Earl Ofari Hutchinson's take on the politics of the day
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Earl Ofari Hutchinson
Casey Anthony is not O.J. Simpson in white female face. The only real reason that Anthony is even mentioned in the same breath as O.J. is because she was acquitted of first degree murder. And many of those that bothered to pay any attention to the case fervently believed she was guilty and expected her to be convicted. The resemblance ends abruptly there. The hard fact of the Anthony case and verdict is that other than what the media tried to make of it, this was never more than a case of an over reaching District Attorney trying to squeeze a first degree murder conviction out of what by all evidence was arguably at best a case of parental criminal neglect and lying. But the media in the usual clinical search for anything that smacks of a scintilla of salacious sensationalism moved heaven and earth to blow it into the second coming of the O,J, case dubbed crime and trial of the century.
Nearly sixteen years after the O.J. acquittal it’s worth taking a look back to see exactly why a young, irresponsible, impoverished no-name white woman, could suddenly should never be talked of in the same breath as O.J. and the real trial of the century. In fact, the very starting point for debunking the Anthony-O.J. comparison is the very fact that it’s even made in the first place. That is prima facie proof that a decade and a half later O.J. still gets tongues furiously wagging at the mention of the murders, and the name of the man accused of committing them, O.J. Simpson. That will not be said sixteen years or even sixteen days after the Anthony acquittal.
The reasons are simple. The O.J. case was the complete social, racial, celebrity, gender, and tabloid package. The murders of Brown and Goldman heightened racial tensions, as well as public awareness about domestic violence. They stirred rage against the double standard of wealth and celebrity privilege in the legal system, and elevated celebrity murder cases to media tabloid sensationalism.
Millions in the U.S. and globally gawked in awe and fascination for seemingly endless months at the often mundane and drab proceedings in the Simpson trial courtroom. This was the first real glimpse that these countless millions had of the inner workings of the court system. But that wouldn’t have kept them glued to the TV set if the key player hadn’t been one of America’s most indulged, dashing, and famed celebrity-athletes who was cooed and fawned over by advertisers, Hollywood paparazzi, and had a beautiful and young white wife. O.J. was the American Dream personified. He was an African-American who rose to the top of celebrity pyramid and had true cross-over appeal to whites. But what truly made the O.J. case the lasting talk of the town was race, or rather the term that quickly crept into the American lexicon, the “racial divide.”
In countless polls before, during and after the trial the majority of whites was absolutely convince that Simpson committed the murders and evaded justice, while a majority of blacks said he was innocent and that the verdict was a just one.
Prosecutors in the trial skillfully painted Simpson as an irresponsible, abusive and violent husband. This portrayal shoved the issue of spousal abuse and domestic violence into the public view. A number of states passed stiff laws mandating arrest and jail sentences for domestic assaults. Police, district attorneys and judges nationwide promised to arrest, prosecute and sentence domestic batterers.
The horde of Simpson media commentators, legal experts and politicians who branded the legal system corrupt also fueled public belief that justice is for sale. Simpson’s acquittal seemed to confirm that the rich, famous and powerful have the deep pockets to hire high-priced, high-profile attorneys, experts and investigators who routinely enable their well-heeled clients to weasel out of punishment.
Then there was the media which struck pay dirt with Simpson.
The Simpson case turned the slow drift of much of the mainstream media toward tabloid sleaze sensationalism and a headlong rush into celebrity trials. Staid mainstream publications that in times past would have back-paged a murder case, even a celebrity case, morphed into the National Enquirer, Star and the legion of other tabloids. A gaggle of daytime gossipy talk shows have since successfully parlayed innuendo, rumor, half-truths and outright lies into hugely profitable empires and ratings bonanzas.
In the decade since Simpson’s acquittal, newspapers and the TV networks have force-fed the public a bloated diet of Simpson-style sensationalism in the form of the Beltway sniper, Laci Peterson, Robert Blake, Phil Spector and other highly publicized murder cases. The Anthony case was only the latest in the sordid train of tabloid made court cases. The system worked the way it’s supposed to work in the Anthony case. Jurors looked at the evidence and found simply that the prosecution did not prove Anthony committed first degree murder “beyond a reasonable doubt. The jurors did the same in the Simpson case. But that’s the only thing about the Anthony case that remotely resembles O.J.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst and Monday co-host of the Al Sharpton Show. He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is host of the weekly Hutchinson Report Newsmaker Hour on KTYM Radio Los Angeles streamed on ktym.com podcast on blogtalkradio.com and internet TV broadcast on thehutchinsonreportnews.com
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