says:

    “Often lose sight of in these high-profile cases, specifically,” I mean.

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