Leslie Abramson
Leslie Abramson; drawing by David Levine

1.

Lyle and Erik Menendez, two furtive suburban churls, gunned down their parents in August 1989, almost seven years ago. The brothers were not arrested until six months after the murders; during the gap they had quite a good time spending the impressive bank account of their father, Jose Menendez, a corporate executive, self-made, forty-five years old when he and his wife, Kitty, forty-seven years old were killed. Jose and Kitty, the parents, Lyle and Erik, the sons. One needs a bit of caution to keep these now familiar couplings from tripping off the tongue as if they were family skits in the old vaudeville days. The brothers’ incarceration came about when recordings of a detailed confession made to a psychiatrist were at last turned over to the police. They were brought to trial, each with his own jury, neither of which could agree on a verdict, and so they went back to prison to await a retrial and to find themselves displaced in public interest by the indictment of the former football star O.J. Simpson for the murder by stabbing of his ex-wife and a hapless friend who happened to be at the scene. In any case, the Menendez brothers and O.J. Simpson, by way of the cameras in the courtroom during the trials, became international double-homicide celebrities.

More is known about the accused and the victims in these trials than about many of the public figures whose actions and opinions will have an effect upon the national life. Politicians, facing their shackling positions, past and present, will have to wait for election night to command the dramatic preeminence of the final returns in the trials of L&E and O.J. This raging intimacy and emotional attentiveness came about from the extraordinary span of the television coverage. The fanatical hours were not only set aside on Court TV and CNN, specialized channels, but also on the regular stations. The purest measure of demand and urgency came when the vast audience, resting its feet or nodding off a bit in front of the long-established afternoon soap operas, was interrupted for the California judicial theater, an offering as slow as the plot clips on As the World Turns are quick and efficient.

“Millions all over the world,” a favorite statistic, seemed to wait for the arrival of O.J. Simpson’s mise-en-scène: the “alleged” himself, the lawyers in a circle around the front table, spectators and family in the rows behind, heads and hats of interest, and above them Judge Lance Ito with black hair, black beard, and black robe, all bringing to mind a drawing by Daumier. Long ago it was Extra, Extra, Read All About It!, the lad in his woolen cap, the clang of printing presses, the folded newspapers flipping by—archival memories of a primitive way to announce the evil folks will do for love, hatred, or money. In the old sob story, as in classical tragedy, “situational murder,” in the family, was most gripping to the public imagination. The two cases at hand do not take place in a castle or palace suitable to tragedy, but they have more than a little contemporary signification as settings. They are LA “mansion” scripts: swimming pool, tennis court, patio, guest house, deluxe motor cars, residential emblems giving a certain cachet almost invariably lacking in criminal justice scenery. For Simpson it was Rolls-Royce, Bentley, and Ferrari, and the rather lowly but unfortunately significant white Bronco. For the Menendez family we learn of a reticent Mercedes or two and for Lyle an Alfa Romeo at the time of his high school graduation.

The Menendez trial was a literal sob story as the brothers famously sobbed and sniffled on the witness stand, where they and their lawyers elaborately proposed a family chronicle of such great squalor that nice boys, as they were said to be, would have no recourse except to rid themselves of the elders by blowing them to bits. The infamy of the parents was to be the center of the choice of a punishment that might be death by lethal injection in San Quentin prison, the fate offered as appropriate to the crime by the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office. At the present time there are 438 prisoners on Death Row in San Quentin, rows of cages Senator Robert Dole and his wife, Elizabeth, president of the American Red Cross, strangely chose to visit on the campaign trail in California. There are no votes to be solicited on Death Row, but for the idea of Death Row there are votes throughout the country and an impatience for the amount of time it takes to proceed with the sentence.

Jose Menendez, foully murdered, was an interesting, thoroughly deplorable man. He came from a respected, prosperous Havana family, all of whom settled in the United States after the Castro revolution. Jose came first at the age of sixteen to join his brother-in-law, went to high school, and in college met Kitty Anderson, whom he married and who would bear the parricidal sons, creatures out of the mist of antiquity even though this family line began in a courtship at Southern Illinois University. After classes in accounting at Queens College, the Cuban exile immediately displayed a talent for business. This is an indefinable endowment, a sort of genetic luck perhaps, in which one need not invent anything or even start up a useful enterprise. Intelligence-corporate seems to be similar to intelligence-military, a gift for strategy in serious battle. Menendez quickly held high positions at the Hertz Corporation and after that at Live Entertainment, an agency in Los Angeles where under his reign profits were indeed notable.

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Just as notable was the ruthless nature of his executive style, so extreme as to be almost a caricature. Ruthlessness is not embarrassing in the corporate world if it is somehow believed to be a stone in the structure of profit. However, Jose was seriously sadistic to those with whom he worked; he was forever insulting, humiliating, raging—habits that do not render a profit beyond whatever pleasure they may give to the one who feels free to display them. Research indicates that many talented people left Hertz because of his offensive behavior, and when his murder was made known the joke went around that everyone who had ever worked with him would need a good alibi.*

It must not be imagined that the sons were anything but deeply proud of their father’s titles and compensation. They gave no indication of a sort of youthful socialist contempt for the cruel practices of capitalism as they had viewed it at home, none of the questioning of the reputed terms of our beginning and end sometimes noted in the preacher’s son. In fact Lyle and Erik have no ideas at all that one can discover, although they certainly practice the poet’s call for “no ideas but in things.” They had things, cars, and clothes, and they lived expensively, went to private schools, took tennis lessons, had girlfriends. The trouble was that their parents somehow got the notion they should or could become superior in all things, in sports, in school, in ambition, in avoiding trouble—which they didn’t. When first in California they lived in a suburb of Los Angeles and broke into two houses, stole a lot of valuable things, and had to be bailed out by their father.

Lyle was accepted at Princeton for his talents in swimming and tennis, thus achieving the sort of prestige his father violently desired. However he was soon on probation for failing grades and after that expelled for cheating. The rage of the father is easily imagined, even if for these delinquencies most parents would be given to strong expressions of disappointment and disapproval. Lyle and Erik played around the country in junior tennis tournaments with some success but never enough for Jose, who was hysterically eager for them to win, an embarrassment in the stands, and fearful at home with his punishing rage at their weakness and failure. What the parents raised were spoiled, indulged sons forcefully denounced for their insufficiencies. A controlling, relentless father and an unhappy, unsupportive mother.

Constant dread of criticism or punishment can create an addiction to lying in the hope of covering mistakes, lacks, and wrongdoing. Those experienced in lying will often tell several lies when one would suffice. To cancel a previous engagement: I’ve got a terrible cold and…er…my dog died. Lying or not lying was critical to the way the brothers’ defense would be evaluated. In the first trial half the jurors believed them and half did not. In the second trial they were not believed and thus were convicted of first-degree murder and doomed to spend the rest of their lives in prison, although they escaped the death penalty. The case turned on their assertion of extraordinary sexual abuse by the father, the memory of which caused the sobbing on the stand.

Erik was the principal victim, claiming forced fellatio, sodomy, and “massages” from the age of six until eighteen, that is, up to the very moment they decided to kill their parents. Lyle too was the alleged object of abuse from the age of six to eight, and since he was two years older, that tidily gets the father off him and onto Erik, to speak in the spirit of the exchanges brought out by the doleful, patient questions of the defense attorneys. The mother, also murdered, must, to round things out, show an inappropriate attention to her children’s bodies, and so we hear of considerable interest in bath times even when they were in their teens.

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Many peculiarities in the plot skillfully performed for the audience. Lyle hadn’t been aware of Erik’s twelve years of servitude to his father’s wishes; Erik didn’t know his brother had bought and was wearing a hairpiece, Hollywood style. The discoveries somehow brought a confrontation that led to a death threat by the father and so in fear of their lives the sons attacked first. It was necessary to re-load and shoot the mother twice before she expired, and killing her even once was a troublesome decision when the father’s murder might alone have achieved the change desired. They added to their indictment that their mother had known about the sexual abuse all the many years, an assertion meant to assist due cause.

The relation between the husband and wife seems to have been a good deal more banal. Kitty Menendez was in a bad way owing to the “other woman” problem, a longtime mistress she feared her husband might want to marry, and for that dilemma and heartache she drank, threatened suicide, went to psychiatrists, and so on. A canny and calculating Jose Menendez knew that divorce was not a bottom-line plus in his personal account books, and also as a shrewd operator he was not likely to think he could kill two grown sons and get away with it. As for the brothers, had they immediately confessed and told their gruesome story they might have been freed. The blur in this picture is that perhaps they didn’t have the story until they had spent some months reflecting in prison.

So, home was a cave of misery, but hidden within the dark recesses was a horde of gold which one could reach if only the ogre, or ogres, guarding the entrance were somehow overcome. The ecstatic, embarrassing, and deeply foolish profligacy of the sons as soon as their parents were in the ground gives little reason to dismiss money as somehow implicated in the decision to murder. In a remorseless rush of giddy expenditures, such as a $64,000 Porsche for Lyle, greed would naturally form the basis of the prosecutor’s interpretation.

In the second trial, Lyle did not testify, a cause of wonder to those who remembered his talented performance in the original trial, a trial he and his brother had managed to make for some a judgment not of themselves but of their parents. In the first trial a former girlfriend testified that Lyle had wanted her to falsely accuse Jose of sexual advances, but she had refused. That could be seen as hearsay, but more damaging was the new discovery by the state of an actual letter, written by Lyle to a friend, proposing false testimony. It would not have been advantageous for Lyle to submit to questioning in this matter and so he like O.J. Simpson sat as a sort of silent spectator in the dock.

The verdict of murder in the first degree was an expression of a disbelief, or at least an imperfect belief, in the credibility of the defendants and their proposed justifications. The jurors were called back to decide between life and death—the “penalty phase” of their duties. Suddenly there was a disturbance having to do with Erik’s lawyer, Leslie Abramson, the only “personality” in this case to make the big time in the manner of the legal team assembled by O.J. Simpson. Leslie Abramson was well known in California as an opponent of the death penalty who defended with striking success some of the most loathsome of the accused. Her advocacy for Erik Menendez was properly belligerent and vivid in every detail; in addition she seemed to feel a genuine, not a merely practical affection for her client. After the first trial ended in a hung jury, she entertained the jurors on “her side,” arranged for some of them to appear on television shows. She flayed the parents mercilessly and even in one exhibit showed a picture of Erik’s genitals into which she stuck pins. This act was attributed to Jose Menendez and since she could not have witnessed it the accusation must have come from the brothers’ tendency to dramatic overkill.

During the presentation of the arguments in the penalty phase the prosecutor was questioning one Dr. Vicary, a forensic psychiatrist employed by Erik’s defense. The prosecution found that the notes Dr. Vicary was consulting did not always correspond to the notes from Dr. Vicary’s sessions with Erik given by the defense, as required by law, to the prosecution in the first trial. Dr. Vicary then said the discrepancy between his first notes and his later ones came about because Miss Abramson had asked him to delete observations and statements prejudicial to Erik. He had done so out of fear of being dismissed from the case. The statements from Erik to be deleted: 1.) A week before the killings he hated his parents and wanted to kill them; 2.) Said he was sexually molested at the age of five by a male baby sitter; 3.) Claimed Lyle’s sexual relation with his mother was only “in his head”; 4.) Said that a homosexual lover of his father had visited the house and told the sons their father was going to kill them. Later admitted that this was a lie.

2.

The Menendez brothers did not display suitable symptoms of mourning after the atrocious death of their parents. With no one about to advise them, they acted according to their dismal natures and this moral nakedness unwittingly created skepticism about their large claims for mitigation. In O.J. Simpson’s case, extenuating circumstances were not to be argued since there was no confession, no eyewitness, no murder weapon recovered, and the plea was a total denial of responsibility. Innocence, with the addition of a resounding 100 percent. Simpson did not offer himself for cross-examination and instead his many predatory advocates spent the many months cross-examining the prosecution, a civic agency Marcia Clark usually referred to as “the people,” an acceptable designation of the courtroom-appointed representatives of the taxpayers even if it cannot represent a totality since the people, that is the jurors, ignored the earnest hopes of their legal representatives and declared O.J. Simpson not guilty of any of the charges. Relief, joy, for himself, his family, his lawyers and friends. Once more back into a white Bronco, down the LA freeways to the place known in the trial as the “Rockingham Location.” A celebration on the handsome lawns with the inevitable news and TV cameras on the ground or above recording in helicopters with a long lens.

Fastidious sensibilities could question the propriety of anything other than a quiet, private gathering, question the subsequent golfing trips, girl-friend along, the unwise calls to talk shows, interviews requested and subsequently canceled when it was remembered that an interview is a questioning, or at least it would be in this case.

The long years of celebrity seemed to be a deterrent to Simpson’s understanding of what had happened to him. The thousands and thousands of cocktail napkins with his autograph scrawled on them have betrayed his hold on reality. Of course, his impervious celebrity was fairly earned; athletes since antiquity have been honored by the state, the crowd, the mob. The grace, speed, strength, and physical discipline of the stars form a mysterious coming together of the powers and possibilities of the body. We can say about O.J. Simpson that he ran and he won and on his walls and tables rest the trophies and medals, our honors, like the odes and marble statues of the ancients. In his middle age, a long, long trial for murder and then the beautiful redemption from punishment, freedom; and yet an irreparable diminishment in public esteem. A large number of his fellow citizens believe he brutally stabbed to death two young people and there are those who think otherwise, that some other person or persons committed the deed and vanished into the night. The violence in the marriage cannot be doubted, even if many can remember demerits of their own scored at the hearthside. No matter, squandering on such a scale leaves destitution everywhere.

Destitution: not for those brought into the light by the trial, spear carriers at the opera, minor parts, and heldentenors and divas, major litigants. Simpson himself came forth early with the idea of a book as a quick source of income. He “wrote” with the help of an experienced book-helper, Lawrence Schiller, a sort of soulful tract entitled I Want to Tell You. He tells us that he has received 300,000 letters, and this while the trial was still in progress. (Lyle Menendez had received over 100,000 and Erik probably as many.) A few are from hostile correspondents, calling him a “scumbag and coward,” but most are inspirational and lead the answers and the commentaries very much in that direction. “I want to state unequivocally that I did not commit those horrible crimes.” He speaks of prayer, of people like his girlfriend, Paula Barbieri, being “very spiritual.” He laments the “lies” and careless exploitation by the press. He offers a rash projection: “I’m going to come out of this with my dignity intact. I’ve been saying from the very beginning: Let me get in front of the jury. Let everybody say what they’re going to say, then I’ll get up there and say my piece—and let them judge.” But he did not testify, claiming that his appearance would lengthen the trial and add to the burden of the jurors who had been so painfully sequestered. Not a strongly cogent bit of human sympathy, but take it as you will.

To be brushed by a first-class scandal can be a bit of luck, even if one is merely a well-placed doorman whistling for a cab on a rainy night. Hungry television and tabloid agents thunder across the Great Plains in search of copy and if it has to be a neighbor or an old high-school teacher they will settle for that and settle with you in exchange for a chat on what is called a “segment.” More respectable and more profitable, if it works well, is the production of book, or what passes by that name. The book may be written with or without assistance and the gestation period need not be long and arduous, nor should it be. Speed of publication is very useful. The public may appear to be insatiable, but within a pause staleness can be a worry and the novelty of a new case is always a threat. The hacks who filled the Police Gazette and True Detective had to work, pad around the neighborhood, get the jailhouse information, and then write the story. Now the celebrity books are apt to be a communal effort, like a victory garden.

The Simpson trial has produced three lawyer books thus far and more are said to be in process. Alan Dershowitz and Robert Shapiro from the defense and Christopher Darden for the prosecution are already in print. Mr. Darden’s book, In Contempt, has been No. 1 on the best-seller list and Mr. Shapiro’s book only a few notches behind. Alan Dershowitz has the distinction of having written his own book, Reasonable Doubts, without assistance, and has published a number of other books “in his own write.” Each of the advocates wishes to assure us early on of his personal integrity in his professional life and in his decision to participate in the Simpson case. The high publicity, the large fees, and the large questioning of the verdict are matters perhaps of occasional twinges of discomfort for the defense. For Christopher Darden, a prosecutor, his distress and need for vindication lay in his being a black man trying to send a charismatic fellow African American to prison for life without the possibility of parole.

It is not easy to imagine Lawyer Dershowitz in discomfort about his life decisions although he does tread carefully in this text. He informs us that he is a tenured professor at the Harvard Law School and works very hard there and is in no need of employment elsewhere. “I agreed to join the O.J. Simpson defense team, in large part, because I knew that this case—for better or worse—would be an education for America, and indeed for the world, about the realities of our criminal justice system.” Dershowitz’s book is clearly and interestingly written, informative about the law, rich in legal anecdotes, and has the virtue of an index and notes citing sources.

The books by Christopher Darden and Robert Shapiro are personal accounts of their lives during the trial and in Darden’s case of his life as a whole, his biography as a young black man growing up in Richmond, California, in the San Francisco Bay area. His personal and family history is interspersed with the account of his service in the prosecution of the Simpson case. The conclusion of the trial brings him to grief and outrage and the title of his book, In Contempt, does not so much refer to the legal term as to the fact he has written in contempt of O.J. Simpson, whom he despises. He expresses his contempt by a long passage, in the first pages, written in the style of hard-boiled fiction.

Through the window, you watched Nicole put away the dishes, didn’t you?… You believed she was yours on that first date, when you tore at her pants to get at her more easily, when she seemed to like that…. You came out of the shadows so quickly, so smoothly, you must’ve surprised yourself a little. You hit her with your fist and with the knife handle, right on the crown of her head. Then you grabbed her by the arm and drove the knife deep into her neck, four times.

Poor Ron Goldman appears and is slaughtered…“You couldn’t find your hat and glove, but I’ll bet you stared at her for a moment…. It was her fault, wasn’t it? You owned her now. Completely. Forever.”

Darden goes through the trial, the death of his brother from AIDS, his decision, regretted, to let O.J. try on the glove, his relation to Marcia Clark, the Goldman and Brown families, to Johnnie Cochran. From this book and from Shapiro’s we see that lawyers are prone to rage with their colleagues, on their own side as well as on that of the opponents. Shapiro has some animadversions about Cochran and will not shake F. Lee Bailey’s hand henceforth.

Darden believes the evidence against Simpson is overwhelming and he leaves the courtroom after the acquittal in a stricken state. Robert Shapiro goes through the matters that rightly, in his view, constitute reasonable doubt as it is defined in law, although it is clear we are not necessarily concerned with innocence here. About the client in the last line of the book: “We never had a personal relationship before, and we won’t have one in the future.”

The case for reasonable doubt is best made by Dershowitz, who was not often in court but who has the case in all its detail in hand and asks all the questions of an advocate as well as those of an opponent, that is a doubter not swayed by “reasonable.” He lists the treacherous items more or less as follows:

  1. The blood on the glove found at Simpson’s estate, said to be a match for Simpson and Brown.
  2. Blood on the back gate at the crime scene. Said to be a DNA match for Simpson.
  3. Bloodstained socks found on Simpson’s bedroom floor. DNA match for Simpson and Brown claimed.
  4. Blood on the door of the Bronco and on the floor and console. Match claimed for Simpson, Brown, and Goldman.
  5. Blood near the victims at the crime scene. DNA match for Simpson.
  6. Hair and clothing fibers found at crime scene, proposed as a match for Simpson.

  7. Bloody shoe prints. Simpson’s shoe size.

  8. Simpson’s blood at his own estate.

  9. Spousal abuse history.

  10. Time: “window of opportunity” for Simpson to have committed crimes and return home, meet the limousine driver.

The defense: Contamination at the crime scene; bodies dragged around before fibers and hair samples obtained; failure of the police to notify the coroner until hours later; failure of police to obtain a search warrant for entry into Simpson’s estate and misstatement of intention of visit by Detective Vanatter, who, in addition, carried about for three hours the blood taken from Simpson on his return from Chicago before booking it; criminalists failing to find blood on back gate in the original investigation and in the first photographs taken of Simpson’s bedroom there were no socks at all to be seen on the floor; negligent handling of blood samples in police laboratory.

Sloppy police work, missing blood, if it was missing, from the vial taken from Simpson, insufficient protection of the Bronco when impounded; the six or so minutes Simpson would have had to leave the scene, return home, change his bloody clothes, and get into the waiting limousine to take him to the airport. This was the dossier offered by the defense and from which apparently the jurors, deliberating less than four hours, returned a unanimous verdict of not guilty. For Dershowitz, the case was won by “work done by our experts, which cast grave doubts on the police investigation and by the legal strategy that locked the prosecution into its initial mistakes at a public preliminary hearing.”

Dershowitz makes a deft presentation of his conviction that the verdict properly rested upon reasonable doubt about aspects of the impugning evidence. Some of the jurors did a good deal of chatting on Prime Time Live, Dateline NBC, Today, and other television programs; the transcripts have been consulted and references duly noted. They remark on the original lie, if such it was, that the invading detectives did not consider Simpson a suspect when they went over the wall but were concerned only to notify him of the murders and the presence of his children at the police station. In the annals of doubtful police testimony, nicely known as “framing the guilty,” this instance can be seen as a mere smudge. The jurors speak not of a wide police conspiracy but of a “conspiracy with some.” The presence of EDTA on the dilatory examination of the socks and the blood on the back gate was puzzling since EDTA is an anti-coagulant, used in laboratories to prevent clotting of the specimens, and is not found in human blood—suspicious matters indeed. Dershowitz reflects that “had the five detectives been more candid with the jury about the original search, it is certainly possible that the jurors might have discounted all these suspicions as coincidental.” On the matter of coincidence, Marcia Clark in her summation is sarcastic about Simpson’s good luck in cutting his finger on the night his ex-wife and her friend were stabbed to death. (Simpson spoke of cutting his finger on his cellular phone to account for his blood on the door of the Bronco, on the driveway, and in the foyer of his house.)

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p class=”initial”>Robert Shapiro criticizes his colleague Johnnie Cochran for playing “the race card from the bottom of the deck.” Here, the intrusion into the trial and quick extrusion from it by the loquacious LAPD Detective Mark Fuhrman. When on the witness stand under oath and under questioning by defense attorney F. Lee Bailey he was asked if he had ever used the word “nigger” in the last ten years. Fuhrman coolly said, no, I have not. Owing to the embarrassment of everyone in the court, “nigger” became the N word. It turned out that the defense had discovered tape recordings made with Fuhrman by a hopeful screenwriter roaming around Los Angeles in pursuit of material for a police script. To a stranger, Fuhrman volunteered his vehement detestation of Negroes, interracial couples, and a number of other citizens. He used the N word forty times in the tape and indicated that his aim as a police officer was to club the Ns, stop them in traffic without reason, manufacture evidence against them, and, as another person testified, Fuhrman would like “to take them all out and burn them up.” It was Fuhrman who, in the early morning visit to Simpson’s house with other detectives, noted the blood on the Bronco door, found the bloody glove at the back of the guest house.

The glove, the glove, the ring of an aria to come and first to be sung by the tenor, Fuhrman, and then by the ill-fated baritone, O.J. Simpson. Since Fuhrman had lied about the N word, it was fortunate for the defense that it was he who, ever alert, wanders alone about Simpson’s place, takes in Kato Kaelin’s account of the knocking on the wall the previous night, the murder night, grasps the significance of the spot, and supposedly drops the purloined glove there. One glove was recovered from the crime scene; the alleged conspiracy would have Fuhrman finding the second glove, overlooked by the overlooking LAPD criminologists, and putting it in his pocket or somewhere, ready for malicious use. However, had Simpson’s blood not been at the crime scene it could not have been on the glove. Nor could the blood have been planted there during the dawn of discovery by a badge villain or villains, since there was no “extra” Simpson blood available until his return from Chicago at mid-morning. After the damning revelation about the N word, Fuhrman did not testify further, retired from the police department, and went on his way to Utah.

In spite of the blurs, confusion, murky demonstrations by the defense of possible errors in shoe prints, and so on, the fact that there was any of Simpson’s blood to be accounted for was a deeply disturbing circumstance. If there is such a thing as the irrevocable, unchallengeable DNA peculiar to every individual on earth, with the probability of a duplication to be almost unimaginably remote, then bungling, contamination, and deterioration could not lend credibility to a complete dismissal of the blood swatches containing the DNA of O.J. Simpson.

The defense facing this had to imply, strongly imply, a deliberate infusion of Simpson’s blood on at least some of the relevant items, a sort of blood conspiracy, risky and daring. For this the motivation was again an implication, “the race card” Shapiro condemns Johnnie Cochran for imposing. But what other motivation except racism could accommodate this elaborate fraud? The memory of the almost joyous beating of Rodney King by the LAPD officers lent some credence, we imagine, to a verdict that was essentially a repudiation of police evidence.

Christopher Darden: “Experienced lawyers were amazed at the amount and the level of scientific evidence we had against Simpson…. Never in our legal system has so much blood and DNA been amassed against one defendant.”

The curtain came down and the drama was at an end so far as courtroom television was concerned; but we can still hear from the commentators and “this evening’s guests” about the civil suits brought against Simpson by the Brown and Goldman families. There are certain cast additions of interest, notably Simpson’s friend, Al Cowlings, who drove the white Bronco through the streets of Los Angeles before a surrender by the accused. And for the addicted there remain the austere and informative trials on Court TV, many of which are for murders. An almost empty courtroom, a few spectators, a relative or two for the dead and the accused, a sparse congregation of lawyers, one or two at most for each side; witnesses having their say with few objections and few sidebars. We cannot judge whether the quiet, almost somnolent afternoons at the bar of justice are equitable: Dershowitz reports there is a likelihood of conviction in approximately 75 to 80 percent of contested criminal cases.

Simpson, wearily facing in some of his old playgrounds an almost leprous isolation, was heard to say: “What do they want me to do? Go to Africa?”

This Issue

June 6, 1996