The O. J. Simpson Trials: Rhetoric, Media, and the Law

By Janice Schuetz; Lin S. Lilley | Go to book overview

Preface

THE O. J. SIMPSON CRIMINAL AND CIVIL TRIALS brought forth a mountain of discourse about the trials and the participants. Some participants sought to explain their individual roles and attempted to blunt criticism. Some discourse came from attorneys conducting postmortems and second guessing the trial strategy. Most of the commentary came from the media. None of the commentary focused on the trial transcripts or on how the Simpson saga formulated by the media affected the public's perceptions not only of the trials but also of the American system of justice.

The goal of the following chapters is to move the commentary on the trial from the media and the mass market to the academic venue. To accomplish this goal, the authors' analytical book investigates the transcripts of the two O. J. Simpson trials; reviews the jurors' posttrial statements and the participating attorneys' explications, as well as the extensive postmortems and media commentaries; and focuses on relevant legal concepts and practices. All of these factors give insight into the content, form, and style of the rhetoric. The goal of this work is to increase public understanding about the connections between rhetoric and law.

Chapter 1 identifies the qualities of telelitigation by focusing on the personalities of the trial participants, the conflict and dramatic elements of the case, the feelings of the public about the trial issues and participants, and the social issues arising out of the case. Additionally, this chapter shows how the telelitigated trials of O. J. Simpson created new media genres of television programs, books, and Internet sites.

Chapter 2 defines the characteristics of a media spectacle, focusing on the traits of the Simpson trials. The chapter shows that this spectacle was unscripted, appeared in multiple media outlets, embodied elements essential to entertainment due to the celebrity status of the participants, generated high levels of interest and involvement from the public, featured high levels of the accessibility of the media, and created a competitive impulse among the media outlets. All of these factors combine to produce a new model focusing on the media spectacle, an important construct for interpreting the Simpson trials.

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