Tag Archives: race

What They and I Didn’t Know

In a recent Law Newz website post, O.J. Simpson Prosecutor Says Non-Black Writers for New Series Clearly Don’t Understand Race, former Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney makes a case for what I didn’t understand during that trial more that 20 years ago, but have a better understanding of now. Here’s an observation about the FX miniseries:

“I think you have a production done, I’ll say this, basically non-black writers, non-black producers then you want to take this iconic trial with these black lawyers and talk about race, I don’t see how you talk about race without including the people that are most affected by it.”

I wouldn’t have appreciated or even understood back in 1995 what Christopher Darden meant had I heard it back then.

I did hear someone back then say something similar to that and, while I went to bat for him, I didn’t really understand. Photojournalist Haywood Galbreath, who was the only photographer who was in the courtroom taking pictures every day of the trial. I describe my encounter with him in Anatomy of a Trial:

“He represented some two-hundred black-owned newspapers across the country, he said, who were fed up with the distortions of the white media. Exhibit A, a Time magazine cover with Simpson’s mug shot which had been altered, giving him a darker, more sinister look.”

With more life experience, I have a much better idea of what Galbreath was saying and totally agree with Darden’s observation about the making of FX’s “People vs. O.J. Simpson.”

And the Answer is…

It occurred to me that after posting Mr. Peter Gordon’s book-winning question  —  Vincent “Vince” Bugliosi once stated that “race was falsely injected into this trial”, by Johnny Cochran, one member of OJ Simpson’s defence team. Would you agree with this statement? — others besides Mr. Gordon might be interested in my answer. So here it is:

No, I do not agree with Vincent Bugliosi’s statement. Race is almost always a subtext in the United States in issues involving African Americans, even when African Americans are obviously absent, such as with all-white clubs and organizations. Because of the country’s history, race-consciousness, if not actual racism, is in the nation’s DNA. So race would have been an undertone of the Simpson trial even without overt injection. Because of his football-star and pitchman/B-movie-actor status, O. J. Simpson was an African American whom white America accepted as a “good guy.” That perception changed as details of the murders of his ex-wife and her friend and evidence in the trial emerged. As his attorney, Johnnie Cochran was obligated to present the best defense possible for his client. In doing so, he included race as a major component of that defense, along with police incompetence and forensic laboratory bungling. Making race a centerpiece of his defense received a great boost from audio tapes of an aspiring North Carolina filmmaker interviewing police detective Mark Fuhrman in which hMr. Fuhrman used a racial epithet after he had said in sworn testimony that he had never used such a word.

A Question of Race

As advertized yesterday, I’m posting the question Mr. Peter Gordon of East Lothian, Scotland, posed for my “free autographed Anatomy of a Trial” contest. So, here it is:

Vincent “Vince” Bugliosi once stated that “race was falsely injected into this trial”, by Johnny Cochran, one member of OJ Simpson’s defence team. Would you agree with this statement?

As it turns out, Mr. Gordon’s question has been selected as the winning question for the week of Feb. 2, and an autographed book will be in the mail to him early next week.

Rather than post my answer (even though answering submitted questions wasn’t articulated as part of the contest, I think it only right to do so) right away, however, I’d be interested in other opinions on the issue Mr. Gordon raises. So please post a comment with how you would answer Mr. Gordon’s question and I’ll post my answer in a few days.