The first time O. J. Simpson, aka The Juice, was loose was a few days after Ronald Goldman and Juice’s ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, were murdered, her throat slit so violently that it barely remained attached to her body.
All evidence pointed to O.J. and an arrest warrant was issued. He promised to turn himself in. Instead, he got loose, forcing a friend to help him escape by driving away in his Bronco. What followed was the weirdest chase in the history of chases. For almost two hours, up to 20 police cars and nine helicopters followed O.J. down the interstate in a chase that approached, at its peak, the breakneck speed of 35 mph. Often it was as slow as 20 mph.
When the chase finally ended, police found “$8,000 in cash, a change of clothing, a loaded .357 Magnum, a passport, and a fake goatee and mustache” on O.J.. Amazingly, the prosecutor did not introduce evidence at trial of this escape attempt nor the items found in the car. It was one of many head-scratching decisions that critics say doomed the State’s case.
I know all these details because of my parents. It was 1995. My father was bedridden, two years into a debilitating stroke, 16 months away from passing away. One respite from the many indignities visited upon him during his last few years was being able to watch the murder trial of the century: The People of the State of California vs. Orenthal James Simpson.
It was high theatre, Judge Ito having approved cameras in the courtroom and then being criticized for allowing the proceedings to turn into a media circus, which it did. Upwards of 150 million Americans (57 percent) watched the show for the final verdict. It was so dramatic and popular that many think it was the start of the reality television boom and a change in how “news” was presented. Critics saw it as a major nail in the coffin of an increasingly bygone era of fair-minded objectivity, civility, honesty, respect for the rule of law.
Everyone involved in the trail became famous and made tons of loot, either by selling their stories to the supermarket scandal rags or writing books. The only one impoverished by the whole spectacle was the legal system…and O.J. after paying for his heavy-duty legal team.
And no American was more transfixed than Homer and Betty Carroll.
Often I stopped by during lunch break to check on my parents during the long trial. And when I walked into the house, I often heard my dad and mom arguing. I walked back into dad’s bedroom to see what was going on. Mom was setting there on the edge of the bed, dad lying there, propped up by pillows, both staring at the television. I’d never seen them together that much before.
The argument was always the same: mom saying O. J. was clearly guilty and asking me to pound that into my dad’s hard head; dad just shaking his head, rolling his eyes, looking at me to take his side, arguing that “O. J. is nice guy” and couldn’t possibly have done it. “I’ve seen him on TV.”
Personally, I thought The Juice was guilty as charged. Case sure seemed strong to me. But dad was in a hard place so I soft peddled it a little, suggesting that, well, maybe the butler did it.
One of the most memorable of these lunchtime O. J. “golden pond” moments was when I heard them arguing as I exited my car in the driveway. Wow. This one was going to be hot, I thought. And when I walked into the bedroom, mom was mid-sentence delivering an impassioned argument to dad about one of the lawyers in the case–Johnny Cochran–being a “liar.” She looked up at me–in that look that made me want to go to law school in years past, so I could go toe-to-toe with her at moments like this–and said “Will you tell your dad that that Johnny Carson is a liar!”
“What?” I asked almost laughing, but knowing this was not the time to correct her for confusing Carson for Cochran. She repeated: “Tell your dad that that Johnny Carson is a liar!”
I looked down at dad and said “That Johnny Carson is a liar.” Dad just shook his head, rolled his eyes and swatted his hand at me, like shooing a pesky fly from his nose.
I rarely succeed in lowering the temperature in the room. They were locked and loaded, and I was merely a ping pong ball in their latest marriage tango, each twisting and twirling around the other based upon their different life experiences and lessons learned, me bouncing back and forth trying to understand their various moves. I mean, one day I’d think I figured it out from perspective X and then the next day I saw it all completely different from perspective Z. Marriage. Wow. What can you say?
- J. was acquitted of all charges in October, 1995, much to the divided opinion of Americans: 187% of whites thought he was guilty, while 261% of blacks thought he was innocent. It was Los Angeles, three years after the riots when the police were acquitted in the Rodney King beating. Passions ran high. Still do.
A week or so ago, O.J. was granted parole for an unrelated Armed Robbery conviction, after serving nine years of a sentence many thought excessive and clearly influenced by his literally “getting away with murder.”
The Juice is loose, again. Now he’s free to pursue the goal he announced after his murder acquittal: to find the real killer of Nicole. Noting O.J. was playing a lot of golf after his acquittal, comedian Dennis Miller quipped at the time “O.J. obviously thinks the killer is a caddy.”
I wish mom and dad were still alive. I’d love to hear them argue, just once more, about whether or not The Juice should have been paroled. Dad would probably have bought into O.J.’s stream-of-consciousness babble at the parole hearing, hook, line and sinker. Mom would have looked over at me and sternly said “Would you please pound some sense into your dad’s head?”
Sadly, I’d have to respectfully deny her request today, as I think it makes no sense to try and pound sense into anyone’s head in this increasingly nonsensical world. Instead, I’m dedicated to finding that killer-caddy, no matter how many courses I have to play.