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Friday, March 4, 2016

The New Knife in the O.J. Simpson Case: Reality and Fiction

In the amazing amalgam of reality and docudrama which is one of the hallmarks of our time, we have the just-concluded news conference in Los Angeles in which a police captain announced the recovery of a knife which may or may not have been the weapon in the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman in 1994.

Among the questions which immediately come to mind is why was the knife turned over to the LA Police Department now, having been in the possession of a retired police officer for many years?  Is it a coincidence that a superb docudrama, The People vs. O. J. Simpson, has been airing every week on the FX Channel?  Probably not - if someone had any conceivably relevant evidence to the case, and had been watching that docudrama, with spot-on brilliant acting of all the many major players in that case, keeping that evidence to yourself would be very difficult.   So, if the knife turns out to be the murder weapon - a designation which will depend upon whatever DNA is recoverable from the weapon - we can score one for docudrama for helping the cause of justice.   It would mean that sensationalism is not incompatible with the discovery of truth, and can indeed aid in that pursuit.

Some of the most important people in the story - notably defense attorneys Johnnie Cochran and Robert Kardashian - are no longer with us. But Kardashian's role in the trial in effect launched the bigger careers of his daughters, and other original players continue in this surreal admixture of fiction and reality.  Gil Garcetti, Los Angeles DA at the time of the murder and the subsequent trial, is currently consulting producer on TNT's series, Major Crimes (having previously served the same role in the parent of that series, The Closer).  His son Eric made an appearance as a fictional mayor of Los Angeles on Major Crimes, and is currently actually the mayor of Los Angeles.

O.J. was acquitted in the criminal trial, which means he can't be put back up on trial for the crime again, even if the DNA on the knife points to him as the killer of Nicole Simpson and Ron Brown. But if a friend or family member hid the knife, which turns out to be the murder weapon, that person could be charged for obstruction of justice, etc.  Meanwhile, O.J.'s in prison now anyway, for an unrelated crime, in Nevada - which some allege O. J. was set up for.   He was also found liable in a civil trial related to the murders, in which Daniel Petrocelli represented the family of Ron Goldman.   And one of Petrocelli's current clients is ... Donald Trump, whom Petrocelli is defending in a lawsuit against Trump University in California.

The O. J. Simpson case heralded the dawn of a new age in television - an age of extensive, continuing coverage of news on cable television.   Some of that edge has been taken up by social media.  But when news of the knife broke a few hours ago, we not only were transported back to 1994 and 1995, but to the roiling age of cable television.   Good to be back? Well, I like our current mix of social media and cable a little better, but it's good to see that cable still has some kick, and I'll stay tuned for more from Los Angeles - from both the current police, as well as the docudrama on television.

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